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Sugar Free

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Sugar Free

All free-sugar ingredients are grouped together under the common name “sugars.” Sugar-free means that a product contains, per serving, less than 0.5 g of sugar and less than five calories. Health Canada permits five sugar-related claims on food packages. In 2016, Health Canada released new regulations for disclosing sugar on the Nutrition Facts table and ingredient list. The amount of total sugars, listed on the nutrition label in grams, lumps together free sugars and naturally occurring sugars. However, consumers still can’t tell the amount of sugar that’s been added by the food industry.

Health Canada decided not to include a separate line for added sugar content, information that would have made it easier for Canadians to reduce their intake of unwanted sugars. (In the United States, nutrition labels must include added sugars.)

A daily value for total sugars to be consumed is set at 100 g for a standard 2,000-calorie diet. 15 grams or more is considered “a lot” of total sugar. Most foods that exceed the daily value are high in free sugars (e.g., sugary breakfast cereals, cookies, fruit juice, sweetened yogurt). All sugar free ingredients are grouped together under the common name “sugars.”

"Free of sugar, sugar-free, no sugar, 0 sugar, zero sugar, without sugar, contains no sugar and sugarless” are all umbrellaed as the same when it comes to labelling food that contain no sugar.  

Foods that are labelled as "energy-reduced" and "for special dietary use" with respect to the sugar content also falls into the category as sugar-free. Many individuals who suffer from Diabetes, Hypoglycemia or obesity and others who just want to limit their dietary sugar intake/calories have chose to supplement any sugar intake with artificial or other naturally derived sweeteners.  The Government of Canada has approved the following sugar substitutes:  They include acesulfame-potassium, polydextrose, sucralose, thaumatin and sugar alcohols (polyols) like sorbitol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol and xylitol. 

So What is an Artificial Sweetener?

They Mayo Clinic defines an artificial sweetener as synthetic sugar substitute. But they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet. Also, you need only a fraction of artificial sweetener compared with the amount of sugar you would normally use for sweetness. Artificial sweeteners are widely used in processed foods, including: soft drinks, powdered drink mixes and other beverages, baked goods, candy, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products.

Harvard Health Publishing:

All artificial sweeteners are not created equal. The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia. How the human body and brain respond to these sweeteners is very complex.

One concern is that people who use artificial sweeteners may replace the lost calories through other sources, possibly offsetting weight loss or health benefits, says Dr. Ludwig. This can happen because we like to fool ourselves: “I’m drinking diet soda, so it’s okay to have cake.” The AHA and ADA also added this caveat to their recommendation.

It’s also possible that these products change the way we taste food. “Non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A miniscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories. Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes,” explains Dr. Ludwig. That means people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable.

In other words, use of artificial sweeteners can make you shun healthy, filling, and highly nutritious foods while consuming more artificially flavored foods with less nutritional value.

Artificial sweeteners may play another trick, too. Research suggests that they may prevent us from associating sweetness with caloric intake. As a result, we may crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight. Participants in the San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.

But you say you can give up diet drinks whenever you want? Don’t be so sure. Animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.


Names of some familiar artificial sweeteners:

  1. Neotame/Newtame- NutraSweet
  2. Aspartame- NutraSweet & Equal
  3. Saccharin- Sweet ‘N Low, Necta Sweet, Sweets Twin
  4. Sucralose- Splenda
  5. Acesulfane K (or Potassium)- “Sweet One or Sunett”

So what are the long term effects using artificial sweeteners?

In Science Daily’s July 17, 2017 article, 

Artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, is widespread and increasing. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or non-nutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting. "Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized," said lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Her team at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba is undertaking a new study to understand how artificial sweetener consumption by pregnant women may influence weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria in their infants. “Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners, and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products," said Azad.

Both the Heart & Stroke Foundation and Diabetes Canada recommend that each adult should consume no more than 0% total calories per day from added sugars, and ideally less than 5%; that is, for an average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, 10% is about 48 grams (or 12 teaspoons) of added sugars. One can of pop contains about 85% (or approx. 10 teaspoons) of daily added sugar! The scary thing is, that most people consume sugar with no knowledge of its presence in the food that they consume!

What are the options should a person decide to abstain from white sugar and artificial sweeteners? 

Here are some natural options:

    1. Xylitol: is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is extracted from birch wood to make medicine.  Xylitol tastes sweet but, unlike sugar, it is not converted in the mouth to acids that cause tooth decay. It reduces levels of decay-causing bacteria in saliva.


    2. Erythritol: is a sugar alcohol and a type of carbohydrate that is used as a low-calorie sweetener. It contains zero calories. Erythritol is a water-soluble compound that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It is also commercially produced by fermentation from a simple sugar derived from corn, called dextrose.


    3. Mannitol:  is a type of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol, or polyol, which are water-soluble compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Mannitol is also commercially produced for use in chocolate coatings, confections, chewing gums, powders and tablets to provide body, sweetness, cooling taste and texture. It’s also useful as an anti-caking agent due to its minimal ability to absorb water. Mannitol is neither as sweet as nor as calorie–dense as sugar. Mannitol is about half as sweet as sugar and has about 60 percent fewer calories per gram.


    4. Agave:  Agave nectar is a syrup that comes from the fluid inside the blue agave plant. This is the same plant that is used to make tequila. People with diabetes may benefit from agave nectar’s low glycemic index, but keep in mind that the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting the amount of agave in your diet. 


    5. Honey:  Honey comes from bees. These busy little insects produce honey by collecting the nectar of plants. Unlike agave nectar, honey doesn’t have to be processed before consuming. But certain brands of honey are heated (pasteurized) to prevent crystallization and to kill bacteria before storage. Raw honey is all-natural and unprocessed. Agave nectar and honey have about the same number of calories. Both a tablespoon of agave nectar and a tablespoon of honey contain roughly 64 calories. Honey is also anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and can help reduce seasonal allergens when the honey is from your local area. Honey also never spoils. Honey should not be given to infants under one year of age due to the risk of botulism spores.


    6. Stevia:  Is a plant from the Asteraceae family and it has zero calories.  Many species of this plant are also called “Candyleaf (one word) or Sweet leaf.” Many species are found in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Paraguay, Brazil. Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar.  Stevia has potential for treating endocrine diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, but more research is needed.


    7. Monk Fruit Sugar:  Monk fruit is a small, green gourd that resembles a melon. It’s grown in Southeast Asia. The fruit was first used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century, hence the fruit’s name. Fresh monk fruit doesn’t store well and isn’t appealing. Monk fruit is usually dried and used to make medicinal teas. Monk fruit sweeteners are made from the fruit’s extract. They may be blended with dextrose or other ingredients to balance sweetness. Monk fruit extract is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. The extract contains zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero sodium, and zero fat. Sweeteners made with monk fruit don’t impact blood sugar levels.

With zero calories, monk fruit sweeteners are a good option for people watching their weight and unlike some artificial sweeteners, there’s no evidence to date showing that monk fruit has negative side effects.

    8. Date Sugar or Date Paste:  Date sugar is not really sugar; it is simply granulated dried dates. However, these intensely sweet granules do look a lot like brown sugar made from sugarcane, and in fact, you can use date sugar as a substitute for brown sugar in many recipes. The entire fruit is used to make date sugar, which means it is a whole food sweetener packed with dietary fiber. Regular sugar, by contrast, is a highly processed product that contains no macronutrients other than sugar. Medjool dates or Deglet Noor dates, which are a popular date variety among date sugar producers, contain about 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories. Whole dates contain a lot of potassium, magnesium and copper, moderate amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, niacin (vitamin B3) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). It is also rich in antioxidants.

    9. Coconut Sugar: This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is advertised as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar. Coconut sugar is also called coconut palm sugar. It’s a natural sugar made from coconut palm sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree. In a nutshell, coconut sugar is the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. These minerals include iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short-chain fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants. Coconut sugar contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explains why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. Coconut sugar is very high in calories (same as regular sugar) and is high in fructose.

    10. Sugar Cane: Natural cane sugar is made from sugar cane, while conventional white granulated sugar may be made from either cane or sugar beets. Raw sugarcane stalks can be chewed as a snack. Because the stalks are fibrous, they are not eaten per se but merely chewed to extract the juice. In cooking the tough skin is peeled, cut off, discarded and bundled.  Sugarcane juice is one of the best ways to quench your thirst and provide the body with electrolytes.  Sugarcane is loaded with carbohydrates, protein, vitamins (A, B-complex and C) and also contains good amounts of minerals like phosphorus, calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. Sugar cane juice has many health benefits!

The cells in our bodies require sugar in order to fuel it.  Instead of ingesting refined sugars such as sucrose (white table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar and refined honey) and glucose, we should eat starch (complex carbohydrates) such as whole grains of all kinds, legumes, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes.  These foods are good sources of both protein and starch which are digested slowly, allowing glucose to flow evenly to the body over the entire day.  This means that our blood sugar stays level.  The average North American consumes at least 30 lbs of sugar per year which is frightening.  Hidden sugars are a big problem especially when companies are marketing candy, soft drinks and other and labelling them as sugarless but are being sweetened with fructose! The answer to all disease is a natural food diet with all its wholesome nutrients.  A good start is eliminating all white sugar.  I hate to break it to you, but this means eliminating commercial ice cream, cookies, pastries, candy, soft drinks, cereals etc.  

But if you eat a natural food diet and use natural sweeteners in moderation, how can you say no to the purity found in whole, natural food which makes its own sweetness? 


- ~ Canadian Sugar Institute








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