Are Sugar Alternatives Healthy?

Who doesn’t enjoy sweet treats? The huge surges in dopamine experienced when consuming sugary food items is addictive enough to get anyone hooked on them. But, apart from the immensely satisfying taste of such consumables, the reality of the matter is that they are not very beneficial in terms of health for the human body. For this reason, man has been trying to come up with ways to make sweet food items healthy so as to prevent the harmful side effects of excessive sugar consumption. And although we’ve been successful in creating healthier alternatives, we’ve never been able to come up with something that can match up to the actual taste of sugar. So let us take a look at some of the most used sources of sweetness and try to understand which amongst them is our best possible option. 

First, let us classify the most used forms of sugar to get a clearer picture of the options between which we can choose. The most used form of sugar, is of course, good old refined white sugar. This is the substance that many scientists around the world have been working to replace. Other supposedly healthier but popularly used items include honey, brown sugar and jaggery. These ingredients are very potent sources of sweetness but have also been touted as sources that could be a lot more beneficial to overall health when compared to regular sugar. But how true are these claims? We shall delve into deeper details to uncover the true facts behind these “healthier options”

Determining the type of impact these substances can have on our health involves the consideration of certain factors that can be crucial in deciding the same. And amongst these, the number one, most obvious factor that influences health is undoubtedly, calorie density. This part is very simple to understand; essentially, in order to lose weight, your net calorie intake must be lesser than your overall output. 

Another important criteria to consider is the glycemic index of the food. Foods that are higher in the glycemic index create larger spikes in blood sugar when consumed. This can consequently cause the insulin in our body to go haywire which can in turn cause several negative effects on the body. 

So, after analysing these criterias for our given food groups, it is clear that all the hype surrounding these “healthy sugars” is down right false. This is because, when it comes to calorie density, all three alternatives (honey, brown sugar and jaggery) are almost as dense as refined sugars with negligible differences. And in terms of glycemic index, they are again very similar to white sugars and create equally high insulin spikes upon consumption. 

Even in terms of other advantages that these alternatives may have, there is not much of a gain. Brown sugar has almost zero advantage over white sugar as it is basically just regular sugar mixed in with molasses. And the other two, although natural and comparatively better, offer little to no benefits. This is because the antioxidant and micronutrient properties of these food items are negligible at the quantities they are generally used. To put this into perspective, to extract noticeable health gains from honey, you would have to consume about half a glass of it every single day! This is of course highly impractical rendering the possible health benefits of this alternative almost unattainable. 

The information that we have discussed may not have been entirely favorable, but it is a definite eye opener. Busting myths about these food groups is a necessity to educate the masses about sweet foods. Over consumption of any of the alternatives mentioned above can quite easily be detrimental to the body. So it is important for us to be wary of the amount of sugars we consume, no matter what the source. Because at the end of the day it all boils down to portion control.

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