My Favorite Sweeteners
What are the best sweeteners? Depends on who you ask. Some say, “No Sweets! Period.” while others say in a nice calm voice, “Moderation is key in all things…” almost implying it doesn’t matter if you eat high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, as long as you don’t overdo it.
The Bare 5 stance on sweeteners lies somewhere between: limit your sweets to fresh fruit in season and then occasionally enjoy sweet things if desired but use naturally occurring sweeteners.
The human body is well adapted to eating foods like fruit and sweet potatoes. It is not set up to deal well with things like refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. It can withstand the beating these substances dole out but it takes a big toll on the body, particularly over the long term. Think about a boxer getting hit in a fight. Each little punch hurts just a bit but isn’t too bad. Keep that up for 12 rounds and the damage starts to add up pretty quick. We can “deal with” the impact from sweets, yes, but the more blows we endure over a lifetime the more likely we are to be headed facedown toward the mat.
I, like most humans, like things that taste sweet. Thankfully I have finally wrapped my hands around managing the sweet foods in my life. However, I was once a teenager who reveled in Skittles and Ho-Ho’s, a college student who drowned in soda and an adult who discovered the amazing addiction of Mocha Frappucinos. It took a little awakening and some time but I have finally reached a point in my life where sweet things are nice but I can live without them and actually enjoy how much better I fell when I don’t eat them. Alas, I am still human and do enjoy indulging in some sporadic sweets. Having a family with two boys also seems to magically put me in situations from time to time surrounded by sweet stuff. Now that I eat pretty clean most of the time I find it pretty easy to manage my sweet tooth. Occasionally the dark chocolate gets a little out of control but usually I am in pretty good control of the sweet stuff in my life.
Taking a step back, one of the ways I was able to achieve a healthy relationship with my sweet tooth, aside from limiting intake (which was a big one), was to improve the sweet stuff I exposed myself to. The first step: eliminate artificial sweeteners. Ingesting chemicals that trick your body into thinking it is getting sweet when it’s not is a recipe for disaster. In general, if it was created in a lab I won’t touch it. If it can be found in nature, I use it smartly. I call this practicing “smart sweets.” By gravitating more toward simple and occasional use of just a few natural sweeteners I have tremendously tamed a once rabid sweet craving.
Top Tier Sweeteners
The two most naturally occurring sweeteners I have found useful are:
Raw local honey & Stevia.
Raw Local Honey
Nature’s sugar. Available to humans as long as we have been able to brave bee hives. No processing and local, it doesn’t get much better. Still a sweet treat but the body is much better designed to handle it. Look for local, raw honey, highly preferred over standard honey. Keep in mind that honey is not easily obtained in normal circumstances, is still a form of concentrated sugar and should be consumed very moderately.
A sweet leaf, stevia is also naturally occurring as been used by humans for quite some time. A benefit here is virtually no impact on blood sugar levels, making this a very useful sweetener for people with weight management goals. Many stevia products have fillers or are only partially stevia so look to Sweet Leaf for the purest forms. It is a very concentrated sweetener so it takes very little to sweeten food. Once again, although stevia is a top tier sweetener it should be consumed with responsibility.
There are a few other top tier sweeteners people use, such as Lou Han and Yacon, which are sweet tasting fibrous plants. These can be a great option but are usually hard to come by.
Second Level Sweeteners
These are the products that aren’t great but aren’t too bad therefore I don’t quite endorse them as much as raw, local honey and pure stevia. I would use these more cautiously and only very sporadically…
Black Strap Molasses
Honey (other versions)
Drop The Rest
All of the rest of the sweeteners should really be avoided altogether. “Natural” sweeteners, such agave nectar, other sugars, fruit juice concentrates and starch concentrates are all biologic disrupters and will mess up even the best metabolisms just as the infamous high fructose corn syrup. The detriment far outweighs any benefit here and should only be consumed on rare occasions.
As for artificial sweeteners, once again, stay away. There is so much evidence pointing to the disastrous nature of these chemicals. There is no evidence they help weight loss and much evidence to make us believe they disrupt our brain regulation of sweetness and metabolism and are disease promoting substances. Not to mention again they are lab created chemicals. We need to stop accepting the deliberate consumption of chemicals under the false belief that somehow it is “not bad” for us. Artificial sweeteners are bad for you and should have no place in your life.
So there’s the Bare 5 take on sweeteners.
All in all, practice smart sweets: limit your sweet stuff as much as possible and if you do want something sweet have it in the form of fresh seasonal fruit, raw local honey or stevia.
Thanks for reading, have a smart sweet day!