Search This Blog

Sugar - Healthy Choices Shopping Guide

Before you buy Sugar and Sweets the next time - consider some interesting and healthy alternatives:

Well, we have all heard time and again: Sugar is hazardous to your Health! But we are addicted to chocolates, pastries, ice creams and so on – so much, that we put Sugar in almost anything, from soups to salads to potato chips. This Guide shows you intelligent sweet alternatives that do not add to your weight and do not have adverse health effects!

We have all heard that Americans consume huge amounts of sugar, over 150 pounds per person and year. Well, these numbers appear to be inflated, in fact the April 2007 updated USDA release states the average daily sugar consumption in the US currently is “only” 30 teaspoons per person each day, not including synthetic sweeteners and honey. However, even these lower numbers are staggering: each American consumes over 20% of daily food calories from refined Sugars – empty calories with no nutritional value!

The functional and multi-functional engineered Sweeteners

A group non-sugar carbohydrates, manufactured, reduced-calorie, sugar-free sweeteners is now gaining momentum in the world of differentiated food and beverage producers and find their way into store shelves. You may never see the term Polyols on ingredients labels, even when several ones of the groups are present, but when a label reads “sugar alcohols” - Polyols are meant, when a label reads “sugar free” look for the listing and amounts of Polyols. Polyols or sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. Instead, they are a group of low-digestible carbohydrates.


has only been commercially produced since 1990 and added to foods and beverages to provide sweetness, as well as to enhance taste and texture. In Japan Erythritol has been approved as a food in 1990 and it received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the FDA in 2001, it also approved in the EU. Erythritol is a white crystalline powder that is odorless, with a clean sweet taste that is similar to sucrose. It is approximately 70% as sweet as sucrose and flows easily due to its non-hygroscopic character. Like other polyols, erythritol does not promote tooth decay and is safe for people with diabetes. However, erythritol’s caloric value of 0.2 calories per gram and high digestive tolerance distinguishes it from other polyols. It has approximately 7 to 13% the calories of other polyols and 5% the calories of sucrose. Because erythritol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly eliminated by the body within 24 hours, laxative side effects sometimes associated with excessive polyol consumption are unlikely when consuming erythritol containing foods.

HSH (hydrogenated starch hydrolysates),

including hydrogenated glucose syrups, maltitol syrups, and sorbitol syrups, are a family of products found in a wide variety of foods. HSH are produced by the partial hydrolysis of corn, wheat or potato starch and subsequent hydrogenation of the hydrolysate at high temperature under pressure. While some products in the HSH group have been approved in many countries including the EU and Japan, GRAS statuses is still pending, but with ADM Company as main proponent, expect HSH to appear on many ingredients labels rather soon.


has been known since 1960, it is made from Sucrose (table sugar) and it looks and feels like sugar. Isomalt enhances flavor transfer in foods. It dissolves more slowly in the mouth so that candies with isomalt have a longer lasting taste. Its sensory properties make isomalt an excellent ingredient hard candies, toffees, chewing gum, chocolates, baked goods, nutritional supplements, cough drops and throat lozenges. In Europe, Isomalt has been used since the early 1980s and is currently used in a variety of products in the US where it still awaits GRAS status – once obtained, expect Isomalt to become a household term. Isomalt absorbs very little water. Therefore, products made with it tend not to become sticky. Since the products do not absorb moisture, they have a longer shelf life. Isomalt does not promote tooth decay, has a very low blood glucose effect (low glycemic response), has an effect like dietary fiber in the gut and has only half of the caloric value of sucrose.


is known since 1920 but only used in foods for 25 years. It is a disaccharide polyol (sugar alcohol), derived from lactose, looks like sugar and tastes like sugar but has only 40% of its sweetness. Therefore don’t expect to find Lactitol as the sole sweetener on a food label; it is often present in foods in combination with chemical sweeteners Aspartame, Sucralose, etc. It is used as a sugar substitute because it has better solubility and handling in processing that reduces costs and extends shelf life. Lactitol has been shown in a clinical study to increase bowel movement frequency in the elderly.


is made by the hydrogenation of maltose whose raw ingredient is cereal starch which is converted to sugar by the process of malting. The starch may be from wheat, rice, barley or other grains, and is very similar in taste to table sugar with only 90% of its sweetness and about half of its calories. Maltose has been known and used in China since the 2nd century BC. Maltitol is approved in the EU since 1985 and many other countries and is awaiting GRAS status in the US. The sweetener will be mainly found in sugar free chocolate products. Maltitol has a prebiotic effect and some people experience unpleasant gas and bloating, when taken in high quantities as when Maltitol is used in soft drinks.

Mannitol (E421)

is naturally occurring in abundance, particularly in exudates from trees, and in marine algae and fresh mushrooms. It is an isomer of sorbitol and is industrially produced by the hydrogenation of specialty glucose syrups. Mannitol is a polyol mainly known for its properties to not absorb moisture. This makes it uniquely suitable as a dusting powder for chewing gum to prevent the gum from sticking to manufacturing equipment and wrappers. In chocolate flavored coatings of ice cream bars and confectionary it is an industry favorite because of its high melting point and pleasant taste with only 40% of the calories of sugar. Mannitol is a polyol that comes with regulatory warnings for limitation of daily intake for low digestible carbohydrate. This means that excessive consumption can result in a laxative effect, for two reasons. First, because the sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed, they hold on to a lot of water in the bowel. This causes diarrhea. Another consequence is that when undigested carbohydrates reach the colon they have a prebiotic effect - resulting in unpleasant gas, and bloating.

Sorbitol (E420)

occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits and berries. In its industrially produced form of hydrogenated glucose, it has been present in processed foods, pharma and cosmetics products for fifty years. Its unique feature is the function as moisture stabilizer in baked goods, confectionary and chocolate – read: longer shelf life! Sorbitol is about 60% as sweet as sugar and has 60% of its calories. Sorbitol comes with the same regulatory warnings as Mannitol.

Xilitol (E967)

is naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables and is also produced in the human body during metabolism. This polyol that has been known for over 100 years and been produced commercially from trees as sweetener for nearly fifty years. It is as sweet as table sugar with 30% less calories and a pleasant taste. Xilitols rise to fame is due to its property to reduce dental caries. Thus it is widely used in dental and oral health products, but also in pharmaceuticals and children’s nutritional supplements. While all Polyols are not acted upon by bacteria in the mouth, and therefore do NOT cause tooth decay, Xylitol actually INHIBITS oral bacteria, and is often used in sugarless mints and chewing gum for this reason.

Dextrose and Polydextrose

have similarities with Polyols, such as their sweet taste and their ability to act as sugar substitutes (70% the sweetness of sugar), but as their endings in –ose suggests, these are sugars. Dextrose is a synthetic monosaccharide derived from corn starch and is about 95% glucose. It is used as a carrier in water soluble medications, but latest studies have shown Dextrose to be an Athletes performance booster, outperforming Ribose (widely used as a body builder supplement). Dextrose contains no fructose or lactose and is available as an inexpensive dietary supplement. Polydextrose is synthesized from Dextrose with added Sorbitol and citric acid and can replace sugar and fat and is often used as bulking agent in products designed for weight or blood sugar control. It may appear on food labels as E1200. Polydextrose acts in the body like fibers with no laxative effect. It has only 25% of the calories of sugar. You can find it in Lindt and other chocolates.

Agave Nectar / Syrup:

A natural low calorie plant-based sweetener from Mexico that is 75% stronger than sugar, sweeter and slightly thinner than honey but less viscous and is considered to be the lowest on the glycemic index scale of all sugar substitutes. Agave Nectar comes from the same Blue Agave plant (agave tequilana, agave azul) that is the core of Mexico’s National drink: the famed, distilled Tequila. Agave is one of the newest natural sugar alternatives; it has only been developed in the 1990’s. Sixty five percent of Agave syrup can be used instead of 100% sugar and the liquids in a recipe should be reduced by the amount of Agave nectar. Agave syrup dissolves easily, tastes good and enhances the flavors of anything it sweetens. It has a long shelf life of about three years, is minimally processed and refined, it acts as moisture retainer and humidifying agent in foods, thereby improving shelf life of foods. It is easy to use and does not crystallize or harden. Look for organic products with no additives. Agave Nectar is not a “whole food”, it is fractionated and processed. similar to Maple Syrup, Agave Nectar is boiled down to concentrate the sweetness and in the process many of the nutrients in the whole plant are lost. Also, the Agave Nectar is apparently often diluted with HFCS for cost reasons, which renders the product useless. But there are only a few producers and all from the Tequila region, so identify a reliable source offering unadulterated 100% pure Agave Nectar. There is one source claiming to sell “raw” organic Agave Syrup, however there is no legal labeling definition of “raw” and if the product has been heated above 118º F or 44º C, it is not raw anymore.

Barley Malt

is a very complex, pleasant tasting sweetener. Unlike refined sugar that is over 99 percent sucrose, Barley Malt Syrup is approximately 76.13 percent maltose, 15.81 percent glucose, 6.3 percent sucrose, 2.04 percent fructose and the remainder is lactose. It has 14 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of sugar per serving. Barley Malt is about half as sweet as refined sugar and has a consistency and flavor similar to that of molasses, although much milder. It is available as syrup and powders, the powders are extremely sensitive to moisture and in presence of steam it turns into candy very quickly. When choosing barley malt syrup, verify that it is traditionally malted. For cost cutting reasons, a lot of barley malt is instead made with pharmaceutical, genetically engineered enzymes, monosodium glutamate (MSG), gibberellic acid, and potassium bromate to speed and increase production or as processing aids. Barley Malt is a good choice for diabetics because it is digested slowly and does not disrupt the insulin levels. It is also an excellent choice for creative gourmet cooks and pastry makers that want to add distinguished flavor to sweet dishes without feeling bad about the sugar.

Bee Honey

is arguably the most well known natural sugar alternative and is mentioned early in the Bible 61 times and in the Qur’an many times. Everyone knows that Honey is produced by Bees from the nectar of flowers and is an amber colored viscous sweet liquid. But when it comes to selecting Honey by the Label, the consumer may be overwhelmed. How does one know the composition of honey, if the Bees collected the nectar from GMO plants, or even if the Bees were fed with Sugar or HFCS? Then, was the Honey processed by ultrasound, by heat or whipped? These information are almost never found on the labels, do they matter?

It depends on the intended use of the Honey; obviously the criteria are more relaxed when Honey is merely used as a sweetener of baked foods or hot liquids, than if it is to be used as targeted nutrition or even as medicine. The basic nutritional value of Honey is unique and it contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, fibers, phenolic acids, flavonoids and carbohydrate in form of 38% fructose, 31% glucose, maltose, melezitose and sucrose. It has antioxidative and immune-system building properties, but processing and heat destroy many of these assets. Honey is produced everywhere where flowers grow and hence Honey from around the world is widely available in all hues and consistencies. The sweetening potential as a sugar substitute is about the same for all Honeys, although they may vary in their nutrients composition. The term “Organic” is widely found on Honey labels but is meaningless since the bee keeper has no control over where the Bees get the Nectar. “Natural” is also a term with no merit, the Bees could have been “naturally” fed with sugar syrup. All Bees Honey has natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Manuka Honey from New Zealand is said to be particularly potent in these functions, because of the hydrogen-peroxide content. However, for utilizing Honey’s antioxidative, immunity and anti-allergy capabilities, local Honey where the Bees collected Nectar from local plants should be used. Honey is a good source of energy with a much lower glycemic index than sugar. Honey is also sweeter than sugar. Raw, unheated, unfiltered Honey has the highest nutrient content, including all the enzymes. Supermarket Honey is processed for a clear, uniform appearance and delayed granulation, but most heat sensitive nutrients are dead. Processed Honey labels are usually void of processing information, but the less the processing the more forthcoming is the declaration. So if a label just mentions “pure honey” – it is highly processed. Some products mention the dominant flower, such as “clover honey”, but that doesn’t mean that the Bees were not also fed sugar or HFCS.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that is actually nutritious. Unlike refined white sugar and corn syrup, which are stripped of virtually all nutrients except simple carbohydrates, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine or aspartame, which not only provide no useful nutrients but have been shown to cause health problems, In addition to providing quickly assimilated carbohydrates, BSM is an excellent source of bioavailable iron and can increase energy by helping to replenish iron stores. Iron from BSM is superior to iron from red meat, as it provides more iron per calorie and is completely fat free. In addition, BSM is rich in calcium, an essential mineral to up-regulate pH levels, while white table sugar contributes to acidifying the body. Blackstrap Molasses is also one of the very rare food sources of copper and it yields potassium, magnesium and manganese. When BSM is used as sweetener in lieu of sugar the benefits are double: while sugar depletes the minerals in the body, BSM feeds these minerals to the consumer. For all its benefits, Blackstrap Molasses is not a “whole food”, it is heavily cooked and cooking destroys the vitamins and enzymes. Those vitamins and minerals that survive the heat process are up to thirty times more concentrated than in cane juice. It is still an excellent alternative to sugar for sweetening foods. It has a rather distinct bittersweet somewhat liquorish flavor and this limits BSM’s applications, so it does not go well for sweetening beverages. The sugar composition is about 33% sucrose, 17.5% Levulose and Dextrose and the remainder is water and organic matter. Select a Blackstrap Molasses that is unsulphured since not only does it not contain this processing chemical to which some people are sensitive, but it has a cleaner and more clarified taste. Avoid sulphured Molasses but unsulphured Molasses is usable and is sweeter and lighter and has a not so strong flavor. This is also called Sweet Molasses or Barbados Molasses. Blackstrap molasses made from organic sugar cane is also available in some markets. There are other types of Molasses used in different parts of the world; very common are Carob Molasses, Pomegranate Molasses, Sorghum Molasses, and there is also sugar beet molasses.

Brown Rice Syrup

consists of brown rice amount of other liquids. You can also find this product as a dried powder. Brown Rice Syrup is about 40% less sweet than white table sugar. Brown rice syrup metabolizes slowly but does have calories and carbohydrates, diabetics should use it with caution. The final product is roughly 50% soluble complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. Thus It is a "time-release" energy source. The glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream right away, the maltose digests over one and a half hours, and the complex carbohydrates burn over two to three hours. Thus, there is no sugar peak and sugar blues with this product and it is healthy for cholesterol leveling. Brown rice syrup is considered to be one of the healthiest sweeteners, since it is containing a lot of nutrients and it is produced from a whole food source and is made up of the simple sugars. Although it comes from a whole food source, substantial destruction of nutrients takes place in the process involving heat. Unlike Date Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup dissolves completely in liquids and is an ideal sweetener for beverages and its mild flavor opens up a plethora of other uses.that has been ground, cooked and mixed with enzymes that change the starch into maltose. Sometimes it is mixed with Barley Malt before cooking. Brown rice syrup taste moderately sweet, buttery to nutty and can be quite delicious.

Raw Sugar

is what most consumers believe they are using when referring to “brown sugar”. This also called Natural Brown Sugar is not or only partially refined sugar cane and still contains some nutrients of the original plant and thus far superior to white table sugar. Since it has a more pungent taste than white sugar and may overwhelm subtle flavors such as tea and that limits the use of raw sugar in a world of bland tasting, one-food fit’s-all products.

Date Honey / Sugar / Nectar

is probably the least processed natural sugar alternative. The date is a food of high nutritional value. It provides natural sugar in the form of 41% glucose and 28% fructose. In addition it contains fiber and protein, Iron and vitamins – just every nutrient from the natural fruit. This sugar - has about the same sweetness as white table sugar - is ready for immediate absorption and is, therefore, infinitely superior to cane sugar. Yes it is sweet like sugar but it’s all natural and digestible just like dates. It adds unique flavor to foods and is ideal for breakfast cereals, baked goods, desserts and even in salad dressings. However it does not dissolve well in drinks and is not a great choice for a beverage sweetener. Date Honey or Nectar is available as syrup and Date Sugar in dry grains, granules or powder. Look for a 100% natural, organic, unpasteurized, unsterilized product that still contains all the nutrients of the fruit.

FOS (fructooligosaccharides) and Inulin

is an indigestible sugar, it triggers no spikes in blood sugar levels the way sucrose and glucose do. It is about 40 to 60 percent as sweet as sugar, yet not absorbed and has minimal caloric value. Since it is indigestible by our bodies, it gets transported to the large intestine where it feeds microbes and promotes fermentation, essentially serving as fertilizer for the bacteria in your colon. Certain lactobacillus species of bacteria have been shown to preferentially ferment Inulin/FOS. For this reason, it is being promoted as a supplement to feed the good bacteria in our guts. FOS is naturally found in low quantities in many types of foods such as asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem Artichokes, chicory root, leek, bananas and some 36,000 others and technically is a soluble fiber. However, to obtain just a quarter teaspoon of FOS from the diet, you would have to consume 13 bananas.16 tomatoes or 16 onions. Chicory roots have one of the highest amounts of FOS of any plant, and most natural FOS is commercially derived from water-extraction of the roots. A naturally sweet, indigestible sugar derived from chicory roots, FOS is more than just a natural, zero calorie and low-glycemic sweetener: It is claimed to be one of the most powerful prebiotics that was researched in the last decade. The subject of over 100 clinical studies, FOS is one of the best-documented natural nutrients for improving the healthy balance of bacteria in intestines and stimulating the growth of the beneficial bifidobacteria - also called "friendly flora" - that reside in the colon. How important to good health is this so-called "friendly flora" that populates our intestines? They are literally our front-line defense against invading disease-causing organisms, combating premature aging caused by the toxin-producing bacteria and fungi that reside in our intestines. Some animal studies suggest that Inulin and FOS may prevent colon cancer. So much for natural occurring FOS. The absolutely perfect no-calorie sugar that promotes regularity – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. Critics contend that FOS may indeed promote the growth of certain lactobacillus bacteria, which may change the colonic ecosystem in favor of some bacteria, but what other potentially harmful bacteria are we feeding as well? There are typical side effects that will vary depending on one’s level of tolerance. The list of known side effects include: intestinal gas, bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, and diarrhea for doses over 5-10 grams, and some people are also allergic to the product. While the origin of FOS is a plant, so is sugar (beet and sugar cane) which is converted into one of the unhealthiest refined chemical. Thus, we should not use a highly refined and concentrated chemical and the constant use of single strains of bacteria may lead to imbalance of good intestinal bacteria. As the industrially made FOS permeates our food supply, the list of side effects is expected to grow. The FDA has classified FOS and Inulin as food ingredients, rather than food additives and they must be listed on the ingredient labels.


is like Sucanat widely available as sugar alternative. It is a processed simple sugar from fruit juice concentrate, but it can also be nothing more than dehydrated HFCS. It is not a viable alternative to sugar.

Luo Han Guo

is a fruit grown in southern China, it is collected as a round green fruit that turns brown upon drying. A process for making a useful sweetener from luohanguo was patented in 1995 by Procter and Gamble Company. As described in the patent application, the fruit itself, though sweet, has too many additional flavors that would make it unsuitable for widespread use as a sweetener, so P&G developed a method for processing it to eliminate the undesired flavors. In the P&G process, the fresh fruit is picked before ripening and allowed to complete its ripening during storage so that processing begins with the just-ripe fruit. The peel and seeds are then removed, and the mashed fruit becomes the basis of a concentrated fruit juice or puree that can be used in food manufacturing. Luo Han Guo is also used in Chinese Medicine for treating heat stroke, cough, throat inflammation and diabetes although its use has only developed in the 20th century.

This sweetener is available in the West as processed extracts, tea, powder and granules. Luo Han Guo is a good suger alternative for sweetening teas and other beverages.

Maple Syrup / Sugar

is the distilled and dehydrated sap of the maple tree. It is mainly sucrose with a high mineral content and has a distinct mild flavor. The liquid syrup is available in different grades and colors, cheap versions may be fakes made with HFCS and added flavors. Also, although from a plant source, Maple Syrup is not a “whole food” with all its enzymes and nutrients of the plant source, it is high heat treated processed food. Nevertheless, 100% pure Maple Syrup is still considered a natural food.


is probably the most neutral tasting, universal natural sugar substitute in existence; it goes everywhere where sugar goes a fact that has been known in South America since pre-Colombian times. The Japanese spearheaded a high number of scientific and clinical studies and millions of Japanese have been using Stevia as their major sugar substitute for 40 years with no reported harmful effects. Stevioside, a natural extract of the Stevia leaf that is 300 times sweeter than sugar, has become even more popular, especially in Japan and Korea. But Stevia is more than just a natural low-calorie, low glycemic, and super sweet supplement. Unlike nutrient-empty synthetic sugar substitutes, Stevia is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, chromium, and selenium. .Stevia is also one of the oldest, safest, and most highly esteemed South American herbs known, with a centuries-long history of safe use. Japan banned the importing of synthetic sweeteners in the 1960’s; the Japanese National Institute of Health began researching both Stevia and Stevioside as possible natural replacements. This prompted a series of high-quality studies to examine both the safety and stability of Stevia leaf extract and Stevioside (the super sweet glycoside derived from Stevia) in order to determine their suitability for sweetening commercial foods. All of the studies found that Stevioside had no negative impact on any physical function after an extensive series of tests were conducted. The only side effect noted was a decrease in body weight (Okumura et al., 1978; Lee et al., 1979). How to use Stevia The purest form of Stevia is Fresh Leaves: 8-12% Glycosides, 5-8% Steviosides, 1-2% Rebaudioside A. There are Dried Leaves and cut leaves for Tea and powdered leaves which are 10-15 times sweeter than sugar. These do not dissolve in cooking or tea. Then there are powdered extracts: Steviosides, 40-95% Glycosides and Rebaudioside A. These products are generally 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. The higher the content of Rebaudioside A, the better is the product. There are also clear and dark Liquid Extracts of powdered leaves suspended in water, alcohol or glycerin. Avoid the white Stevia powder and Stevia liquid drops as they have been highly processed. Stevia is heat stable and does not brake down like saccharine and aspartame and can be used for cooking and baking, but it does not caramelize like sugar. It is important to note what sweetening potency the product has, which can range from 10-300 times, as excessive use may yield some bitter taste or aftertaste. Stevia sweetened foods allow the body to regulate the blood sugar levels naturally and it is a wonderful way to satisfy cravings for sweets with impunity.


is originally dehydrated sugar cane juice and can be bought in dry form just like sugar. In theory, Sucanat has some nutrients, white sugar has none, but often what is sold as Sucanat is nothing more than adulterated brown sugar. It is processed at temperatures higher than 118º F or 44º C and thus can’t be considered raw.


is a variation of Brown Sugar featuring larger crystals, with no additional value.


Brown Sugar is healthier – right? It once was and still would be - but is not! Today’s commercially available brown sugar is the common fully refined white sugar with some 3-7% molasses added to color it brown. Since white sugar has no nutritional value, all nutrients claimed to be in brown sugar are from molasses.

Always avoid Products with these Ingredients like the plague

Aspartame (E951) NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful -

Sucralose (E955) Splenda -

Acesulfame Potassium (E950) or ace-K Sunnet, Sweet-One -

Neotame, NutraSweet -

Saccharin (E954)

HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).

You may want to read about these synthetic sweeteners and why you must avoid them by downloading the original article with all links and references at:

Meet the Author:

Heinz R Gisel is a Personal Nutritional Concepts and Medical Devices Innovator, based in San Diego and Tokyo. He is the Founder of Vitality Concepts Corporation and Doctors 4 Vitality Clinics, LLC. He developed a a clinical, non-invasive analysis system that can detect disease before any symptoms occur, without radiation. He believes that Nutrients belong into food and beverages and not capsules and pills and he has patents pending on such nutritional concepts.

Article Source:

No comments: