Sweet foods were a rare delicacy for our ancient ancestors. Today, we have an unlimited supply of sugary foods and beverages at our disposal. Natural sweeteners can be used effectively in moderation to provide the sweetness that most people crave. Here are the best natural sweeteners ranked in order based on low glycemic index and additional health benefits.
Every living creature is designed to run off of a simple sugar called glucose. It is the primary unit in the study of metabolism. However, there are certainly dangers involved with consuming too much glucose. Those dangers mostly involve elevated blood sugar and insulin, which trigger fat accumulation, cellular inflammation and insulin resistance.
Fructose is another simple sugar that is found in nature within fruits, honey, and plant/tree nectar. This is metabolized differently than glucose and can cause even more hazardous effects when consumed in excess.
Safe Natural Sweeteners In Order
Stevia: Stevia is processed from the leaf of the stevia plant, which is native to South America. This herb derivative has no effect on blood sugar, insulin signaling and triglyceride formation. It develops most of its sweetness from glycosides called stevioside and rebaudioside. These compounds are 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose, which makes them have the ability to withstand heat and have longer shelf life.
Studies have even shown the stevia leaf to have beneficial effects at improving cellular insulin sensitivity and at reducing the risk of type II diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lo Han Extract: A fruit plant that grows native in Southern China/Northern Thailand. Lo Han has a very low glycemic index and low sugar content. It gets the majority of its sweetness from a glycoside nutrient called mogrosides. These mogrosides are 300 times sweeter than sugar and act as anti-oxidants that have shown abilities to inhibit cancer cell formation. This is a wonderful sweetener but can be hard to find and expensive.
Coconut Nectar: This is a very low glycemic liquid sweetener derived from the liquid sap of the coconut blossoms. The glycemic index is 35 making it one of the lowest of natural sweeteners. Also, the fructose levels are very low at 10%, and it contains a wide variety of anti-oxidants, minerals and other nutrients that enhance blood sugar stability. It is challenging to get and quite expensive.
Organic, Raw Honey: This superfood does have an effect on blood sugar and contains approximately 53% fructose, so one should only consume this in moderation. Honey contains a wide array of trace minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese and selenium. These nutrients are critical for healthy cellular insulin sensitivity and blood sugar balance.
Raw honey is also extremely rich in anti-oxidants and natural enzymes. Honey contains flavonoid anti-oxidants such as pinocembrin and pinostrobin that help reduce oxidative stress in the body and promote better enzyme activity.
Organic Blackstrap Molasses: Molasses is a byproduct of the processing of sugar. It does have an effect on glycemic index and must only be consumed in moderation. Blackstrap molasses is a very rich source of iron, copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium.
Sugar Alcohols: These include xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol. Sugar alcohol is supposed to just pass through the body unrecognized. This causes no blood sugar imbalances and is considered a safe sweetener. However, many individuals have reported significant gastrointestinal distress that includes cramping, bloating, gas & diarrhea.
Natural Sweetner Information: Natural News 9/7/2012 - Three Natural Zero Ccalorie Sugar Substitutes
Natural Sweetner Information: Natural News 5/21/2013 - Six Ways To Sweeten Food Without Sugar Or Artificial Sweeteners