There's nothing wrong with wanting a little sweetness in your life! But when it comes from certain sugars, it can put your well-being at risk and start a chain reaction of weight gain, fatigue, and inflammation.
It's time to review the best ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your health.
What NOT to Use
Sugar is addictive, and it sneaks in under all sorts of names, from high-fructose corn syrup and coconut sugar to dextrin and maltose. But here are the 3 most common sweetener options and the main reasons why they don't belong in your pantry or on your plate.
And don't be fooled by its fancier cousin “organic evaporated cane juice.” Still the same sucrose, which has been proven to contribute to numerous health conditions, including…
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Cognitive decline
Yes, it's a natural sweetener, and no, that doesn't make it any less harmful! Being all-natural doesn't make something healthy. (Opium and tobacco are also all-natural…)
Taking a small amount of raw, local honey every day to help combat allergies is fine, as long as your immune system isn't impaired. Otherwise, honey still turns to sucrose and has all the same risks as that bag of white sugar on the grocery store shelf!
This is the worst choice of all because it's concentrated fructose. In fact, agave nectar, or syrup has more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup!
That’s a problem because unlike other sugars, fructose gets metabolized by your liver. And when too much fructose is consumed, that excess gets converted into fat and stored throughout your body. (Often ending up exactly where you don’t want it: around your belly!)
So, let’s skip the damaging consequences and opt for smarter sweeteners instead!
Top 5 Healthy Sweetener Options
Here are my top sweetener choices that won’t harm your health or expand your waistline…
I’m a big fan of stevia because a small amount can achieve a sweet taste without impacting your blood sugar.
In fact, research shows that stevia can improve glucose tolerance and prevent risk factors for metabolic syndrome, making it a great choice for people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.1,2
A potential drawback of stevia is that some folks notice it has a bitter aftertaste on its own, which is why you’ll often find it mixed with other sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
This plant-based sweetener may be newer on the market, but it’s quickly become one of my favorites!
Although many manufacturers have been scared away from allulose because it’s still counted as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels, the majority of allulose is actually flushed out of your system and therefore doesn’t impact your blood glucose levels.3
And the good news doesn’t end there! From jumpstarting weight loss and decreasing the risk of fatty liver disease to helping balance blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, preliminary research shows that allulose holds great promise.4-7
You’ve probably heard of some of the most common sugar alcohols: erythritol, xylitol, and mannitol.
Derived from plant sources, sugar alcohols got their name because their biochemical structure resembles a hybrid of a sugar and an alcohol.
A major advantage of sugar alcohols is that they can’t be completely digested by your body, which means they have little impact on your blood sugar levels. But the downside to not being fully broken down is that sugar alcohols can cause digestive discomfort in some people.
That’s why it’s important to be your own best health detective and connect the dots between what you eat and how you feel. Only you can figure out which sweeteners work best for you!
It’s also important to note that sugar alcohols like erythritol and birch-derived xylitol are safe for the Virgin Diet. Erythritol is fermented from corn, but since it doesn’t contain the corn proteins, it’s not an issue for those avoiding grains or following a corn-free diet because of food intolerances.
However, if you have a true corn allergy (rather than a corn sensitivity), you should not consume corn-derived erythritol or xylitol without first consulting your healthcare provider.
Worth mentioning: if you’ve ever heard the myth that sugar alcohols can cause cancer or tumors, there’s absolutely no research to back up that claim! In fact, multiple animal studies have shown that even after prolonged, deliberately toxic exposure, sugar alcohols did not increase the likelihood of cancer or tumors in any way.
Also called “luo han guo,” this Chinese fruit has an extract that’s naturally sweet, yet doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
And there’s more to love about monk fruit! Studies show that compounds in monk fruit extract have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits that may help with the prevention of serious health conditions like diabetes and certain types of cancer.8,9
When looking for monk fruit, one thing to remember is that it’s commonly paired with other sweeteners. A combination of monk fruit with sweeteners like erythritol or stevia is fine, but be sure to stay away from sweeteners like dextrose or maltodextrin.
They’re both made from corn, and that can create a whole new set of issues for those with food sensitivities or chronic inflammation.
Glycine is an amino acid (the building block of protein) that makes an ideal sweetener for folks with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, since it can actually help regulate blood sugar levels.
In fact, research shows that glycine can even help decrease inflammation and enhance immune function in type 2 diabetics!10
If you’re looking for a tasty glycine blend, look no further than JJ Virgin Sprinkles. Made of a proprietary blend of glycine, erythritol, and stevia, our Sprinkles are a yummy way to add a dash of sweetness to any food or drink!
Managing Your Sweet Tooth
A word to the wise: remember that no sweetener is without its drawbacks. All of them have the potential to cause something called “caloric dysregulation.”
Caloric dysregulation is a really scientific term for a process that’s actually pretty easy to understand. Your body has a built-in sensor that says sweet foods = lots of calories. But if you repeatedly eat something that tastes extremely sweet, but isn’t high-calorie, your sensor can get broken.
That means your brain thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to gorge on super-sweet foods, and you can imagine why that’s a problem! So, the key is not to condition your palate to expect sweetness at every meal.
The ultimate goal is to use sweeteners in moderation as part of a low-sugar impact diet and retrain your tastebuds to appreciate the natural flavors of food.
If you’re not at that point yet, never fear – the Sugar Impact Diet can help! It’s an ideal eating plan if you have any of the tell-tale signs of a sugar burner: carb and sugar cravings, snack attacks, or belly fat that refuses to budge.
Take this quick quiz to find out if you’re a sugar burner and how to transition to burning fat for fuel instead…
Healthy Dessert Swaps
My goal is always to be sure you don’t suffer from cravings or sweets. But whether you’re entertaining or the chocolate bug bites, it pays to have guilt-free dessert recipes on hand!
This one for Creamy Chocolate Protein Pudding is the perfect no-cook treat, while these 4-Ingredient Paleo Pumpkin Brownies bake up rich and fudgy, plus they’re packed with fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats.
And if you’re in the mood for more tasty recipes without the added sugar, be sure to grab my free Sweet Treats Recipe Guide below. There’s plenty of irresistible options with zero guilt involved!