Agave syrup, Xylitol, Stevia, Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar?
What to choose?
Well it depends on your health, weight, risk factors and whether you have food sensitivities.
Some of you may have read ‘I Quit Sugar’ and have been using Brown Rice syrup, also known as rice malt syrup instead of sugar. This is not a health food! There’s a highly detailed post from authoritynutrition.com with links on our Facebook Page if you’re interested.
This sweetener is made by exposing cooked rice to enzymes that break down the starch into simple sugars. Brown rice syrup contains no refined fructose, just glucose. The absence of refined fructose is good… but rice syrup has a glycemic index of 98, which means that the glucose in it will spike blood sugar extremely fast. This can result in cravings, hunger and fatigue. Brown rice syrup is highly refined and contains no nutrients.
Research done (Environmental Health Perspectives Journal) on brown rice syrup found levels of arsenic up to 20x what’s considered okay. This was in baby formulas, brown rice syrups, cereal bars & “Energy Shot Blocks”. These need to be avoided.
An Australian company Pure Harvest makes organic rice malt syrup and released this statement when the Arsenic issues hit the media. So you can come to your own conclusion about it.
“The FSANZ standard 1.4.1 permits a level for cereals of 1 mg/kg (ppm) of total arsenic. As can be seen from the test report provided, our rice syrup has a level of <0.040 mg/kg (ppm) of total arsenic (note the less than, this is the detection limit for the specific test used to detect the arsenic in this case, so the actual levels are less than this), so is well below the maximum permitted levels stated in the code. The American FDA do not have any standards set for arsenic in food or beverages, and are in general many years behind Australia and New Zealand in the development and implementation of Food Safety systems.”
If you are avoiding sugar due to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity you are better off with low GI Xylitol. Honey & Maple syrup (40% fructose), coconut sugar (50% fructose) are still sugar and contain varying degrees of fructose, but at least they have some nutritional advantages.
Those on FODMAPS diets due to reaction to the different kinds of sugars naturally occurring in food are better of with glucose!
Agave syrup is high in refined fructose and to be avoided by everyone. Just because it’s ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Studies done comparing diets high in glucose and fructose showed that those consuming higher fructose processed foods and drinks had more of the dangerous visceral fat around their bellies. This means the risk of obesity and diabetes increases if the diet doesn’t change. Their levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides were higher than those consuming glucose.
Fruit is totally okay and should be eaten twice daily. Juice is not okay due to high concentrations of sugar and no fibre to slow it down.
So, as you can see there is quite a bit of controversy around sugar and it’s alternatives. The bottom line is to make sensible choices based on your lifestyle and health issues.
Avoiding processed food and soft drinks and eating fresh vegetables, fruit and a variety of meat, chicken, fish, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds is a good start.