Refined sugar is high in calories and does not do any good for our health. However, quitting it is not a task so easy but there are several natural sweeteners that can be used in place of refined sugar. In this article, we list some healthy plant-based sweeteners that you can use in place of refined sugars.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally contained in some of the fruits. A low-calorie sweetener, erythritol has about 0.24 calories per gram, which is merely 6% of the calories in sugar of equal amount.
The sweetener does not have any effect on blood lipids like cholesterol or triglycrides. Erythritol is absorbed from the intestine and excreted from the kidneys without any change in form.
Stevia is a quite popular sweetener known for its low-calorie content. It is extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, which is a plant that is commonly found in South Africa. Stevia plant has been grown in South Africa for many centuries for its medicinal value and sweetness.
Stevioside and rebaudioside are two popular sweet compounds found in stevia leaves. Both of these compounds are a hundred times sweeter than refined sugars.
Some human-based studies have suggested some health benefits of consuming stevia.
It is found that stevia can help bring down the blood pressure levels in people with hypertension. It has to be noted that the sweetener does not affect the blood pressure of people with normal or slightly high blood pressure.
Moreover, stevia has been shown to lower the blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Some studies conducted in rats demonstrated that stevia can improve insulin sensitivity.
The sweetness of xylitol is similar to that of sugar and it contains 2.4 calories per gram. The calorie content per gram of xylitol is two-third of sugar.
Xylitol offers some benefits for dental health and reduces the risk of dental decay and cavities. Besides, studies conducted in rats have found that it helped improve the bone density in rats. This can help prevent osteoporosis and related diseases.
Xylitol does not lead to elevated insulin or blood sugar levels but when taken in higher doses, it may have some digestive side effects.
Sugar is not harmful to all of us and it all depends on the context. For overweight people, and/or people with insulin resistance, high amounts of sugar can be harmful.