by: Lauren Rae, CPT at TRYM Fitness and Sunwarrior Contributing Writer
Halloween has finished but there’s still candy everywhere. Liquid, solid, or syrup, do you know what is making your food and beverages sweet? Most of the foods we consume break down into sugar to create fuel for your body, but sugar has also proven to be an addictive drug that can alter your brain chemistry and hormones. However sugar is consumed, its many forms, chemical compounds, and effects on the human body are widely misunderstood.
Furthermore, many of the sugar substitutes, sugar-free, and calorie free options could actually be more harmful than you think. Whether you think these sweets are poison or for pleasure, becoming aware of the types of sweeteners on the market and their source of origin is crucial to making the right decision as a consumer.
Types of sugars:
Glucose or Dextrose
Glucose is a simple sugar that your body uses rapidly as the primary source of energy. But it also stimulates the pancreas, in turn affecting insulin levels.
Sucrose and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Sucrose is basic table sugar comprised of 50% fructose while HFCS is 55% fructose. The remainder of each is glucose.
Fructose is metabolized by the liver, transformed into glucose or, if there’s too much, harmful, long-chain triglycerides. But if fructose comes from fruit, how can it be so bad? Fruit contains nutrients and fiber which aid the body in signaling fullness and preventing you from eating too much. Taken out of its original form fructose can be just as damaging as glucose, sucrose, and HFCS.
Diabetes, obesity, and other degenerative diseases caused by poor quality food and toxins have sparked a trend in sugar (and/or carbohydrate) watch. Companies now more than ever are offering low-sugar or sugar-free food items that appeal to many unsuspecting consumers. These artificial sweeteners, however, are not the answer to your sweet tooth cravings. As your body processes the chemicals, free radicals are generated and stored and in the digestive tract that can lead to degenerative disease. In addition, brain cells are over-stimulated and can reportedly die off.
Types of commonly used artificial sweeteners:
Would you like the pink or the blue? Consisting of 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methanol, aspartame causes rapid firing of brain neurons and can potentially cause cell death. Research has shown aspartame becomes formaldehyde when heated to body temperature, therefore becoming poison to the consumer when ingested.
Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than sugar and contains no calories. Marketing Splenda as a “natural” sugar substitute has made it a leader in artificial sweeteners worldwide. What people don’t know is that it was discovered in a chemistry lab that was formulating new insecticides. Uhh, yeah. It’s actually the opposite of a natural sugar substitute and is classified as a chloro-carbon
Sugar alcohols are in many sports supplements and “low carb” protein bars. These are the ingredients on a food package that end in “-itol,” including mannitol, erythritol, xylitol, and sorbitol. This low to no calorie form of sweetener can lead to extreme digestive upsets like bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea as well as long-term issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
Stevia Leaf extract
Stevia is a green leafy plant native to South America. It is currently the best known source for natural calorie-free sweeteners and flavor enhancers. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar and therefore can be used in smaller doses, but any amount has been shown to cause intestinal bloating and gas.
As it is difficult to know the origin or quality of sugars, and to be sure your body is utilizing sugar only as a fuel source, it is best to limit your sugar intake to 25–30 grams a day. Whatever sweet substance you choose, always check the package for non-GMO labels and use wisely in combination with a balanced diet and exercise program.