Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, aspartame,
stevia, xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, black strap molasses, and
the list goes on…
When did something as simple as what we use to sweeten our
coffee become so complicated? Not too long ago, people didn't even
have to think about it. They used a cube or spoonful of
sugar--plain old table sugar. Today things have changed--both in
the types of sweeteners available and the amount we use.
In the past 20 years, sugar
consumption in the United States has increased from 26 pounds to
135 pounds per person per year! Prior to the turn of this
century, the average consumption was only 5 pounds per person per
In the 1970s, food and beverage manufacturers began switching
their sweeteners from table sugar (sucrose) to corn syrup when they
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was far cheaper to make. This
switch drastically altered the American diet.
By USDA estimates,
about one-quarter of the calories consumed by the average American
is in the form of added sugars, and most of that is HFCS.
55 percent of sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing
are made from corn. America's number one source of calories is
soda, packed with HFCS.
Looking at the statistics, you can see a direct parallel in the
increase in sugar consumption and obesity. Even with the
introduction of artificial sweeteners, the obesity epidemic
continues to grow at an alarming rate. In fact, for the first time
there are more obese people in the world than there are starving
So what's the solution? The way I see it, we need to get back to
the basics-less sugar, more natural, unprocessed foods, and smaller
portions. When using sweeteners, choose those that come from the
most natural source. Here are four to use in moderation:
1. Organic unrefined cane sugar.
Unrefined sugar cane offers nutrients and minerals that refined and
white sugars cannot. The process of refining introduces many
harmful ingredients to sugar cane, such as sulfur dioxide and
2. Organic raw honey. Although honey contains higher fructose
levels, it also contains a bounty of antioxidants, and
local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy
3. The herb Stevia. All types of stevia sweeteners are extracted
from the leaves of the stevia plant, but some forms taste better
than others. Stevia contains zero calories, but its one downfall is
that it doesn't work well for baking.
4. Sugar alcohols(xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol). These are
natural sweeteners made through a fermentation process of corn or
sugar cane. They contain fewer calories than sweeteners like pure
sugar and honey but more than stevia. Just don't overdo it--
too much can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Most importantly, read your food labels and know what you are
eating. And if you're confused about food labels….well, that's
another blog post for another day.