Monday, April 7, 2008

Artificial Sweeteners: Not as sweet as you think!

A common question that my patients ask me relates to what artificial sweetener is ok to use, "Is sucralose ok..., is splenda ok..., aspartame, sorbitol..?" Here's the quick bottom line on my recommendations relating to what the best sweetener is: Choose the sweetener that is in it's natural state. Agave Nectar is my top choice recommendation. It's the sap from the Agave cactus plant, you know what they make tequilla from. Agave sweetener is naturally extracted from the pineapple-shaped core of the Agave, a cactus-like plant native to Mexico. With a 90% fruit sugar content, it absorbs slowly into the body, decreasing the highs and lows associated with sucrose (table sugar) intake. Agave nectar, "Sweet Cactus Farms" is my favorite brand, available at Whole Foods, or Agave nectar is at least 35% sweeter than sugar, so you can use less and save on calories. When baking with Agave Nectar: Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees, replace 1 cup sugar with 3/4 cup Agave. Reduce recipe liquids by 1/3.

Great news for people with diabetes, Agave nectar is a suitable sweetener for you. Since, agave is more slowly absorbed, it will not stimulate overproduction of insulin, thus it won't overwork the pancreas. A little squirt of agave is all you need, and 1 tsp. of agave is only 4 grams of carbs, thus a diabetic exchange free food. It's great in tea, or your 1 cup of coffee, or on whole grain waffles.
The next best sweeteners to agave is raw sugar, "Sucanat", natural sugar cane, very vitamin and mineral rich, thus more slowly absorbed, and organic maple syrup, and raw honey, specifically manuka honey is good.

Bottom line: stay alla naturalle when it comes to all your food choices as much as you can. I do not recommend artificial sweeteners, they have been linked with the obesity epidemic because they are so sweet, they make people hungrier and they are not food, they are synthetic, splenda by the way, what a lot of people think is natural is derived from sugar and chlorinated-thus can be carcinogenic.

Enjoy your food naturally, the real stuff tastes better.

Health and happiness to you,
Your livitician,

Deborah A. Klein, MS, RD


Anonymous said...

Judy Barnes Baker
March 28, 2008
“Agave provokes bitter debate as a sweetener,” reads the headline in the March 23rd Chicago Tribune:,1,7478086.story. The story raises questions about the safely of the trendy, expensive, liquid sugar made from the Mexican agave cactus. Agave nectar is being marketed as a healthful, all-natural substitute for sucrose because it has a very low glycemic index and doesn’t raise insulin levels. However, the dangers of fructose are well known, and agave nectar is almost 100% fructose. As I wrote in this previous post,, fructose raises triglycerides, promotes belly fat, and contributes to fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. It increases the formation of glycation end-products, which speed up the aging process.

Although the juice of the agave cactus is about half glucose and half fructose as it comes from the plant, it is refined to remove the glucose. “ ‘It's almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing,’ said Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, fellow of the American College of Nutrition and associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.”

But wait—there’s more. There have been reports that many of the products labeled as being from the blue agave plant really contain high-fructose syrup from corn and other varieties of agave because blue agave is expensive and in high demand for making tequila. Russ Bianchi, a food and beverage formulator, is quoted as saying, "Agave is really chemically refined hydrolyzed high-fructose inulin syrup and not from the blue agave plant, organic or raw as claimed."

Although the article includes quotes from some who endorse the use of agave “in moderation,” it also lists concerns about agave consumption, including the following:

- It can contain botulism spores and should not be given to babies.
- It should be avoided if you are pregnant, as some believe it can cause miscarriages.
- It can worsen acne and diabetes symptoms.
- It does not raise blood glucose levels, but it raises blood fructose, which is worse.
- Use only agave nectar that is organic and carries a USDA seal.
The author states that although the FDA does not see a need for action, it requests reports of adverse effects from agave.

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