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No-Nonsense Nutrition Report: Choosing Healthy Sugar Substitutes

sugar on spoonMy Blessed and Valued Health Seeker:

Consuming excess added sugars is definitely a primary driver of the obesity epidemic we are experiencing right now. Eating sugar increases levels of glucose in the bloodstream, which leads the pancreas to release insulin. Higher levels of insulin, in turn, cause the body to store more food calories as fat. That’s a streamlined, simplified explanation but accurate. 

Refined table sugar has a glycemic index of 65, is genetically modified and stripped of any beneficial nutrients, has a very acidic effect on the body and causes mineral depletion. This is such a big problem because the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) every day or 66 pounds of added sugar a year!  

The end result of this sugar consumption is cravings, inflammation, and excess body fat! But that’s not all. According to numerous studies, sugar causes changes in peoples' brains similar to those in people addicted to drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. That would explain why people find it so difficult to eliminate it from their diets. 

But what about artificial sweeteners? Could that be the answer to the problem? Unfortunately, no. 

What About Artificial Sweeteners

sugar splendaThe two most popular artificial sweeteners, Nutrasweet (aspartame) and Splenda (sucralose) have serious and dangerous problems all their own. 

Aspartame is made from aspartic acid and phenylalanine and when your body processes aspartame, part of it is broken down into methanol. When methanol is heated (like up to 98.6 degrees in your body!) it creates free methanol, which then breaks down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin. It is also what’s used to embalm dead bodies by the way. 

Considering that, it’s not surprising, at least to me, that aspartame has been linked to numerous health issues including seizures, headaches, cancer, depression, ADHD, weight gain and more. 

Splenda isn’t much better. Although it is made from sugar it is not a natural product. Sucralose is produced via a multi-step chemical process that replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups with three chlorine atoms, which intensifies the sweetness up to 600 times more than table sugar with zero calories. 

Research shows that Splenda (sucralose) affects your body's insulin response. When study participants drank a beverage sweetened with Splenda, their insulin levels rose about 20% higher than when they consumed only water prior to taking a glucose-challenge test. 

Studies show that when sucralose is metabolized it causes problems, including altering bacterial counts which is associated with weight gain and obesity, as well as rendering certain therapeutic medications less effective.  

Artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain. The exact opposite of what they are marketed to do.

Healthier Options:

Sugar LakantoThe healthiest option is to break the sugar habit, retrain your taste buds and eat as little sugar or sweetened foods as possible. That being said, let’s be realistic. We all enjoy something sweet now and then. Fortunately there are some healthier options we can use to sweeten our foods. 

Before I share those healthier options, something to keep in mind is that any zero calorie sweetener, whether natural or artificial, can cause caloric dysregulation. When you eat a sweet dessert your brain expects there to be a caloric hit involved and is wired to limit those foods. Now if you eat a sweet food that has no or very few calories, the sensor in your brain is confused. And if you do that often, it can totally mess it up! Now your brain thinks it’s perfectly fine to gorge on super-sweet foods. Your body loses its ability to correlate the degree of a food's sweetness to the amount of calories it contains. So keep that in mind. 

While the following sweeteners are healthier, it isn’t a license to eat as much as you want. 

Stevia is one of my favorite sweetener choices. It doesn’t take very much to achieve a sweet taste and it doesn’t affect your blood sugar. Studies have shown that stevia can enhance glucose tolerance and improve metabolic syndrome, which makes it a good choice for people with insulin resistance and diabetes.   

Monk Fruit, also known as “luo han guo,” is naturally sweet but doesn’t spike blood sugar or cause an increase in insulin. Recent studies also show that antioxidants it contains offer anti-inflammatory benefits and can help prevent cancer and type 2 diabetes.  

Monk fruit is also commonly paired with other sweeteners such as erythritol. One of my all time favorite sweeteners for healthier baking is Lakanto from Body Ecology, which is a proprietary blend of the sweet extract of the Chinese luo han guo fruit and erythritol.  

Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol which is found in small quantities in fruits like apples and pears. Other common sugar alcohols are xylitol and mannitol. These sweeteners are not fully digested by the body. The drawback to not being completely broken down is that sugar alcohols can cause digestive discomfort in some sensitive people. However, when used in modest quantities, it almost never causes diarrhea, bloating, gas. 

It is about 70% as sweet as sugar. Sugar alcohols do have some calories so they will not trigger caloric dysregulation and they have very little impact on blood sugar since they’re not fully digested.

Some Other Healthier Alternatives:

sugar honeyCoconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index of 35 and is made from flowers growing on coconut trees. It is a nutrient rich sweetener that makes an excellent substitute for refined, white sugar. 

It contains impressive amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron as well as calcium, potassium, some short-chain fatty acids, polyphenols, antioxidants, and inulin, a prebiotic fiber, all of which likely lower coconut sugar’s blood sugar impact. 

However, coconut sugar has about 71% sucrose, (table sugar) as well as 3% pure glucose and 3% pure fructose. Fructose is digested directly in the liver and having too much can cause serious problems. So while coconut palm sugar is definitely a better option, in moderation, than table sugar, make it an occasional and moderate choice. 

Honey has a glycemic index of anywhere between 50 and 75. The kind of honey chosen makes a big difference. Raw (unpasteurized) honey is lower on the glycemic scale and contains more nutrients whereas processed honey is no better than table sugar. 

Raw honey contains 80% natural sugars, 18% water, and 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein. Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. It’s also rich in antioxidants that boost immune function. The combination of honey and cinnamon is found to increase insulin and decreases hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and so can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and work in conjunction with medication used to treat diabetes. Obviously it’s recommended you speak with your physician if you plan to add honey to your diabetic diet plan. 

Research studies have linked honey consumption with weight loss, finding that replacing sugar with honey can actually help prevent weight gain as well as lower blood sugar.  

To reap the benefits of raw honey, never cook with it or store it near a heat source because that will destroy its live enzymes. Even putting it in a cup of piping hot tea will negate the benefits. 

Although honey is one of the healthiest sweeteners, it still should certainly be used in moderation. Keep in mind, honey should never be given to children under 12 months of age since it is a potential source of botulism spores. If you have a compromised immune system or are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer, you should speak with your doctor before consuming raw honey. 

Maple syrup with a glycemic index of 54 so it impacts blood sugar levels a bit less drastically than white sugar does. It is collected from the sap of maple trees and contains some important antioxidants and minerals like zinc and manganese. Pure maple syrup, particularly Grade B, which tends to be richer in antioxidants, contains phenolic compounds that are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases. 

Interestingly, maple syrup extract helped antibiotics work better by increasing the permeability of the bacteria, helping the antibiotics into the interior of bacterial cells.  While it’s definitely better than white sugar, this sweetener should still be used only occasionally and in small amounts.

Secrets and Tips:

Consuming too much sugar, from any source, “healthy” or not, is one of the leading causes of some of the most widespread health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

Sweeteners should be used in small amounts. When it comes to reversing diabetes or other blood-sugar related conditions naturally, it’s best to minimize sugar intake overall and especially to avoid refined sugar. 

Bottom Line: The goal is to eliminate sugar cravings and retrain taste buds so the key to using any sweeteners wisely is to choose carefully and only consume them in moderation as part of a low-sugar diet. 

Recipes and Products: 

Erythritol sweeteners:

NO-NONSENSE NUTRITION NUGGETThe first ingredient in Nutella is sugar and in fact it contains 50% sugar; one 32 oz McDonald’s sweet tea has as much sugar as two and a half snickers bars; during Passover, Coca-Cola sells coke with sugar instead of corn syrup in areas with a substantial Jewish population because corn syrup isn’t kosher. Keep an eye out for coke bottles with a yellow cap; 70% of milk served in U.S. schools contains on average four teaspoons of added sugar per serving (about half the amount of sugar as a serving of Coke).
Until next week, I wish you overflowing, abundant health, peace and joy and I call you BLESSED (empowered to prosper and succeed). 


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Your fork is the most powerful tool you have to transform your health. 


Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. 

As always, all information offered in these reports is provided for informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. 

“You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a nutritional deficiency.” Dr. Linus Pauling

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