More people have become concerned with both the amount of sugar they consume and the large number of artificial sweeteners put into the food chain. As a result, our attention has turned to trying to find the ‘holy grail’ of sweeteners, one that is both healthy and natural. This lead to the question, are natural sweeteners healthy?
The problem is that what sounds healthy might not be at all, and what has gotten bad publicity might actually be good for you.
Honey is naturally sweet and derived from the hives of bees, making it all natural. However, while it has a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar (55 versus 70), it significantly impacts your blood sugar when you eat it. This can leave you more prone to craving sweet treats. Therefore, use honey in moderation.
Agave tastes similar to honey but has a GI of only 15. It is derived from the cactus plant and can be used the same way as honey, though it is important to note that it is higher in calories (310 vs. 250) per 100 g.
Some of the health benefits of agave can be found on this article – Agave, Are There Health Benefits? The article, however, cautions against eating a lot of agave.
Corn has received a bad name due to high fructose corn syrup. This natural sweetener has become so much a part of the food industry that it is being blamed as the most likely cause of the US obesity epidemic.
Corn can actually be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. Eating fresh corn from the cob with a pat of butter is good. It is excellent when air-popped and served with a sprinkle of cheese or chocolate chips for a sweet treat. Studies have shown that popped corn has one of the highest amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants of any food. In fact, it is said to have twice the level of blueberries.
Corn cobs are used to make the natural sugar substitute xylitol, which you’ve probably seen in sugar-free gum. Corn starch is also often used as a thickener and can add some sweetness to recipes.
Corn meal, as in ground corn, is the basis for delicious cornbread or corn pudding. Provided it is not doused with sugar, salt and gravy, homemade cornbread can be a healthy sweet or savory treat.
Corn is a naturally sweet food, but as with all things, use it in moderation.
Regardless of your choice, remember the goal is always to burn more calories than you consume. So aim for a healthy diet and exercise, and sweets in moderation. Then see what a difference it can make to your health.
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