There are a million types of sugar alternatives out there, and approaching the creamer and sugar section of a coffee shop can seem daunting. For this reason, we’re breaking down all types of added sweeteners and giving you an explanation of what they are, where they come from, and what their health effects may be. If you haven’t read part 1, be sure to follow this link to learn about Sweet’n Low, Agave Nectar, and Aspartame. Hopefully after this you can make a better decision as we break down all the different types out there!
High Fructose Corn Syrup
While you probably won’t be adding this to your coffee, high fructose corn syrup has begun to replace sugar in almost every previously sugar containing product on the market today. But you will find it in some creamers, and some flavorings. But this is being mentioned because it is one of the options that gives other sugar substitutes such a bad name.
High fructose corn syrup has begun to replace sugar in almost every product on the market today.
One of the healthiest sugar substitutes out there, it is natural, and comes with a whole host of health benefits. Research suggests that locally sourced honey, like the kind we use at Mocha’s and Java’s, can actually reduce allergies. This is because bees use pollen from local plants, in small amounts of course, which naturally builds up your tolerance to the pollen of local plants over time. Couple this with the fact that it has antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and you get an immune booster with a great unique taste.
Commonly used in teas to great effect, honey also makes for a great sweetener in coffee, especially for those who like the taste. It has about 21 calories per teaspoon, similar to agave nectar, which is something to weigh in to your decision for those looking to reduce their weight. Honey also has less of a glycemic load, meaning your blood sugar will only slowly rise after consuming honey, instead of a sharp rise and a sharp drop.
Stevia Leaf Extract
One of the newer players in the sugar substitute market is Stevia, a natural leaf extract made from the stevia plant. Though people have been using the stevia plant itself for thousands of years throughout human history, the extract we use today just recently gained its “Generally Safe” status through the FDA in 2008. It gained approval in Europe in 2011, but has been around in Japan for far longer. Stevia has a somewhat distinct taste and, pound for pound, is almost 150 times sweeter than sugar. This of course means that an individual packet of Stevia will contain much less than a packet of sugar.
Stevia does not cause heavy spikes in blood sugar because it absorbs slowly in the digestive tract.
Stevia itself is sweet with a very slight bitter aftertaste, but is very unique in how it works. Since it is made from a specific plant in the stevia family (Stevia rebaudiana), it retains the alkaloids present in the plant itself. And those alkaloids specifically act by enhancing the taste receptors on the tongue for tastes considered sweet, bitter, and umami. This has a synergistic effect with the plant itself, because those alkaloids in the leaves potentiate the natural sweetness of the plant. This chemical process is so effective because the plant itself is already so sweet.
This plant also does not cause heavy spikes in blood sugar because it absorbs slowly in the digestive tract rather than immediately in the stomach. Because of this, it makes for a safer alternative by people with diabetes, because the lower glycemic load and the lower caloric content.
If you’re finding these explorations into sweeteners interesting, be sure to stay tuned for the next part, where we’ll be looking into three more sweeteners you may have heard of!