4 Natural Sweeteners & Their Health Benefits

by Dr. Jonathan D'Souza

After coming under fire from health experts, artificial sweeteners are being replaced by better (and healthier) alternatives. These low-cal sweeteners are derived from natural sources, which is why they are getting increasingly popular.

Not only do they have fewer side effects, they also come with added health benefits such as regulating blood pressure, fighting tooth decay and aiding weight loss.

We tell you about four natural sweeteners and the drinks (and foods) that contain them. So, if you must have soda, drink one of the following.

1. Stevia
Extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, a tablespoon of ground stevia equals a cup of sugar. Studies show that it can lower blood pressure by six to 14 percent. It helps reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics and does not cause an increase in normal blood pressure levels like artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin do. (1,2,3,4) Animal studies show that it improves insulin sensitivity, reduces plaque buildup in the arteries and cuts oxidized LDL (or bad) cholesterol.(5,6)

Drinks Containing Stevia: Coca-Cola Life, Pepsi True, Odwalla, Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero, Honest Tea, and Trop 50.

2. Xylitol
An alcohol with sugar-like sweetness, Xylitol is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables such as berries, mushrooms and fibrous materials such as sugar cane bagasse, corn husks, oats and birch. It provides the same sweetness as table sugar with 33 percent fewer calories. Xylitol decreases the risk of cavities and tooth decay (7,8) and could prevent osteoporosis by improving bone density.(9) It does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels.(10) You can buy xylitol powder here.

Drinks Containing Xylitol: Virgil’s diet sodas, Hapi drinks and Winrgy.

3. Erythritol
Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in fruits. It does not increase insulin or blood sugar levels and has no effect on biomarkers such as triglycerides and cholesterol.(11) It is absorbed in the intestine and is excreted from the kidneys unchanged.(12) You can buy it here.

Drinks Containing Erythritol: VitaminWater and Zevia have moderate amounts of erythritol.

4. Yacon Syrup
Harvested from the yacon plant that grows in the Andes in South America, yacon syrup came under spotlight after it caused significant weight loss in overweight women in a prominent study.(13) Rich in fructooligosaccharides, which act as natural fibers that feed the good bacteria in the intestines, yacon syrup smoothens digestion(14,15) and is useful in treating constipation.(16) A ¾ cup of yacon syrup equals one cup of sugar. To buy yacon syrup, click here.

Foods Containing Yacon Syrup: Organic Yacon Molasses, Yac-O-Power and Yacon Slim.

Advisory: Always consult your nutritionist before including any of the above drinks or foods to your diet plan.

The content made available at Z Living has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or by any other governmental agency. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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References:
1. Chan, P., Tomlinson, B., Chen, Y.-J., Liu, J.-C., Hsieh, M.-H. and Cheng, J.-T. (2000), A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 50: 215–220. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.2000.00260.

2. Hsieh, Ming-Hsiung et al. Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: A two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Clinical Therapeutics , Volume 25 , Issue 11 , 2797 – 2808.

3. K.C. Maki, L.L. Curry, M.C. Carakostas, S.M. Tarka, M.S. Reeves, M.V. Farmer, J.M. McKenney, P.D. Toth, S.L. Schwartz, B.C. Lubin, M.R. Dicklin, A.C. Boileau, J.D. Bisognano. The hemodynamic effects of rebaudioside A in healthy adults with normal and low-normal blood pressure.Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 46, Issue 7, Supplement, July 2008, Pages S40-S46

4. Søren Gregersen, Per B Jeppesen, Jens J Holst, Kjeld Hermansen. Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects. Metabolism, Volume 53, Issue 1, January 2004, Pages 73-76

5. Geeraert B, Crombé F, Hulsmans M, Benhabilès N, Geuns JM, Holvoet P. Stevioside inhibits atherosclerosis by improving insulin signaling and antioxidant defense in obese insulin-resistant mice. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Mar;34(3):569-77. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.261. Epub 2009 Dec 15. PubMed PMID: 20010904.

6. Awney, H. A., Massoud, M. I. and El-Maghrabi, S. (2011), Long-term feeding effects of stevioside sweetener on some toxicological parameters of growing male rats. J. Appl. Toxicol., 31: 431–438. doi: 10.1002/jat.1604

7. A Maguire & A J Rugg-Gunn. Xylitol and caries prevention — is it a magic bullet? British Dental Journal 194, 429 – 436 (2003) Published online: 26 April 2003 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4810022

8. Ritter AV, Bader JD, Leo MC, Preisser JS, Shugars DA, Vollmer WM, Amaechi BT, Holland JC. Tooth-surface-specific effects of xylitol: randomized trial results. J Dent Res. 2013 Jun;92(6):512-7. doi: 10.1177/0022034513487211. Epub 2013 Apr 15. PubMed PMID: 23589387; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3654758.

9. Sato H, Ide Y, Nasu M, Numabe Y. The effects of oral xylitol administration on bone density in rat femur. Odontology. 2011 Jan;99(1):28-33. doi: 10.1007/s10266-010-0143-2. Epub 2011 Jan 27. PubMed PMID: 21271323.

10. Salminen S, Salminen E, Marks V. The effects of xylitol on the secretion of insulin and gastric inhibitory polypeptide in man and rats. Diabetologia. 1982 Jun;22(6):480-2. PubMed PMID: 7049804.

11. Noda K, Nakayama K, Oku T. Serum glucose and insulin levels and erythritol balance after oral administration of erythritol in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Apr;48(4):286-92. PubMed PMID: 8039489.

12. Eva Arrigoni, Fred Brouns and Renato Amadò (2005). Human gut microbiota does not ferment erythritol. British Journal of Nutrition, 94, pp 643-646. doi:10.1079/BJN20051546.

13. Genta S, Cabrera W, Habib N, Pons J, Carillo IM, Grau A, Sánchez S. Yacon syrup: beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans. Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;28(2):182-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.01.013. Epub 2009 Feb 28. PubMed PMID: 19254816.

14. Coussement PA. Inulin and oligofructose: safe intakes and legal status. J Nutr. 1999 Jul;129(7 Suppl):1412S-7S. Review. PubMed PMID: 10395609.

15. Mitsuoka, T., Hidaka, H. and Eida, T. (1987), Effect of fructo-oligosaccharides on intestinal microflora. Nahrung, 31: 427–436. doi: 10.1002/food.19870310528.

16. Geyer M., Manrique I., Degen L., Beglinger C. Effect of Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) on Colonic Transit Time in Healthy Volunteers. Digestion 2008;78:30–33 (DOI:10.1159/000155214)

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