Sugar – is there an alternative for me out there?

Sugar has long been seen as the enemy, that’s nothing new. Go back 10 or 15 years ago and the solution was simple – just replace the sugar that you use with one of the hundreds of available sweeteners that could easily be found at your local supermarket. Fast forward back to today and the concerns that are associated with these artificial sweeteners are just as bad, if not worse, than the ones we associate with sugar. 

If your criticism of sugar is that it’s an overly-processed food then it really does make no sense to switch to an artificial sweetener because the truth is that they are equally as processed. However, if the reason you have chosen to ditch the sugar is the calories then surely it makes perfect sense to switch to an alternative with almost no calories at all? If only it was that simple…

Well the history books of training are full of people who tried to trick the body and thought they could get away with it. But if it really does boil down to calories in vs. calories out then you aren’t really trying to trick the body at all. One major criticism is that when you have these artificial sweeteners is that your body reacts as it would if you were having sugar, just without providing your body with the calories it was expecting. Result? Well that’s when the danger of cravings becomes a harsh reality. And if your own will power isn’t quite strong enough then you might find yourself back to square one.

So what are the alternatives? Here are a few of the more common ones that you might have heard about:

  • Coconut Palm Sugar – In a world where more and more of us are entering this personal battle with weight loss, a lot more of us are finding a close friend in the coconut. And if you have already opted to use its milk and its oil then I wouldn’t be surprised if the next step was to opt for the sugar.Very similar to brown sugar, it just acts as a healthier alternative and presents you with a much lower GI.
  • Agave Nectar – A lot of beverage companies have recently started to sweeten their low-calorie version drinks with agave nectar to get away from their reliance on refined sugars/sweeteners. Although it might surprise you to know that it actually has far more calories than traditional processed sugar in it. But luckily for us it is also much sweeter, so a tiny amount really can make all the difference.
  • Stevia –  Just like with agave nectar, the stevia plant is being used to sweeten more and more of the products we eat/drink every day. Coca-Cola are probably the most notable company to start using it in order to produce their low-calorie alternative, Coca-Cola Life. Be careful though, we are already seeing processed forms of stevia creeping their way onto our supermarket shelves.
  • Xylitol – This was a word that I had heard a lot but didn’t really fully understand until quite recently. You are likely to find it mentioned on the nutrition label for a lot of sweets and vitamins for kids. The reason being that xylitol actually does contain less calories than traditional white sugar (in fact around half as much) and it is produced by fruits and vegetables with the sugar alcohol that we get from them.

I always say that where possible you should try to avoid processed foods and yet somehow sugar slips under the radar. Well don’t forget that sugar does count as one of those processed foods and you can’t afford to just dismiss it. But hopefully you can see that if you are guilty of having a sweet tooth that doesn’t mean that you have to kiss goodbye to success and positive results altogether.

Ollie Lawrence
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