Sweeten Your Life: The Healthy Way
In a world where health-consciousness is on the rise, finding alternatives to sugar has become a hot topic. Non-sugar sweeteners are a popular choice, offering the chance to satisfy our sweet tooth without consuming any calories. Earlier this month we discussed the safety of non-sugar sweeteners with UK specialist registered dietitian, Nichola Ludlam-Raine HERE. We welcome Nichola back to help us explore how non-sugar sweeteners can help sweeten your life in a healthier way.
Balance: Can non-sugar sweeteners be included as part of a healthy balanced diet?
Nichola: The short answer is, yes, they 100% can. Non-sugar sweeteners provide the sweetness that we all crave without the added calories. Not only can they be used to sweeten our tea and coffee in place of sugar, but also in everyday foods, even baking! I like to use them in a lower sugar jam and banana muffin recipe.
Balance: Does the consumption of non-sugar sweeteners help curb sugar cravings?
Nichola: As sugar is a relatively inexpensive ingredient and tastes good, and it’s used in a lot of foods, especially convenience foods, so we might not know we are eating it. It is completely fine to consume sugar, but in moderation where possible. However, as food containing high levels of sugar are often combined with fat, it can be easy to over consume and therefore can lead to weight gain. This is where non-sugar sweeteners are a tasty and easy substitute, as you still get that sweetness that people crave whilst managing calorie and sugar intake. A low-calorie hot chocolate, for example, is a great example of having a sweet drink but with fewer added sugars and calories.
Balance: Do all sweet treats have to be cut out as part of a healthy diet?
Nichola: Not at all, it is just important to make smart swaps. Xylitol works really well in baking as it’s the weight-for-weight equivalent to sugar and it’s good for your teeth too! As there are 11 non-sugar sweeteners approved for use in the UK, it is important to find one which suits your taste buds and the recipe itself. As an example, one non-sugar sweetener might work well in jam but not in muffins or flapjacks. It is worth being cautious as some sugar products have a bit of a health halo around them, but things like maple syrup and honey are still considered free sugars and so should be eaten in moderation.
Balance: Can you talk us through the benefits of non-sugar sweeteners?
Nichola: Non-sugar sweeteners are great for people who are wanting to watch their weight as they provide sweetness to those who crave it, without the worry of added calories. Not only do they provide sweetness without the worry of weight gain, but they have no effects on dental erosion, making them a great option for hydration without compromising on oral health. A small amount of non-sugar sweetener doesn’t make a difference to your overall gut health either given the fact that gut health is more about what you add into your diet, such as with fibre. Another benefit of non-sugar sweeteners is that they are useful for people with Type 2 diabetes. This is because they are broken down in the gut (intestine), then metabolised and excreted via the liver. On the other hand, sugar, honey and maple syrup are broken down into glucose, which triggers the release of insulin, which is either used for energy or stored (as glycogen) for later.
So, whether you’re striving to manage your weight, control your blood sugar levels, or simply lead a healthier lifestyle, non-sugar sweeteners can provide the sweetness we all crave. With added benefits such as reduced calorie intake, zero effect on dental erosion and lack of impact on gut health you can indulge your taste buds without compromising your well-being.
To find out more about non-sugar sweeteners, please head over to the British Soft Drinks Association website.