Susan Silberstein & Marilyn Joyce (Health and Nutrition Educator & Heath Counselor) gives expert video advice on: Is honey a healthy sweetener?; Are there healthy substitutes for refined sugar? and more...
Is honey a healthy sweetener?
When it comes to honey, the most important thing to remember is that if it's raw honey it has the enzymes inherent in it. And honey is very high in enzymes that are very beneficial when it's raw. The minute that you pasteurize honey, you have destroyed the enzymes. And so all you're really getting is a nice-tasting sweetener. It's no better than sugar. So that's basically what it boils down to. However, if I'm talking to a client and they really want something sweet in their diet, I do recommend that they try some raw honey because at least I know that there are enzymes there. In fact, one of the neatest things about raw honey is the enzymes, if you have a burn or a wound, it'll actually heal the wound and prevent infection.
What are the health risks of sugar substitutes?
Now, sugar substitutes, especially the synthetic ones, are what we need to be concerned about. Products like aspartame and nutra-sweet and splenda and equal are very dangerous to our health. First of all, they actually contribute to weight-gain. Secondly, aspartame can turn into formaldehyde in the human body at normal body temperatures. Third of all, there is significant evidence that products like aspartame are implicated in brain tumors and breast cancer. The chlorinated hydrocarbons that are in the splenda are also very carcinogenic.
What is "saccharin"?
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener that's being used for a long time as a substitute for sugar as well as aspartame and other things that we've recently invented that have negative repercussions. Saccharin has actually been attributed to bladder cancer. And I saw this full on in my own family because both my father and my uncle were avid users of saccharin and both of them developed bladder cancer in their life, that's what killed them. And I really am strongly in opposition to saccharin, it is labeled as hazardous to your health because it has been proven to be hazardous to your health. So, you take it at your own risk. Why would anybody ingest something that has on the label “Hazardous to your health”?
What is "high fructose corn syrup"?
High fructose corn syrup is, basically, corn syrup that has had more fructose added to it. Basically, it's an unnatural product. Fructose is generally bound to other sugars in say, fruit, or other foods that contain fructose. Generally, we think in terms of fruit and some vegetables. However, in the high fructose corn syrup, it's a free molecule and the body doesn't know how to respond to it. It's something with which the body, literally, doesn't know what to do, and because of that, we've seen health challenges, such as heart disease; the increase in potential for heart disease. They're looking at cancer now, and other degenerative illnesses, and seeing a relationship between these and the intake of high fructose corn syrup and the various foods that it's in today. Most of our beverages today that have sweetener, actually, most foods that have sweetener; it's high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup stands up very well on the shelf, but long life of the product probably will lead to short life of the consumer.
What is "sorbitol" and "mannitol"?
Sorbitol and mannitol are what we call alcohol-derived sugars or sweeteners. They are low in calories. They have a nice taste actually overall but the problem with them is because of their slow absorption, they can cause really serious gastric distress, gas, flatulence, cramps. Many of my clients have experienced those symptoms and didn't know what it was because many times you buy something that has those types of sweeteners and you don't realize that's what you are getting and then you develop these symptoms and when we look at the label and see this is in it; that's usually the causative factor.
Are there healthy substitutes for refined sugar?
There are many healthful substitutes for white refined sugar, and they include: a South American plant called Stevia, available in powdered or liquid form, that is totally safe for diabetics and quite sweet, actually sweeter than sugar. Then there is a product called Sucanat, made from natural sugar cane, which has a lot of the nutritional value that is taken out when we refine sugar. There are also barley malt, and also rice bran syrup, and also we can use maple syrup, and raw honey. Now these latter two will implement blood sugar levels, so if you have a sensitivity; they may not be your best choice.