A 2002 study has confirmed what many health practitioners long suspected — consuming artificial sweeteners could increase the risk of developing cancer. And so, there has been increased interest in finding other alternatives when it comes to adding sweeteners to the foods we eat, for those who want to avoid sugar.
We consume sweeteners every day, even when we aren't really paying attention. Products like diet soda and non-dairy coffee creamer are loaded with artificial sweeteners, even though they're chosen as substitutes for those who want to avoid weight gain from sugar. But in the NutriNet-Sante study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the participants who consumed the largest amount of sweeteners had an increased cancer risk of 13 per cent compared to non-consumers. The study authors said that a higher cancer risk was particularly seen with sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium, which are both used in many soft drinks.
So what are your alternatives for sugar, and artificial sweeteners? Nutritionist Keisha Black highlights a few.
Honey has many, many health benefits — it's useful as an antidepressant, anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety supplement. Honey is also a good, natural sweetener, and can be used in your juices, drinks, coffee and tea, as well as in cooking and baking, instead of sugar.
Molasses contains several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is also a fairly good alternative to sugar, especially for cooking and baking.
Many vegetarians and vegans make their own fruit syrups for use — using fruits like dates, pineapples and mangoes. The syrup is made by boiling down the fruits to a syrupy liquid, then using it to sweeten foods.
Coconut sugar is high in nutrients, and is used by many healthy lifestyle practitioners, instead of cane sugar.
While it is not necessarily healthier than brown sugar, agave syrup is low on the glycaemic index, which means that it can help diabetics control their blood sugar. It also has vitamin B6, which plays a big role in how your body breaks down food, particularly proteins and carbohydrates.
While you find sugar alternatives, Black says it's also important to reduce sugar in your diet on a daily basis. You can do this by:
1) Drinking water or milk instead of sodas and drinks.
2) Choosing fruits as your dessert.
3) When you do drink juice, make sure it's 100 per cent juice with no added sugar.
4) Adding fruit to your cereal instead of buying sweetened cereal.
5) Snacking on vegetables, fruit, nuts or cheese, instead of sweets.