Weekly Wellness: Which natural sweetener is the best option?

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COLUMBIA - So, we're not supposed to use sugar. And we're not supposed to use artificial sweeteners. So what the heck are we supposed to use to sweeten our foods? I know, I know. It can be incredibly confusing. But wait. It's gonna be okay. The information here is going to help.

According to the American Heart Association, men should have no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Sounds like a decent amount of sugar, right?

Well, as we have discussed in previous segments, 4 grams of sugar is the equivalent to 1 teaspon of sugar. So, if you do the math, you should be consuming about 24 grams of sugar of you're a woman and about 36 grams if you're a man, right?

Take a look at your food labels... right? SCARY. The average American is eating about 88 grams of sugar per day... that's about 22 teaspoons! (Now do you see why we're so fat??)

So, now let's discuss natural sweetener options.

There's another sentence you've heard me say before: sugar is sugar, no matter what form. And, for the most part, that is true. All of the sweeteners listed as natural are still going to raise your blood sugar. But there are still better options than the white stuff.

Honey: Honey has slightly more calories per teaspoon (1 tsp = 21 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates) than other natural sweeteners but it also has other health benefits like being antibacterial (which is a great help during cold and flu season).

Molasses: Molasses contains iron and calcium (not a lot, but some) as well as being a decent sweetener. One teaspoon of molasses has about 19 calories.

Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. Additionally, it has some zinc and manganese. It is lower on the glycemic index, so may raise blood sugar less quickly compared to regular table sugar. Maple syrup has about 18 calories in one teaspoon.

Coconut Sugar: Coconut palm sugar is about 70-80 percent sucrose and is about 15 calories per teaspoon. It also provides small amounts of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus (but not enough to make it a 'good source' or any of these).

Agave: Agave nectar is slightly lower on the glycemic index scale than white sugar, but it will still raise your blood sugar. Also, it may be misleading to try to compare the calories in 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1 tsp. of agave nectar, because the nectar's sweetness means that you can use less.

(Source: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Which-Natural-Sweetener-Healthiest-43065598)