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Tara's Friday Bite – Exploring Natural Sweeteners

In my last “Friday Bite,” I discussed how artificial sweeteners may be sabotaging your weight loss goals.  However, I didn’t want to imply that you need to commit yourself to a life free of sweets. I mean, what’s the point of living! As the potential side effects of artificial sweeteners are coming to light, there are a few natural alternatives that have become more main stream. Let’s explore the 3 most popular natural sweeteners so you can find which best suits your sweet tooth:

Agave Nectar – Agave Nectar comes from the same plant that produces tequila, but don’t worry, it won’t make you dance around with a lamp shade on your head! Agave Nectar has a consistency similar to honey with a more mellow taste. It has the same calories as table sugar although it is lower glycemic.  However, it is not low enough for diabetics, so if you are cutting calories or worried about blood sugar I would go with Stevia (see below). I find Agave Nectar is the best alternative to use when baking or mixing in hot drinks.

Stevia – Stevia has exploded on the scene in the form of TruVia (a Coca-Cola brand) and PureVia (from Pepsi Co.) as well as lesser known brands. Most of these are not the pure stevia leaf but an extract called Reb-A. It can be found in both liquid and powder form. In many cases, the powder form has been enhanced with additives, so make sure to check the ingredient list to ensure it only contains Stevia Extract. Stevia is very potent so you only need to use a small amount. It has no calories and is safe for diabetics. Some brands have a liquorish-like aftertaste so you will have to experiment to find one that you like!

Sugar – Didn’t expect to see this one, eh? I will be the first to admit that sugar is to blame for many of the health problems in our country, however, that is when it’s used in EXCESS. Pure sugar has been around for a long time and our bodies certainly know how to process it. So if you are sweetening your tea here and there and enjoy a sweeter taste, go ahead and add a little sugar. However, if you are adding more than 3 tsp./day or you are diabetic, I would suggest giving Stevia or Agave Nectar a try!

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Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly

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