The baking aisle can be a little overwhelming. There are so many different types of ingredients – especially sweeteners. There’s granulated sugar, raw sugar and stevia, just to name a few. Which one is best for your health?
“Artificial sweeteners – like saccharine, sucralose and aspartame - and natural sweeteners – raw sugar and honey – are all empty calories,” says Erma Levy, a research dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “And those empty calories could impact your waistline and your cancer risk.”
When it comes to sugar intake, the American Heart Association recommends that women should have no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) and men should have no more than nine teaspoons (37 grams) of added sugar per day.
Sugar provides unnecessary calories without any added benefit. This can result in weight gain. And that can have an effect on your cancer risk. Several types of cancer, including post-menopausal breast, endometrial and colon, are linked to obesity.
While all of these different types of sugar still are sugar, there are some differences worth noting, Levy says.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. Levy recommends limiting or avoiding these products.
Artificial sweeteners are often many times sweeter than real sugar, and that can change your tolerance for sweet things.
Even zero calorie artificial sweeteners may not be healthy. Some studies done with laboratory animals have found links between artificial sweeteners and cancer. And while there is no proof that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, it’s best to avoid them or consume them in moderation.
Common artificial sweeteners include:
- Acesulfame K
These artificial sweeteners often go by their brand names, so be sure to check the label.
“Natural sweeteners may seem healthier than processed sugar, however, small traces of antioxidants, vitamin and minerals are not enough to make a significant difference when it comes to your health,” Levy says.
Common natural sweeteners include:
- coconut sugar
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
Instead of avoiding one particular kind of sugar, try to limit added sugars of any kind, like those in soda, candy and other sweets. Also, be on the lookout for sugars added to foods like pasta sauces and condiments.
“Overall, there is no health benefit to consuming any type of added sugar,” Levy says., “Be sure to watch your intake, read the nutrition label, and make sure you’re eating the recommended amount or less. At the end of the day what it comes down to is calories and your overall health.”