We think everyone loves the sound of a sugar substitute, but it’s hard to know where to begin. How do we know what alternatives to look for and how to make the most of them? To get our questions answered, we reached out to Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, for 101 on All Things Sweet.
mbg: Let’s start with the obvious…why could we consider substituting a sugar substitute in the first place? Can you talk about refined white sugar, and why do we want to be mindful of how much we’re consuming?
Jessica Cording: We know from research that white sugar is problematic in different ways. One of the main reasons I recommend limiting it is that it affects blood sugar control by rapidly raising blood sugar. This can make supporting optimal wellness very difficult. Added sugar is one of the things that leads to a blood sugar imbalance, whether it’s short-term or chronic. And then, of course, there’s the calorie aspect because sugar contributes to calories but not really any other nutrition. It does not improve satiety. In fact, because of this glycemic effect, people find that it makes them feel more hungry.
mbg: Can you remind us what the ‘glycemic effect’ means? How do changes in blood sugar level affect us?
JC: When I talk about the glycemic impact of a food, I’m talking about how that particular food affects the blood sugar level. A food that has a low glycemic impact does not raise blood sugar significantly, if at all. Food with a high blood sugar effect – This would be something that raises your blood sugar a little bit.
Some short-term effects [of higher blood sugar]… You may notice that you have short bursts of nervous energy, or that you feel jittery or alert (for some people, not everyone). This sudden spike, which occurs as your blood sugar rises, is often followed by a crash as you feel very sluggish and sluggish. In the long run, you’re looking at things like insulin resistance and weight gain. We also know from research that added sugar has been linked to inflammation, which is a cause of many health conditions. On a behavioral level, sugar is also really addictive.
mbg: How can we keep our relationship with sweeteners healthy and supportive of our overall well-being?
JC: In the sense of the big picture, you want to look at how to do it [any sweetener] Affects blood sugar. How does it affect your calorie intake? And behaviorally, what is your relationship to this sugar substitute? They have their place when you want to have a specific experience but want to make it more suitable for your own needs or goals. I don’t use it often, but if I do, it’s usually in something like a seasonal recipe like hot chocolate, or if I’m making a mocktail. and baked goods.
However, I try to avoid using sugar substitutes and sugar in everyday things and instead keep them for special occasions. As it becomes more habitual, it can make you more likely to feel dependent on it and struggle with cravings. If you feel you have a difficult relationship with sugar, I always encourage talking about it with a trusted therapist, dietitian, or healthcare professional who can help you find a good balance. It is not a character defect. It is not a thing of willpower; It’s just something worth exploring as it affects your physical and mental health.
mbg: So why should we consider choosing a sugar substitute?
JC: The main reasons people find [sugar substitutes] What’s attractive is that with nonnutritive sweeteners (those that don’t contribute calories), you’re taking away a significant number of calories that added sugar can contribute. Another reason is that while some of them have some effect on blood sugar, in most cases they have less effect than added sugar.