What’s Your Poison?

by Rhianna on February 27, 2014

This morning I watched an interesting short video created by Dr. Michael Greger. For those of you have never heard of this doctor, he created the website Nutritionfacts.org. He is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues.  A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, he is a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition. He has created his website to bring a wide variety of nutritional information, backed up by research and scientific papers, to people all around the world, broken down into easier to understand short videos.


This morning he put out a video on alternative and artificial sweeteners- including three that we recommend at Embracing Health- Stevia, Xylitol, and Erythritol. Check out how our low calorie sweeteners of choice stack up against the most popular artificial sweeteners. Click here for the video.


After watching this video, I have a few points to raise. Firstly, xylitol. This is a sugar alcohol, sourced from Birch trees. It was classed as dangerous as it can draw water into the bowel and cause loose motions. Yes this is true, in high doses. But finding the dose that does this to you is an individual thing. For one patient I know, it is 1/2 a teaspoon. For another, they happily use 6 teaspoons per day with no ill effects. Xylitol also has a number of beneficial health effects, including reducing the occurrence of middle ear infections in children (dosage of 2-3 grams per day), and improving the dental and oral hygiene of those who use xylitol sweetened gum. Of course it comes down to moderation. Is 6 teaspoons of xylitol per day really good for your health? No it probably isn’t. Is 6 teaspoons of sugar per day better for your health? No, I wouldn’t say so. In this case, I would use xylitol to break the sugar addiction, while slowly and gently weaning the person away from their sweet tooth. Sugar addiction can be a hard thing to break, but in doing so, the health benefits can become apparent within weeks!


Erythritol (another sugar alcohol) is fairly new to our list of recommended sweeteners, and comes in a brand called Norbu. This sweetener contains Monk fruit and erythritol to give a similar sweetness to that of sugar. According to Dr. Gregers report, this is a safe alternative to other sweeteners as the research is yet to point out any side effects. Again, it is all about moderation.


Finally we have stevia. The stevia plant is a small soft leafed shrub with incredible sweet leaves. Some stevia is refined to tablets or liquid, while other brands simply dry and grind the leaves into powder. The video suggests there is not yet enough known about stevia to make a decision one way or the other. In this case I would again suggest moderation.


Variety is another significant health booster. Why not keep a number of sweeteners in your pantry, and vary them regularly. Personally I have raw honey, xylitol, coconut palm syrup, coconut palm sugar, rapadura and maple syrup all in my pantry at once. By limiting the amount of these you consume, and varying the type of sweetener you choose, you will be able to enjoy the most benefits, both on the tongue, and health wise. For more information about sweeteners, talk to your naturopath or nutritionist. They will be able to help you identify the sweetener right for you, and also help you out if you are struggling from a sugar addiction.


Sweetness is something we all can enjoy, while still taking care of our health. Just remember moderation and variety. :)



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