How Sweet it is! / Choosing a sweetener - a brief introduction


How Sweet it is!

Posted by Mark Hosko, MD in Health Information 05 Aug 2013

Although doctors and staff at Portland Urgent Care always encourage our patients not to eat too many sweet foods, sweeteners do have their place when used in moderation.


Sugars are carbohydrates and may be found naturally in most foods.  They have a high glycemic index, which means they are metabolized quickly.  Many sugars are necessary for our body’s functions in small amounts.  Glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose and lactose are other sugars.  Sugar alcohols come from plants and cereals and are difficult for the body to metabolize, possibly resulting in bloating if eaten excessively.  Sorbitol and Xylitol are types of sugar alcohols.


Natural caloric sweeteners include some of the oldest known forms of sweetening, such as honey and maple syrup.  In addition to sugar, these sweeteners have other nutritional qualities that make them valuable additions to a diet when used in moderation.  Natural zero calorie sweeteners come from plant sources, have little or no calories, and are harmless to teeth; luo han guo and stevia are members of this group.


Modified sugars are converted from starches with the use of enzymes and are often found in processed foods.  The most infamous member of the group is high fructose corn syrup, although it is nearly identical in its composition to table sugar.


Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, have been in use for more than 120 years. Although they are harmless to teeth and have a glycemic index of zero, many of these have demonstrated harmful effects if used long-term and in high amounts.



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