What researchers found was after drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn't send the message of “being full” as it does when simple glucose is consumed. As most folks know, all sugars are not equal even though they may contain the same amount of calories. Instead they are metabolized differently in the body and have different nutritional values. Table sugar is sucrose, which is half fructose, half glucose. High-fructose corn syrup is 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose. Hmmm…our white sugar isn't that far removed from high-fructose corn syrup! What’s even more astounding is that brains scans showed that drinking glucose actually “turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food,” said one study leader, Yale University endocrinologist Dr. Robert Sherwin. With fructose, “we don’t see those changes,” he said. “As a result, the desire to eat continues – it isn’t turned off.”
This got me thinking, what are the healthiest sweeteners with low fructose content? At first glance I thought of Agave, the plant that tequila is made from and most health food stores carry on their shelves. Even though they may stock agave sweeteners, it might be better to keep them out of your buggy entirely. Am I kidding you ask? Many agave nectars consist of 70 to 80 percent fructose which is more than what's found in high-fructose corn syrup! Let’s not stop there, as natural maple syrup may not be so good either. It is primarily comprised of sucrose (which is 43% fructose on average) and contains healthy amounts of potassium and calcium with trace amounts of amino compounds and vitamins. But do these features outweigh the fact that maple syrup has the same amount of calories per serving as white cane sugar and a whopping fructose content? Maple syrup also has a high glycemic index due to its concentrated nature after processing and may need to be reserved to your breakfast waffles once in a while (eating it with carbs exacerbates the glycemic index). So, if you’ve been adding agave to your smoothies, maple syrup to your pancakes and sugar to your coffee and what else is there, Stevia?
Actually yes, "We need to be off of sugar, but we need good alternatives, and stevia is the safest sweetener there is, period," says Donna Gates, co- author The Stevia Cookbook: Cooking with Nature's Calorie-Free Sweetener and here’s why. Stevia is the only all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-glycemic-index alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners known at this time. Stevia will not raise blood sugar or cause any increase in triglycerides or cholesterol. Unlike artificial sweeteners, it does not contain harmful chemicals. Just don’t use it for baking, as the results are less than satisfying so try honey or blackstrap molasses.
While honey does have higher fructose levels, it also contains a bounty of cancer-defending antioxidants, and local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms. Honey is not limited to your tea either. Use it to speed healing on burns, and as a natural antiseptic on cuts and scrapes. Honey also has a low glycemic index, so adding it to your tea or yogurt won't lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day. Although heavy on the calorie content, blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, potassium, and calcium, making it a healthier choice than nutritionally defunct artificial sweeteners or even regular refined sugar, despite the fact that blackstrap and refined sugar both come from sugar cane.
So there it is, fructose does alter brain function with regard to eating and the feeling of being full. However, all is not lost if you can’t have your processed white sugar or even the Agave promoted in health food stores. So remember, stevia, raw honey, and blackstrap molasses are incredible alternatives to sweeten up your life.
If you would like more information on the subject, you can check out my references below.
Berg, A., Perkins, T. & Isselhardt M. (2006). Sugar Profiles of Maple Syrup Grades. Proctor maple Research Center. The University of Vermont. Retrieved from: http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc/
Flourish. (2012). Fructose Vs. Xylitol Vs. Stevia: The Natural Sweetener Comparison. Flourish Natural Medicine. Retrieved from: http://flourishnm.com/blog/
Marchione, M. (2 Jan 2013). Fructose can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating, researchers find. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.
Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association. (2013). Pure Ontario Maple Syrup. Retrieved from: http://www.ontariomaple.com/
Zerbe, L. (2013). The 4 Best, and 3 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen. Rodale. Retireve from: http://www.rodale.com/