Saturday, February 6, 2010

Finally a healthy sweetener? “Xylitol”

As I discussed recently (http://gravesnd.blogspot.com/2009/10/sugar-high.html) sugar is a major contributor to the health problems we face. To summarize the main issues, sugar in the form of white refined sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are sources of dense calories without the nutrients your body needs to metabolize it and carry on many other processes in the body. In addition, excess sugar is easily converted to fat (triglycerides); with HFCS this especially translates into elevated LDL cholesterol (of the type most damaging to your blood vessels), liver problems, obesity, and increased risk for diabetes.

To add insult to injury, some HFCS has been found to contain mercury, with kids and teens especially vulnerable due to having developing nervous systems and consuming high amounts of foods with HFCS. With the average person consuming 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, without a doubt America’s weight (and diabetes and heart disease) problems are the result of sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour).

Most sugar substitutes are problematic and I discourage using aspartame (Nutra-sweet) or sucrolose (Splenda) or sorbitol. However, xylitol is a naturally sweet sugar alcohol that can be used like granulated table sugar and actually has some health benefits. It has 1/3 fewer calories, actually protects teeth, and can benefit the healthy micro-organisms in gut. Not only that but when expectant and nursing moms use xylitol they help their newborn develop a healthy immune system and they are less likely to suffer from allergies, eczema, and asthma.

Just like any source of concentrated sugar or alternative, moderation is appropriate. Used to excess xylitol can cause bowel discomfort. When used in normal amounts, the body adapts to it and for the few who notice symptoms, they are short lived. I’d recommend using products containing xylitol such as toothpastes, chewing gum, and some nutritional powders. When using it to substitute for sugar, combine it with some organic sucanat, evaporated cane juice, molasses, or honey. In general it’s best to wean yourself off of the taste of high sugar. In my experience, just like salt, when you reduce the amount of sugary foods you consume, your taste for sugar becomes more sensitive, and you are just fine with low sugar foods.

Another better sweetener is stevia. Though the trick with it is don’t use too much. In most cases you would add no more than ¼ tsp per ¼ cup of sugar you are replacing. I use it in combination with other sweeteners like xylitol or sucanat so that you can use less.

Ideally a toothpaste should be free of artificial sweeteners, fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate. Now there is one with xylitol and probiotics to protect and strengthen your teeth from Designs For Health called Periobiotic Toothpaste. Contact me if you’d like to know more. I also recommend the xylitol containing Oral Comfort from Jason.

Blood sugar and cholesterol issues are quite common. Struggling to have “good” numbers? Don’t buy into the prescription for every ailment paradigm. Find out how to control your blood sugar and cholesterol naturally.

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