Sugar: 7 Secret Dangers Hiding in Food
& How to Replace Them
by: Julie Benson and Libby Darnell
It is no secret that consuming sugar does not positively contribute to your health. You probably already know how important it is to read food labels, and avoid foods that list this culprit as one of their ingredients.
What makes label reading challenging, however, is that you can’t just look for the “s” word anymore. Here are the 7 of the most dangerous hidden forms of this ingredient, and some easy tips for finding healthy alternatives.
7 Dangerous Hidden Sugars
1.High Fructose Corn Syrup: Yeah, I am pretty sure you weren’t too surprised when you saw this one come up first. High fructose corn syrup is typically produced using genetically modified corn and actually contains a mercury derivative. High fructose corn syrup is also linked to hyperactivity in children, type 2 diabetes, obesity¹ and high blood pressure.
Healthy Alternative-Raw Honey
- This all natural sweetener is wonderful to use for its antioxidant properties, neutralization of free radicals, and ability to grow good bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Use raw honey in almost anything with a 1:1 replacement ratio (1 cup of honey replaces 1 cup of sugar). Some suggestions: baked goods, salad dressings, homemade whipped cream and organic tea.
2.Aspartame, a.k.a NutraSweet and Equal: A recent study found that aspartame (one of the most dangerous artificial sweeteners) can impair memory function and increase oxidative stress in the brain². Wowza. Some side effects of this sweetener are headaches, mood disorders, episodes of mania and dizziness.
Healthy Alternative-Organic Stevia
- Organic Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar! Stevia is a fantastic substitute because it does not raise your glycemic index, and there are no calories and no carbohydrates!
- Stevia can NOT be used as a 1:1 replacement, so pay attention to use according to recipe instructions, or to taste. If you find a stevia blend that says it is a 1 to 1 ratio, BEWARE, there is probably some form of sweetener lurking in that package. Use stevia packets or liquid drops to sweeten coffee and yogurt to taste.
Need a Juice Detox? Download the Top 10 Juice Cleanse Recipes FREE
3.Sucralose, a.k.a Splenda: Did you know that sucralose was discovered when a new form of insecticide was invented, meaning that it was actually never intended for human consumption? If that is not enough to deter you from this artificial sweetener then you’ll be surprised to know that it is actually a derivative of chlorine³. Have you ever noticed those packets point out that it causes cancer in mice?…Nasty.
Healthy Alternative-Coconut Sugar
- Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t spike your blood glucose as quickly as table sugar. It is also rich in a variety of minerals!
- Coconut sugar can be used just like refined sugar so it can be used as a 1:1 ratio. Use it in recipes that call for brown or white sugar.
4.Saccharin, a.k.a. Sweet N’ Low: This sweetener is sulfa-based and is linked to certain types of cancer. Unfortunately this is most commonly found in children’s cough syrup, chewable aspirin and some other OTC medicines.
Healthy Alternative-Pure Maple Syrup
- Did you know that pure maple syrup is made in only 4 steps? Well, it is! This makes it a great all natural, minimally processed sweetener. Much like honey it is a great source of antioxidants making it wonderful for neutralizing free radicals.
- I like to use pure maple syrup in baking, and yes, it is a 1:1 ratio. I also use pure maple syrup to sweeten homemade whipped cream or homemade granola.
5.Acesulfame K: I am sure you have seen this hard to pronounce artificial sweetener on all sorts of highly processed foods like baked treats or even gum. As it so happens, it is one of the least studied of all artificial sweeteners. We do know it contains a compound called methylene chloride and is associated with impaired liver and kidney function, some cancers, autism, mood problems and nausea.
Healthy Alternative-Medjool Dates
- Medjool Dates are one of the great all natural sweeteners that are easily digested. Not only that, but they also help to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates while at the same time being rich in vitamin B6, copper, manganese, iron and magnesium.
- I like to use these as a natural sweetener in baked goods or even for my homemade larabars! Soaking the dates and then pureeing them into a paste is the way to go for most recipes. You can use date paste as a 1:1 ratio for most recipes. Find the recipe for homemade lara bars in the Desserts So Yummy You’ll Think You’re Cheating Recipe Guide (click below).
6.Sorbitol: This is a sugar alcohol that has been known to cause severe digestion and gastrointestinal upset including diarrhea, cramping, bloating and gas. No wonder it is used as a laxative and not just as an artificial sweetener.
Healthy Alternative-Banana Puree
- Using overripe bananas is a perfect way to sweeten baked goods. Use 1 cup of banana puree in place of 1 cup of conventional sugar (1 to 1 ratio).
- I like to add banana puree as a natural sweetener to breakfast items like grain free waffles, pancakes or muffins. That way my kids get the potassium and fiber benefits from the banana with no negative side-effects.
7.Sugar Cane: What is wrong with this one you might ask? Well, this sweetener is usually overly processed, refined and bleached. It is also grown with synthetic fertilizers and insecticides. Too much of this can cause type 2 diabetes, cancer, hormone dysregulation, extreme addiction, obesity, high cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease! What a list! You can learn more about the effects of sugar on the body by reading this post on cellular inflammation.
- Erythritol is another sugar alcohol, which is a low carb sweetener. When consumed in small amounts this sweetener has been known to actually aid in digestion. This sweetener will also not raise your blood glucose levels! Wahoo! Do not confuse erythritol with xylitol, which is known to cause mild digestive upset.
- The proper replacement ratio for erythritol is 1 cup of white sugar to 1⅓ cup of erythritol. Happy baking!
Download your FREE 4 Minutes To a Happier You Journal
In the end, we need to remember how easy it is to miss the hidden sugars in our foods. Do yourself, your health, and your family a favor and swap it out for one of the healthy alternatives listed above.
Feel free to comment below and let us know how you choose to liven up your food with healthier replacements.
- Bocarsly M.E., Powell E.S., Avena N.M., Hoebel B.G. High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 2010;97:101–106. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012.
- O.M.E. ABDEL-SALAM, “Studies on the effects of aspartame on memory and oxidative stress in brain of mice,” 2012, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Volume 16: 2092-2101. http://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2092-2101.pdf
- Mercola, Joseph. “The Dangers of Chlorine and Issues With Sucralose.” Mercola.com. N.p., 23 June 2001.http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/06/23/chlorine-part-two.aspx