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Sweeter Than Sugar: Alternative Sweeteners For Candida Diets

11:05 PM

Happy Monday! Did you have a great weekend? While ours was fun, it was also sweet—we hosted a get-together of friends and celebrated a family birthday, which meant loads of chocolate, ice cream, and cake. Sure, we were celebrating, and of course there are antioxidants in chocolate (right?) but we maaaaybe slipped into sugar overload. And, as someone with Candidiasis, that's a problem.

Today we're going to talk that hot topic: sugar. We recently received an email (thanks, Sarah!) asking about the best sugar alternatives for Candida sufferers. It's a great question—and, I have to admit, something that I sometimes choose to overlook. We feature a lot of sweets on this blog that might be allergy-friendly but are certainly not Candidiasis-friendly (and are also not as healthy as they possibly could be). As I mentioned last week, I'm having some symptoms of out-of-control Candida (that's a whole other post, soon to come!) and I need to take control. That initial detox will be completely sugar-free, of course, but once symptoms are in control I'll be able to add sugar back into my diet. Although Tanya (and maybe you) might not have these symptoms, we can all benefit from cutting back on the refined white stuff this country loves so much.

The Skinny On Sugar
Sucrose, or table sugar, is a combination of glucose and fructose with a glycemic index of 58. While it provides flashes of energy, it has no nutritional benefits. The American Heart Association suggests that men consume no more than 120 calories of sugar and women no more than 100 calories of sugar per day—at 20 calories per teaspoon, that's a limit of six teaspoons for men and five for women, total, every day. The average soda contains between nine and eleven teaspoons; not to mention the sugar in your cereal, milk, coffee, bread, jam, salad dressing, iced tea, energy bar, sauces, glazes, chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, and so much more.

So, what to do about this sugar overload? We examined some options to discover good alternatives, best options for Candidiasis management, and some really unhealthy options as well. While reading, you'll see the following guide:

+ These Are Healthy Alternatives But Not Candidiasis Friendly
+ These Are Best For Candida Diets!
– These Are Harmful And Should Be Avoided

Have a "sweet" read! ;)

+ Agave Nectar [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Agave is a product of the agave cactus, with a taste and texture similar to honey.

  • Calories: 20 per teaspoon
  • Sweetness Level: Higher than sugar
  • Glycemic Index: 19
  • Health Benefits: Contains a dietary fiber that nourishes intestinal bacteria
  • Health Debate: Higher fructose content leaves professionals wondering if it will have the same metabolic effect as high fructose corn syrup. It may be more likely to reduce metabolism and insulin sensitivity than sugar.
  • Conversion: 3/4 cup agave to 1 cup sugar
  • Culinary Benefits: Dissolves easily in liquids
  • Baking Tips: When substituting agave for granulated sugar, reduce liquids by 1/4 cup. Lower oven temperature by 25˚F, as agave browns easily. 

+ Honey [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Honey is made by bees from the nectar of flowers.

  • Calories: 21 per teaspoon
  • Sweetness Level: Higher than sugar
  • Glycemic Index: Ranges depending on the type, from locust (32) to clover (69)
  • Health Benefits: Contains B vitamins, manganese, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. Contains antibiotic properties and has been shown to be antimicrobial. 
  • Conversion: 1/2 cup honey to 1 cup sugar
  • Culinary Benefits: Dissolves easily in liquids
  • Baking Tips: When substituting honey for granulated sugar, reduce liquids by 1/4 cup and increase baking soda by 1/4 tsp. Lower oven temperature by 25˚F, as honey browns easily.

+ Stevia [Candidiasis Friendly!]
Stevia is 100% natural, derived from the South American stevia plant.

  • Calories: 0
  • Sweetness Level: 200–300 times that of sugar
  • Glycemic Index: 0
  • Health Benefits: Long history of safe use as an herbal sweetener. Is shown to have antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. Helps balance the pancreas and regulate the digestive tract.
  • Conversion: Depends on the form (packets, undiluted powder or liquid)—specific directions should be available on the box. 
  • Culinary Benefits: Available in both powder and liquid
  • Baking Tips: Because 1 cup of sugar can be replaced by 1/2 teaspoon of undiluted stevia powder, the bulk of the sugar must be replaced by bulking agents like egg whites, apple sauce or fruit puree. Stevia formulated for baking does exist and provides a great option. 

+ Sugar Alcohols (Xylitol) [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Sugar alcohols naturally occur in beets, berries, corn and other produce. They include sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol.

  • Calories: around 10 per teaspoon
  • Sweetness Level: Lower than sugar
  • Glycemic Index: 7
  • Health Benefits: Fights dental cavities and facilitates the remineralization of dental enamel. Helps stabilize blood sugar. 
  • Health Debate: Not digested well by the body, so large amounts may cause bloating and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are still refined sugars, so they may have negative impacts on health when used in large amounts. (Read more here and here!) While The Candida Diet promotes xylitol, we do not agree that it is the best choice. 
  • Conversion: 1 cup xylitol to 1 cup sugar
  • Baking Tips: Absorbs moisture in baked goods, so increase the amount of water or oil to prevent a dry texture. 

+ Rebiana (Truvia) [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Products like Truvia, Pure Via and SweetLeaf contain rebiana, stevia and a sugar alcohol called erythritol.

  • Calories: 0
  • Sweetness Level: Up to 40x higher than sugar
  • Glycemic Index: Low
  • Health Debate: Considered GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA, but UCLA toxicologists ran tests that suggest the sweetener causes mutations to DNA and urge more testing to be done. 
  • Conversion: Cannot be substituted directly because does not offer the same color and texture, but can be used in conjunction with sugar (see this conversion chart for more information). 

+ Lo Han [Candidiasis Friendly!]
Lo Han is an extract from the Lo Han Guo fruit, a member of the gourd family.

  • Calories: 0
  • Sweetness Level: 250–400 times sweeter than sugar
  • Glycemic Index: Low
  • Health Benefits: Used as a medicinal herb in Southern China for treating coughs and sore throats.
  • Conversion: Follow directions on packaging
  • Culinary Benefits: Heat stable, so great for cooking and baking.
  • Baking Tips: Dissolves best into room-temperature liquids. 

+ Blackstrap Molasses [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of sugarcane processing.

  • Calories: 16 per teaspoon
  • Glycemic Index: 55
  • Health Benefits: Contains more antioxidants than any other natural sweetener. Contains vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6.
  • Conversion: Replaces only up to half of the sugar in a recipe. 1 1/4 cups of molasses to 1 cup sugar.
  • Culinary Benefits: Rich caramel flavor
  • Baking Tips: Replace half of the sugar in a recipe, using 1 1/4 cups of molasses for every cup of sugar removed. Cut liquids by up to 1/3 and add 1 tsp. baking soda for each cup of molasses. Lower oven temperature by 25˚F, as molasses browns easily. Strong flavor may not be suitable for all recipes.

+ Coconut Palm Sugar [Not Candidiasis Friendly]
Coconut palm sugar is made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree.

  • Calories: 20 per teaspoon
  • Sweetness Level: Similar to brown sugar, but with a more complex richness
  • Glycemic Index: 35
  • Health Benefits: Rich in potassium and iron
  • Conversion: 1 cup coconut palm sugar to 1 cup sugar
  • Culinary Benefits: Is a direct substitute for sugar in recipes, with no adjustments needed

+ Other Good Options
There are a ton of other sugar alternatives that can bring sweetness to your life! They include:

  • Whey Low, a blend of fructose, sucrose and lactose. It has 4 calories per teaspoon, 1/3 the glycemic index of sugar, and substitutes 1:1 in recipes. It also has a flavor and texture similar to sugar and is available in varieties like granular, maple, confectioner's and brown. 
  • Maple syrup, extracted from maple trees. It is a good source of manganese and calcium, with a great depth of taste. It also bakes well—it substitutes 1:1, just reduce the liquid in recipes by 1/3 to 1/2.
  • Mesquite Powder, made from beanlike pods of the mesquite tree. It has a low glycemic index and is high in fiber and protein. It can be sprinkled on oatmeal and added to smoothies. While it doesn't directly substitute sugar in a recipe, it can replace regular flour for a warm, caramel flavor. 
  • Brown rice syrup, extracted from brown rice, is only half as sweet as sugar. It bakes well, but read your labels—the only ingredients should be brown rice and water!
  • Date sugar, made from dried dates. It is very sweet, so it can be substituted 1:1 with brown or white sugar but it can also be cut back to 2/3:1. It doesn't dissolve in water, though, and burns easily so isn't great for thin baked goods like cookies. 

– Sucralose (Splenda) [Only A Little Bit Bad]
Artificial sweetener found in fruit drinks, canned fruit, syrups and more.

  • Calories: 0
  • Health Debate: Of all artificial sweeteners, Splenda is the least bad for you! CSPI actually deems it safe, and studies show that it is not carcinogenic. While we certainly promote the use of naturally derived sweeteners, Splenda is your best choice in a restaurant with limited options. It is shown to kill the healthy bacteria in your bowels, though, and your body is incapable of metabolizing it properly. 

– Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
Artificial sweetener found in soft drinks, gelatins, chewing gums, frozen desserts and more.

  • Calories: 0
  • Health Debate: Stimulates the secretion of insulin and may lead to reactive hypoglycemia. The Center for Science in the Public Interest pushes for further research, as experimentation done on lab rats leads to lung, breast and organ tumors, leukemia and chronic respiratory diseases. Long-term exposure is linked to headaches, vision problems, confusion, nausea, depression and damage to the liver and kidneys. 

– Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
Artificial sweetener found in gum, drinks, yogurt, cough drops and more.

  • Calories: 0
  • Health Debate: Aspartic acid contained in aspartame can increase nerve cell stimulation, resulting in the development of chronic nervous system disorders like Alzheimer's disease. The menthol it contains metabolizes into formaldehyde and has horrible side effects like eye damage, spina bifid a, multiple sclerosis and autism. It is also carcinogenic because it feeds cancer cells. Aspartame is proven to cause headaches, hallucinations, mood swings, panic attics, dizziness, nervousness, memory loss, nausea, depression, seizures, numbness, insomnia, rashes and taste loss. 
  • Read a great article on aspartame by Dr. Joseph Mercola here

– High Fructose Corn Syrup
Highly processed sweetener found in sodas, desserts, cereals and more.

  • Calories: 17 per tsp
  • Health Debate: HFCS has been a much-debated topic lately, and rightfully so; despite what the big business corn companies say, it is directly linked to heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, tooth decay and more. 
  • You can read more about HFCS from Dr. Hyman, here. 

– Saccharin (Sweet'N Low)
Artificial sweetener found in drinks, canned goods, candy and more.

  • Calories: 0
  • Health Debate: Saccharin is linked to bladder cancer, strongly enough that in 1981 Congress mandated that all foods containing it bear a warning label. This label was repealed in 2000, but CSPI places it on its "avoid" list. 

Do you have candida issues? What's your favorite sweetener? Let us know what you think!

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