Peppersmith. Avoiding sugar since 2009
We don’t need sugar and artificial sweeteners to make our mints and gum taste good, and neither do you. We’re big fans of the low sugar life, and we might not be medical experts but we do know that all the science points to us needing to cut down on sugar for the sake of our bodies, our brains and our teeth. There’s lots of info out there on how to live the low sugar way. A lot of it is very complicated, so we wanted to share our take on it. You can also download our handy PDF guide to reducing your sugar intake here.
Why sugar is such a baddie
We overeat it
We often eat more sugar than our body needs to function. This means that a large proportion of it is stored as fat, converted in the liver and kept for a rainy day when food is scarce (an evolutionary tactic by the body when the next meal wasn’t always definite). The World Health Organisation’s maximum daily guideline is 12 teaspoons of sugar, with a recommended daily consumption of just 6 teaspoons a day. (To give this some context, there are about 9 teaspoons in the average can of fizzy drink).
Sugar is addictive. Especially added sugars. Multiple studies have even shown that it triggers the same reward mechanism in our brains as when we drink alcohol. Our hormones also have difficulty registering when sugar is consumed, meaning our brain cannot recognise when we are hungry or full, so it lets us eat more and more of it.
It’s harmful to our health
Sugar is harmful in a lot of ways. It is bad for teeth as it feeds the bacteria that causes plaque and tooth decay. It can also lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many more chronic illnesses. We’re not medical experts so if you want to take a closer look into what sugar does to the body, we rate this Ted Talk by Nicole Avena.
Sweet little lies
Our body can’t tell the difference between types of sugar, so it’s important we can spot sugar when it might be hidden on labels. Here are some other names for sugars that you may see. Treat these just as you would sugar, and eat sparingly.
Fruit juice concentrate
Coconut blossom nectar
Evaporated cane juice
High fructose corn syrup
Not all sugar replacements are created equal
Replacing sugar can also get pretty complicated. There are lots of alternatives out there, but some are healthier than others. This means that not all sugar free products are as healthy as they might seem, as many use artificial sweeteners which can react badly with the body. Here’s our view of what to choose and what to lose.
These three are the ones you want to stick with forever as they’re naturally derived and are the best tasting sugar alternatives out there. Look out for these and you know that you’re choosing the best low sugar option.
In our view xylitol is the gold standard of sugar alternatives. This low GI plant based sweetener is naturally derived from beech and birch trees, as well as some starchy vegetables. Plus, it tastes just like sugar with 40% fewer calories. Unlike the sweet stuff it keeps your teeth healthy by killing the bacteria that can lead to plaque. If you want to learn a bit more about xylitol, click here.
A great tasting and calorie free option. It’s naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables such as melons and grapes. Erythritol is also kinder on the stomach than many sweeteners so there’s much less risk of the digestive issues that you can experience from other sweeteners like sorbitol and mannitol.
Derived from stevia plant leaves, it’s 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and it’s calorie free. The one downside with stevia is that it does have a slightly bitter aftertaste, so bear this in mind. As it’s an intensive sweetener, it’s one you can use in tea or coffee but not in baking (although it is possible to buy stevia mixed with xylitol or erythritol if you do fancy having it in a cake).
Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Isolmalt, Lactitol
These sweeteners are better than any artificial ones as they’re naturally derived, but they still have their downsides. You can expect to compromise on taste, and there’s also the risk of digestive issues as some of us can’t absorb them properly (everyone is different and can tolerate different amounts). They’re frequently used in sugar free confectionery and other foods as they’re cheap to use, but they’re not always the best quality.
Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Saccharin, Suclarose
Now for the artificial ones – as a general rule we recommend steering clear of all of these where you can. We’re not about scare stories, but we know that a lot of people have bad reactions to these artificial sweeteners. When there are so many natural alternatives out there, we just don’t think there’s any need for them.
Download your free guide to living the low sugar way
Don’t worry, we’re not trying to deter you from never having a treat. That’s simply not sustainable and it’s not much fun either. However, there’s no arguing that cutting down on your sugar intake has significant short and long-term benefits.
Just being more aware of the amount of sugar in your food and choosing alternatives where you can is a good start. Also remember that when you do eat sugary foods, having a xylitol mint or piece of gum is a great way to counteract the negative impact on your teeth.