So How Do I Choose a Safe Sweetener?

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When dealing with Cancer, Diabetes, Ketogenic Diets and Health, how is it possible to choose a safe sweetener?

When you are dealing with cancer (or cancer prevention), you know you need to keep your sugar consumption very low in general. While it takes discipline and strong intention to seriously cut down on or even totally cut out things like processed food meals, breads, pastas and sodas, many of my clients seem to find that (relatively) easier than cutting out the sweets.  If you are considering a ketogenic diet (that teaches your body to burn fat rather than sugar as its primary fuel) or utilizing another cancer inhibiting dieting, you do have to find a way to indulge your sweet tooth without adding on the sugars.  And I hope you know by now, how artificial sweeteners are absolutely NOT the answer since they cause so many problems of their own.

I am often asked if a good raw honey could solve the dilemma. Raw honey does have lots of healthy benefits and even some cancer-fighting properties.  However, it will affect your blood sugar levels and must be used very sparingly – especially if you want to teach your body to utilize ketones (from fat) as its primary fuel.  With this understanding, I want to share information about two natural sweeteners recommended by Dr. David Jockers DC, who is an expert in ketogenic diets.

Dr. Jockers bases his recommendations on the following criteria.

-Little or no impact on blood sugar and insulin levels

-Provides some nutritional value

-Helps promote a healthy gut flora (or the good microbes in our intestines)

-Doesn’t contain chemicals but is derived from natural whole foods

Here are the 2 sweeteners he recommends:

1. Stevia:

Stevia has been used as a sweetener by South American tribes for centuries. It is a zero-calorie sweetener and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia’s sweetness comes from two primary components that are isolated from the stevia plant. Look for a whole-plant stevia extracts if possible. The stevia leaf does contain healthy phytonutrients including carotenoids, polyphenals, quercetin, apigenenins and kaempherol, all of which provide nutrients while helping to lower oxidative stress and cancer growth.

2. Monk Fruit  (also known as lo han or lo han guo)

Monk fruit is a small, melon-like fruit from Southeast Asia that has also been used for centuries by native cultures. It, too, is intensely sweet. This fruit appears to actually improve insulin signaling while not increasing blood glucose levels. Like stevia, monk fruit has nutritional value including the ability of one of its constituents (mogroside V) to inhibit tumor growth in pancreatic cancers. It also helps protect the liver as an anti-oxidant.

Stevia is more readily available and definitely less expensive than monk fruit. Monk fruit is easier to use in baking but it is expensive. Some people really notice the bitter aftertaste of most stevia- so that may influence your choice. Whichever one you choose, remember to look for an organic, whole-food extract. Monk fruit may not be certified organic but most of it is grown and harvested in the methods that naturally are organic.  You can research that as you make your choice. Make sure you read labels before purchasing. By now you should know that certain food companies that are primarily profit-driven exploit health trends by adding a bit of something healthy to a cheaper processed food (or food-like substance) and then promote it as the healthy substance.

What about XYLITOL?

One of my integrative cancer mentors suggests using xylitol, a sugar alcohol, as a sugar replacement – especially in order to make “safe” sweets. And, yes, it is much healthier/safer than using sugar in that it does not increase blood glucose levels. Still, there are two reasons it is not as healthy a choice as stevia and monkfruit. First, it causes some people gas and bloating as it can disrupt the ideal gut flora. Once when we made a batch of “healthy” brownies using xylitol, cacao and coconut oil, one friend overindulged a bit and thereafter labeled this particular treat, “laxative brownies”!  Secondly, it just doesn’t contain the nutritional benefits of stevia and monkfruit.

So remember:

Diet is the foundation of any cancer-fighting protocol- whether you are using chemotherapy and/or radiation or utilizing a fully non-toxic approach.  And low blood glucose levels (aka very low refined carbohydrate intake and limited high glycemic produce intake) is also key regardless of the specific diet plan you use. Stevia and/or monk fruit – or even xylitol- will help you stay on task while being able to occasionally reward yourself rather than your cancer cells with a sweet treat.