Rethinking Low Carb Sweeteners

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Lately I find myself in the kitchen baking. I use to bake a lot in my old life. It helped me cope with stress. I don’t feel stressed out but I’m baking nonetheless. But baking does require using a sweetener at times.

Oh sure I use my go to low carb sweeteners like Stevia or Swerve. I’m even using less of them, as the normal serving size seems too sweet for me these days. Now I’m thinking about kicking them to the curb completely.


First, a new study came out “linking” alternative/artificial sweeteners to weight gain. Now it is an associated study – meaning that there are a ton of other possible causes for weight gain instead of these sweeteners and a clinical trial is needed to actually prove it.

So while I’m not putting a whole lot of stock in the breathless news reports, it does give me pause. While the sweeteners I use don’t raise insulin levels as much as sugar, they do raise insulin levels.

The second reason, and much more persuasive to me, revolves around the sugar alcohols in the low carb sweeteners. For a long time, when counting carbs, you subtract the sugar alcohols. Why? Because we were told bodies absorb so little of them.

Now I’m reading that we may absorb around 50% of sugar alcohols in our gut. Wow! That’s a lot more than initially thought. I don’t know if the 50% number is from an actual clinical trial. I’m just seeing it bandied about online (and of course we should believe everything on the Internet).

Lastly, there is still some level of chemical processing with low carb sweeteners. I don’t care if Stevia is from a plant. To get it to look like sugar it still goes through a lot of processing, right? And therein lies the crux: if processed foods are bad, doesn’t that mean these sweeteners aren’t that hot either?

Maybe True Natural Sugars Are OK
I’ve been focused on eliminating sugar completely from my diet. But now I’m starting to wonder if I’m thinking like those who want to completely eliminate dietary saturated fat from our foods. Don’t get me wrong, consuming sugar in the quantities we do isn’t healthy. The explosion in diabetes, obesity, heart disease, non-alcohol fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome tell us that.

But is there a minimal level of natural sugar (I’m talking honey or maple syrup) that’s OK? The Paleo folks seem to think there are benefits to raw honey.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to start eating a few teaspoons a day either. I’m talking about using 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup to make low carb maple ice cream (1/4 cup serving) and enjoying that twice this summer. Minimal!

I’ve got another 40-50 years in me. The idea I’d never have the sweet stuff again is insane. But it might be nice for me to set out some rules for myself, like my no grains rule.

In the meantime, I’ll still use my current supply of Swerve but sparingly. I want to be smart about it. Also, I think it’s time to cut back on the low carb baking, at least for a while. Hormonally my sweet tooth is raging with abandon and the baking probably isn’t helping.  So cutting back is pretty timely.

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