A Safe Sugar Substitute
People are always looking for a safe sugar substitute. We know that sugar isn't all that good for us, but we still crave it. Unfortunately, many of the common alternatives are really no better. For example, aspartame has been linked to various neurological problems, so much so that it is rarely used anymore.
Splenda, the most popular brand of a chemical called sucralose, is currently one of the most common substitutes. It's made from sugar molecules chemically bonded to chlorine molecules, which make it indigestible and therefore non-caloric. Its main advantages are that it tastes similar to and has similar baking properties to sugar. However, too much splenda can also cause indigestion, and more serious allergic reactions have also been reported. Some experts believe that Sucralose is also more dangerous than sugar.
Stevia, a Safer Sugar Substitute
So, what is the best and safest alternative to sugar? That really depends on what you're trying to sweeten. There are a lot of natural sweeteners on the market these days. For example, you could use evaporated cane juice, which is a natural cane sugar without the minerals removed. This is definitely a good choice if you really want the flavor of cane sugar, but you can probably do better for most purposes.
Sweeteners that are even less refined include maple syrup and honey. Raw honey in particular is said to have healing properties ranging from antibacterial action to reducing allergy symptoms. Some other good ones include rice malt syrup and coconut sugar. Each of these products has its own flavor, nutritional profile and baking qualities, so try a few out and see which you like best.
One thing that people want in a sugar substitute is a low glycemic index. This means that blood sugar levels in the body won't spike as much after consuming it, preventing a pattern of physiological highs and lows from developing. Agave syrup has become popular both because it has a low glycemic index and because it is vegan and technically raw, but it is still quite processed and actually very chemically similar to high-fructose corn syrup (one alternative sweetener that no one is excited about anymore).
If you really want a sweetener that is safe and natural, with none of the effects of sugar, stevia could be your best bet. It's not for everyone or every application, but it has a lot of advantages and can be quite good if you know the best way to use stevia.