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Not all alternative sweeteners are harmful. Some are positively healthy!

Most of us have grown used to having relatively sweet foods and drinks, something that our great grandparents only ever considered a luxury. But the problem with a high-sugar diet is that the insulin spikes it produces can be harmful to our bodies, and the excess calories pile on the weight (our love for sugar is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic that we see in society today).

For this reason, we have seen a spate of low-calorie sweeteners appear in the list of ingredients on many of our supermarket foods, sweeteners that do not have the calorific value to damage the body. However, many of these artificial sweeteners are believed to be harmful when taken over extended periods of time.

However, whilst artificial sweeteners appear in more and more processed foods, there are sweeteners on the market that are healthy to our systems because they are natural compounds that are easily recognized and metabolised by the body. What is more, some are even good for our teeth.

AlphaSweet: Birch Tree Xylitol

AlphaSweet xylitol is a safe, healthy and great-tasting alternative to sugar. It is not only healthy (it is good for the teeth and low-glycemic) but tastes and looks almost identical to normal sugar except for a slight cooling effect on the tongue (there is absolutely no bitter after taste as there is with some sugar substitutes).        

Xylitol is a white crystalline sweetener that occurs naturally in berries, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and birch trees. In fact, in Finland it is known as "birch sugar" because the principal raw ingredient in its manufacture is xylan or wood fibre. It is even found naturally in our bodies, and has been shown to be completely non-toxic and safe to take (unlike many other alternative sweeteners).

Recently, Xylitol has become very popular as a sugar substitute because it has been shown to help reduce tooth decay and even help reverse it when it is already present. It can do this because of its molecular structure which makes it unusable by the mouth bacteria that cause dental caries – plaque cannot grow with it. Also, as saliva that contains Xylitol is alkaline (the pH is above 7), the calcium and phosphate salts in our saliva can start to naturally remineralize our tooth enamel in the places that they are lacking, which has a hardening effect on decay-softened enamel.

One of the added benefits of Xylitol is the fact that it is both a low-glycaemic sweetener and alkalizing to the body, making it an ideal sugar substitute for those on weight-loss diets and for those wanting optimum health without the “sugar-blues”. (Xylitol, however, is not a low or no calorie product — each teaspoon or 4g contains 9.6 calories as opposed to normal sugar's 15.8 calories for the equivalent weight.) As it is low-glycemic, it has become popular with those interested in combating Syndrome X and with diabetics (although please note it is not a zero-calorie sweetener and needs to be integrated sensibly into any special diets — check with your doctor).

The Really Healthy Company's AlphaSweet Xylitol is 100% pure-grade white granulated (like sugar) product made from sustainably harvested birch trees (not corn) and is GMO-free. Also, for every tree used in the manufacture of this xylitol, two more are planted in its place. (Check out the xylitol cookbook listed on our recommended book page in the magazine section of this site.)