Another food favorite bit the dust this week. I decided to look into the ingredients in Mojo Frozen Yogurt. I made frequent trips there last summer and planned to return shortly as I endearingly referred the impending summer in Arizona as “Mojo Season.” Looks like I won’t be going after all. All flavors of their yogurt have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I wonder why I didn’t bother to look into this sooner; maybe I didn’t want to know. I don’t have many strict food rules for myself, but this is one of them—no HFCS.
Here is some information about a few better alternative sweeteners:
- Agave Nectar: boiled from the sap of the blue agave plant. Intensely sweet, low glycemic index (15) but is 90% fructose and 8% glucose. One chef doesn’t think this makes it much different than HFCS: http://www.thehealthycookingcoach.com/2010/01/another-look-at-agave-nectar.html. Can be used for a wide range of recipes including drinks, bread, and cookies.
- Brown Rice Syrup: dense liquid made by brown rice fermentation. Thick and creamy with mild sweetness. Low GI (25) and half as sweet as sugar. Best in soft textured dishes, like pies or sauces, and crunchy baked goods like biscotti.
- Date Sugar: dehydrated, ground dates. Grainy, earthy and minimally refined and processed. Best in recipes with a dense texture and dark color like nut bread.
What about no calorie sweeteners? The problem with them is that they actually trick the body into thinking it is consuming calories. The body tastes sweet and prepares for a supply of sugar to enter the blood. When this sugar never shows up, insulin rises and which can actually lead to more cravings and increased calorie consumption. There have also been some adverse effects in studies relating to artificial sugars including cancers and neurotoxicity. Additionally, most studies regarding its safety were short and some incomplete. Aspartame accounts for 75% of adverse reactions to a food additive reported to the FDA.
Stevia is now a mainstream zero-calorie sweetener. Just a few years ago it was regulated by the FDA as a food supplement and only available in the supplement department of the grocery store. I guess someone caught on to this gold mine! Stevia is derived from the stevia plant sound in South America and Asia, where is has been used as a sweetener for centuries. It has no effect on insulin and one study suggests that it may actually help control insulin levels. It is also 150-300 times sweeter than sugar.
Xylitol is another zero calorie sweetener that has no effect on insulin levels. It is usually derived from corn, berries and plums and is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs. It is found in many chewing gums because it helps prevent tooth decay as well. It can cause bloating or laxative effects in high quantities so may not be the best substitute for a batch of cookies.
I will now be on the hunt for a HFCS- free yogurt joint to frequent this summer!