Sugar, honey, stevia, pink packets, blue packets, and more. There are many ways to add a little sweetness to your tea, but which is the healthiest?
Natural vs. Artificial Sweeteners for Sweet Tea
In the quest to be healthier, to lose weight, and to control diabetes a lot of us have turned to non-caloric, or artificial, sweeteners in foods and drinks. This way, you still get the fun but without the guilt, extra pounds, or spike in blood sugar levels. Sounds like the perfect solution.
Now that we’ve studied what happens to our bodies when we consume artificial sweeteners, though, the solution isn’t so clear. Turns out it isn’t smooth sailing for our bodies after all. When you eat something sweet your body turns on different processes for dealing with the sugar. Your pancreas releases insulin, ready to break down the sugar and store what you don’t need at that moment as fat. But since there’s no sugar to deal with, now you have elevated insulin levels. If this happens frequently enough, it can cause diabetes.
Your brain doesn’t recognize the artificial sweetener as calories in, either. The sweet taste triggers your brain to help you feel full, but isn’t actually satisfied since no calories have come in. So now you have extra insulin floating around your body and you’re feeling hungry. Not exactly how you want to feel if you’re watching your weight.
And then we’ve found that artificial sweeteners also disrupt your gut flora, which leads to a whole host of unpredictable outcomes.
A Healthier Sweet Tea
So if you really want a little sweet flavor with your tea, what should you do? Give your body what it wants – the real thing. White sugar is the most flavor-neutral of the natural sweeteners. Honey and maple syrup add sweetness with the added benefit of minerals. Stevia – the green dried herb, not the processed white powder stuff – is super sweet, but may have a bitter aftertaste.
For hot sweet tea, just add the natural sweetener of your choice to your already brewed tea and stir to dissolve. For iced sweet tea, you can add the sweetener after the tea is brewed and is still hot or you can make a simple syrup by dissolving equal parts of sugar into hot water. Then chill the syrup and add to each glass to taste.
If you’re concerned about overall sugar levels in the foods you eat, decreasing the amount of processed foods will help. It’s insidious, and is in almost everything. And with a long list of names of sugar that is ever-changing, it’s just about impossible to keep up with.
You get to be in charge of what you put into your body, and just being aware of ingredients and how they affect your body is a great start.