(EN)Eternal dilemma in nutrition: sugar or sweetener?

Updated: Apr 20



ORIGINAL ARTICLE PUBLISHED: https://www.impulzivmagazin.hu

Scientific and semi-scientific articles, news, advertisements, newer and newer products lined up on store shelves, with which we can sweeten our everyday lives. But which one should I choose? One of the sugars or should it be more of a sweetener? Which ones are good for my family's health? Maybe you are familiar with this situation as well.

As a nutritionist, I like to give simple and clear answers. To the question of whether a sweetener is better than sugar, my answer is: no. But the question mostly doesn’t reach me in that form. Often all I am asked is to use erythritol or stevia instead of sugar? In such cases, I always recommend a consultation in order to understand the full health background of the person who approached me, as only then can I give well-founded and credible answers. As a professional, thinking responsibly, this can only be the right solution, as my goal is to help with my knowledge and not to give some kind of answer based on semi-information or just building on fashionable marketing. Now, I want to share some simple tips with you before you instinctively reach for the sugar bowl.

A few years ago, in a restaurant, I inadvertently heard two teenage girls talk. One is severe type 1 diabetes and the other is healthy. The dialogue was clearly between two loving young people and the sentence that hit my ears was, “I don’t know how you can handle not putting sugar on the cake, I couldn’t live like that”. What should a parent say to their children?

Is it possible to do anything with this situation at all, and if so, what? What can we do when the essential ingredient of our food culture at such a young age is sugar, and at such a level… We just add a little sugar on the finished cake just because it is not sweet enough or out of habit.

Now let’s stop for a moment and think about it! Does our body need sugar? The answer is yes. But for quality sugar and carbs. Does refined ( white) sugar count as quality sugar? The answer is no. So, in fact, a child with diabetes is eating healthier, and maybe in a few years she will be able to explain to his friend and others that it is better if they don’t put the extra white “sweets” on top of the cake either. These are certainly difficult situations, and what a tremendous perseverance it takes to finally put this topic in place!

That’s why my first piece of advice to you - who boldly embark on a bumpy road to dietary change about sugar - is to dare to walk your own path, and be persistent because it is guaranteed to be the harder way. At the same time, feel “gratitude” to those who show us what is good through their illness, and also gratitude to science, because today we can make and do much more conscious decisions and actions for our health.

However, before I tell you what the fate of sugar and sweeteners should be, I want to tell you about the sweet taste. For when I suggest to those who turn to me to completely banish white sugar from their diet, the air usually freezes: “But then what do I sweeten with? Do I have to give up the sweet taste completely?”

The love of sweet taste is instinctive in us, absorbed in breast milk, and like all flavors, it has an important place and role in our diet. Sugar alone is not dangerous, because consumed in the right proportions and amounts, it is indeed necessary for our body. However, the sources of sweet taste are clearly the healthiest in our food, of course, in unprocessed form. The second advice is therefore: to favor the consumption of naturally sweet dishes. This is because when you completely eliminate refined ( white) sugar from your diet and move slowly but surely towards the sweet flavors found in its natural form, you can prevent many health problems. If beets, beets, rice, and fruits get on your plate in their natural form, you’ve already done a lot for your health. This reduces the chances of overeating, and fiber and other accompanying nutrients help your body manage the amount of sugar it consumes wisely and correctly. Just think that while the sugar content of raw sugar beet is about 16-20%, that of refined sugar is 95% !!! In addition, sugar beet has a healing effect, just like any food that enters your body in its natural state. As long as it is not processed, it contains e.g. minerals, fiber and vitamins. The problem really starts with processing. That’s why I encourage you to go back to natural flavors, opt for the unprocessed form instead! For example, I season the cakes with spices, in addition to the natural sugar found in the fruit, I only use extra sweetening in very exceptional cases.

Maybe you still choose sweetening, but you don’t know what to choose? The following considerations and alternatives may be a solution.

The biggest problem with refined sugar is that it is quickly absorbed and easily enticed to over-consume. However, it often leads to tooth decay, overweight, upsets of the body’s not only blood sugar but also cholesterol levels and hormones, and contributes to heart disease, cancer and other health problems. For example, you can use honey to replace it, on the other hand, you need to know that heating changes its quality, so I suggest you mix it only into a lukewarm drink or put it on the cake that has already been made. However, a maximum of one teaspoon per day! Of course, this ratio also depends on what other sugars and carbs you consume next to it. Coconut sugar with a medium glycemic index may also be a solution, although this source of sweet taste is still fairly new to the market and will probably take longer to get to know and dare to recommend. The unrefined form is therefore always healthier (eg . date sugar , cane sugar ), but do not sway you into believing that they can freely consume, the emphasis is on moderation in this case as well. Interestingly, the Jerusalem artichoke is also a good natural sweetener and proves very useful in diabetes, even because of its inulin content, which is a so-called prebiotic. So even now I say that it is worth getting to know as much as possible about the health-preserving effects of different fruits and vegetables. Of course, the most important aspect is what state of health you are in, because that is always the starting point for dietary change.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable to use a sweetener, but which one?

Be sure to blacklist these! Aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate (a banned product in the US!), acesulfame K, sucralose, aspartame-acesulfame salt. So avoid foods in which you find them if possible. According to current research, they can have a carcinogenic effect. Although we do not yet know exactly what processes are being initiated in our body, based on the data so far, I do not recommend any of them. In addition, examining the backgrounds of food allergy and intolerance observed in my work, I often see these drugs as harmful substances indicated by the body.

Fortunately, you can choose from several options if you are looking for the more natural way. The birch sugar (xylitol), for example, is known to be good for the teeth, the erythritol (this is sugar alcohol) is a big favorite among dieters as it has zero caloric value. The stevia (stevia), and agave nectar are trendy sweeteners, although each of them may also read good and bad. In Belgium, experts recommend tagatose recently , but I don't really like it either, because similar to other sweeteners, it interferes with the natural functioning of the intestinal flora. This is easily noticed by those who are sensitive to it, because it causes diarrhea in them, for example. However, to protect sweeteners, they should be natural based. The case of stevia is particularly interesting, as the leaves of this plant, native to South America, have already been consumed by ancient peoples. (Of course not in the form of refined powder or juice.) Glycine is an amino acid that is also being used as a sweetener by more and more people these days. However, I am wary of these alternatives because we do not yet have enough experience of consuming them in large quantities. To some extent, when used occasionally, they fit into our diet, but this is also the case with unrefined sugar, so these options don’t make a big breakthrough either.

Then what is the best solution?

1. The best are the naturally sweet tasting vegetables, fruits, their dried and dried forms, grains, seeds and spices.

2. The honey is good in moderation, and of course cold.

3. Eat unrefined natural sugars occasionally and in moderation . (cane sugar, beet sugar, possibly date or coconut flour sugar, Jerusalem artichokes, green stevia (not white!)

4. Some sweeteners are occasional if they do not cause a health problem and cannot be avoided. (stevia, xylitol, erythritol, tagatose, glycine, etc.)

5. However, do not use these sweeteners under any circumstances ! (aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate, acesulfame K, sucralose, aspartame-acesulfame salt)

So there are many forms of sugar we know, and they can have several natural sources. The fructose is primarily found in fruits, but as corn is also included. The sucrose mostly occurs in fruits, seeds, cereals, cane sugar, the glucan in fruit and seeds, the maltose in cereals, the lactose and in the milk. You may want to take the time to learn about the glycemic index of natural sugars and learn how to use them in the right proportions in your diet. This is because it is not only good for diabetics or dieters, but it is also a good guide for you and everyone on the road to a healthy diet. However, it is worth first clarifying what is behind the strong desire for sweet taste. This can be a low-protein or high-protein diet, in which case protein levels need to be adjusted, but it can also be a problem to eat irregularly or chew the food superficially.

So my advice is to eat regularly, if possible, choose naturally sweet foods and consume each flavor in moderation, balancing each other. It is also important that you always eat in a calm environment and chew your food thoroughly, as the way we eat is also an essential element of a quality diet. And of course, don’t forget to think with love and gratitude for everything that gets on your plate.


I am Bernadett Köteles-Degrendele, founder of Begonia Wellness Club, a nutritionist and wellbeing coach known as Bernadett Begonia. In my work, I represent natural solutions and see food, as one of the foundations of maintaining health and key to healing. For the past 15 years, I have attended various trainings on wellness, nutrition and coaching. In my work, I also build on Eastern and Western methods, including traditional Chinese medicine and the detection of food intolerances and allergies.


If you are looking for someone who cares about your health and not only your weight. I give you guidance and tools for a long-term healthy lifestyle.

So why should you contact me? You may be eating healthy already, you think...that’s good. You may find everything you need online, free recipes...Oh yes, a lot is out there, I know. You may have friends who send you great tips about what worked for them. Hm... I know...

The reason why I am a coach is also because I know how that information is not knowledge... If you try things which are not tailor made, you have a high chance to fail. Then give up and then be disappointed ... and blame yourself.

So what if you had a friend (coach), who can be your best friend but she also knows how to guide you, how to give you personalised advice based on science but selecting for you the right information. You would feel empowered, well informed and have no excuses. As excuses will turn into questions. Questions you can discuss with her. She is not judging but supporting you. She helps you to lift yourself up and make changes in your own rhythm. To design your own healthy lifestyle with her help. There is more to say about how I work but this is what I do. I love to see you succeed. I love to see you be there where you feel good, happy with your life. That’s my mission. To be your best friend in your journey.


You try to eat healthy and still not feel 100%? Headaches: Digestion problems? Skin problems? Weight problems? Mood swings? I can check it for you if your nutrition can be improved or give you stress-management techniques.

Are you tired of single purpose diets that promise you a dream that never comes true? We work on realistic goals about your diet and lifestyle which will lead you to feel balanced.

Are you suspecting a food intolerance / or have been diagnosed with a food intolerance or allergy We can work on finding out what is causing your problems. I am working with a lab and can help you get results and tips to improve your intestinal flora without making you suffer.

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If you wish to get in touch,you need to contact me first for an online appointment. We can work together fully online. The easiest is to email me to: hello@begoniawellness.club

The first talk (30 minutes) is a’ get to know each other’, you won’t be charged for it.We will discuss what you need and what I can offer, and conclude after if we work together. My regular price is 60 euro/ hour but I usually offer a personalized package with a discount.

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