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WKU Wellness: Sugar’s Avatars

Price Wilborn

Would you prefer an easy to go toffee, a taste of some cake fondant, or a piece of saccharine? Regardless of what you choose, let’s take a look at the key ingredient of all of these savories. Spoiler alert: it is sugar. 

While sugar is the classic name, it actually comes in various forms. In a way, it is a shape-shifting term for anything minutely sweet, so let’s take a look at some of its sweet avatars.

Table sugar: the pack leader, the queen bee.

This is the first image that pops into your head when you think about sugar. It is also known as sucrose, but it prefers table sugar as its nickname. It is the mascot for the team of sugars. However, it is important to note that while it is sweet on the outside, table sugar is pretty shallow. With a reputation for causing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it’s a bad influence if you hang around in its company for too long. 

Aspartame: the troublemaker.

Aspartame does its job, but it is like the friend with a bad rep for causing trouble. Aspartame just wants to have fun, but it may not be in everyone’s best interest. While it acts as a sweetener, it throws subtle shade by having the potential to cause cancer. It is advisable to keep your distance. Maybe it’s the “friend” that’s really not your friend. 

Stevia: the extroverted overachiever.

Sitting on the counters in most hotels and restaurants, Stevia is the one that everyone knows as it is a commonly used sugar alternative. It is also highly likely to be found floating in your favorite can of diet soda or sparkling water. On top of that, it delivers more bounce for the ounce as it is 200 to 400 times sweeter than regular table sugar. However, it is natural and helpful to diabetics through being a low-carb option. That’s very sweet of Stevia. 

Xylitol: the counselor.

Xylitol is like a breath of fresh air as it is found in most packs of sugar-free gum. It helps others to relieve their tension by allowing itself to be sacrificed. It is every parent’s favorite child as it is sweet like sugar but harmless. In fact, it claims to reduce cavities. Though, it is important to note that Xylitol does like to gas its buddies up, so being around Xylitol for too long can cause digestive side effects. Overall, it is definitely the buddy that will stick around. 

Monk fruit: the hipster

Monk fruit has been around for a long time, and it just dances to the beat of its own drum. It is not the first type of sugar to pop into your mind, but it is definitely unforgettable once you get to know it. Being slightly outside of the mainstream of typically well-known sugars, monk fruit establishes its foundation in the sugar industry with its sidekick mogrosides. These enhance the strength of the monk fruit sweetener.  To top it off, monk fruit is a natural and zero-calorie option. It is definitely worth getting to know. 

While all of these forms of sugar have their unique traits, it is important to remember that they do have different side effects. As with any food item, it is important to maintain balance in consumption. 

Now that all of the sugar avatars have been introduced, which one will you choose to befriend? Regardless of which one becomes your new bestie, I know it will be a very sweet friendship. 

Commentary writer Vidhi Parekh can be reached at [email protected]

If you would like to submit a reaction to a piece, Letter to the Editor or other submission, please send it to commentary editor Price Wilborn at [email protected] or [email protected].

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