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Thinking of going "Without salt" gold "Sugarfree"? Things to consider

Salt and sugar cravings

If you, like me, are diabetic, overweight, or both, I bet your doctor has told you, on more than one occasion, “Cut down on salt and stop sugar.” While it’s easy to avoid adding sugar or sprinkling salt on our food, there are too many places where salt and sugar hide. Processed meats, cheeses, ready-made soups, Chinese take-out meals, non-diet sodas, and even green leafy salads prepared in restaurants are all prime suspects.

Salt is an enigmatic spice. Salt, chemically known as sodium chloride, is one of those minerals that are beneficial and toxic to life. Also known by its chemical nickname, NaCl, salt in its various forms will be actively sought out by living things, instinctively. Everyone remembers taking salt licks for wandering animals, especially in the winter months.

But there is a dark side: too much salt leads to fluid retention and, in some cases, death.

Since ancient times, salt has been prized, either as a food additive or as a preservative. The meat was salted regularly for long trips on the ocean or in caravans between ancient peoples.

Our word for “money”, salary, is derived from a Roman custom of paying their troops with salt instead of hard currency.

For most of us in this modern age, the foods we eat have been processed to include salt. Consequently, we tend to overindulge our bodies with salt. While it is true that we need about 2.5 grams, or about 2500 mg of salt per day for life, our modern foods usually give us more than without adding more salt.

Did you know that even salads served in restaurants are loaded with salt?

What do we use instead of salt?

We could switch to some kind of salt substitute. There are several readily available salt substitutes on the market, and almost all of them are based on some form of potassium chloride (KCl).

For most people, KCl is one that stimulates our taste buds in a similar way to NaCl salt. The downside is that for a considerable number of us, KCl leaves a bitter, metallic aftertaste.

Commercial formulations include “NoSalt”, pure KCl, NuSalt and mixtures of NaCl and KCl, “SoSalt”, a mixture of KCl and lysine. All of them are designed to stimulate our taste buds and make us believe that we are tasting “salt”.

But there are alternatives. If you go online, you will find a large number of articles that describe alternatives to sodium chloride (NaCl), particularly herbs, citrus fruits, and spices that also trick the body into thinking that it meets NaCl.

While this article is not intended to be the “be everything, end it all” of salt substitutes, it does acknowledge that we get a lot of salt “naturally” through our processed foods.

Another downside to using potassium chloride-based salt substitutes is that the body retains both NaCl and KCl. In the case of potassium, we can easily overdose on potassium and actually “poison” ourselves with too much potassium.

Potassium overdose is called hyperkalemia. “Symptoms of hyperkalemia include, but are not limited to, muscle weakness, tiredness, pins and needles, or nausea. Severe overdoses can cause slow heartbeats, weak pulse, and severe drops in blood pressure. Other reported symptoms include stomach aches, general malaise. and diarrhea Other symptoms include: fatigue or weakness, numbness or tingling, nausea or vomiting, trouble breathing, chest pain, palpitations, or skipped heartbeat.

But how can we eliminate the addition of salt to our diet without also adding potassium? One of the most effective ways is to use a salt substitute that does not contain potassium, but still manages to stimulate our salivary glands in the same way that salt does.

Salt substitutes:

We have already mentioned the most popular commercially available salt substitutes: NoSalt, SoSalt, and the like. All of these types of products are various forms of potassium chloride.

As we’ve also noted, most people don’t notice the difference in taste, a bitter, metallic aftertaste.

Along with the possibility of getting too much potassium in your diet, these potassium-based salt substitutes are not as healthy for you.

Fortunately, there are other salt substitutes on the market. These work by stimulating receptors in the mouth that make us feel like we have ingested salt. The most effective ones contain some form of citrus or citric acid.

I have tried six commercially available products, Bragg ™ Sprinkle Herb and Spice Seasoning, Mrs. Dash ™ Seasoning without Salt, Lawry’s ™ Seasoning without Salt 17, Benson’s ™ – Savory Table Salt Substitute, Kirkland Organic Salt-Free Seasoning and Seasoning Mixes Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic, Magic Salt-Free Seasonings.

All are acceptable alternatives to potassium-based salt substitutes.

However, you can find others. There are even recipes online for making your own sodium-free salt substitute.

In this article, when ordering a “salt substitute,” feel free to use whichever brand or version you like best.

Sugar substitutes:

There are several sugar substitutes on the market. Some contain natural ingredients, some contain only artificial ingredients.

I have tried most of them and try to stay away from any artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame and similar artificially created ingredients.

Processed natural sweeteners, made from natural plant extracts, such as Swerve ™, Stevia ™, Monk fruit, and sugar alcohols (such as erythritol or xylitol) tend to taste sweeter than sugar (Stevia ™ is 200 times more sweet than sugar). However, there are downsides to most of them.

SteviaStevia rebaudiana Bertoni)

The Stevia plant gets its sugary sweetness from a number of compounds, especially steviosides and rebaudiosides, which are estimated to be 150 to 400 times sweeter than common sugar. Due to the ease of processing, the commercial product called Stevia ™ is generally made from rebaudioside-A, or simply “Reb-A.” However, Reb-A leaves a bitter and unpleasant licorice aftertaste.

Other rebaudiosides, particularly Reb-D and Reb-M, are more “sugar-like” and have no aftertaste. Reb-D is the most common, and sugar substitutes containing Reb-D are now appearing on the market. Their containers are clearly marked with “Reb-D”. One such product is Stevia Naturals ™, which tastes very close to “real” sugar.

Erythritol

Erythritol, in granular form, dissolves slowly in liquids, but the powdered “pastry” form is preferred: it dissolves much faster.

Erythritol is generally not a 1: 1 replacement for sugar. The ratio is closer to 1: 1 ?, requiring a third more erythritol than its sugar counterpart. However, the aftertaste of pure erythritol is not as satisfying as sugar.

Monk Fruit Extract

Monk’s Fruit Extract and Erythritol combinations taste very much like sugar and are affordable and acceptable alternatives to sugar, especially for baking. I have used this commercially available combination to make great pancakes and waffles.

Xylitol

Xylitol is one of the compounds classified as sugar alcohols. Chemically, sugar alcohols have a molecular makeup that replicates and combines traits of both sugar and alcohol, hence the name. The naturally occurring compounds, sugar alcohols can be found in many fruits and vegetables. Humans also produce small amounts of xylitol through normal metabolism.

However, xylitol is not calorie-free.

Sugar contains, on average, 4 calories per gram.

Xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram.

Xylitol has 40% fewer carbs than sugar, but it still has carbs. Due to its low glycemic index, xylitol is a very good sugar alternative for weight control and for diabetics and prediabetics.

Sugar alcohols tend to have low glycemic indexes, the measure of how the compound raises blood sugar. Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7, while sugar has a glycemic index of 60-70.

Sugar alcohols, although technically a carbohydrate, tend not to raise blood sugar levels while giving the impression that you are ingesting sugar. Sugar alcohols are popular sweeteners for soft drinks and low-carb products.

Use Xylitol as a direct 1: 1 replacement for sugar.

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