Natural Sweeteners

20 12 2012

I don’t know about you, but all the sweetener choices are confusing me. Which ones are the healthiest choices?


Agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) comes from a cactus-like plant found in Mexico, which is also used to make tequila. The Aztecs used the liquid from the agave plant to flavor foods, considering it a gift from the gods. Now, it is considered a healthier choice as a sweetener with many beneficial properties. Agave is low on the glycemic index, making it a better choice for diabetics. But, as with any sweetener, agave should be consumed in moderation.

Agave is said to be similar in taste to honey and does not have the aftertaste found with artificial sweeteners. It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so less is needed to achieve the same sweetness. Agave is about 60 calories per tablespoon.


The chicory plant is a hardy perennial common in North American and in Europe. It has purplish-blue flowers that open and closes at the exact same time each day. Chicory leaves are also known as endive, frisee, escarole or radicchio and the roots are used to make “chicory”.  Studies have shown that chicory may prevent constipation and has been reported to help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon.  Like Agave, Chicory is very low on the glycemic index, making it less likely to raise blood sugar levels. Products sweetened with Chicory may contain other sweeteners as well. So, check the labels. This will affect the sweetness. Product calories vary also, depending on the amount of chicory. One chicory root has 43 calories, but some products may be calorie-free.


Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. The leaf of the plant contains the compounds that give its sweetness. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar with 0 calories per tablespoon and 0 carbohydrates. Stevia is zero on the glycemic index indicating it has not impact on blood sugar.

Monk fruit
Monk fruit is a type of small melon, cultivated for its sweet fruit and as an extracted sweetener. It is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of South East Asia and has been used as in traditional Chinese medicine. Its sweetness comes from antioxidants called mogrosides, found only in the monk fruit. Monk fruit is calorie-free, is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, and has a zero glycemic index.
I’ve read that the more sweet foods I eat, the more I will crave them. From personal experience, I know this to be true. So, although, these sweeteners may be healthier options, eating as little as possible or none, is still my goal.  But, when I do sweeten my iced tea, I will choose one of these natural sweeteners and use as little as possible.

Tammy’s Challenges

Mind: Listen to your body after eating. How do you feel? Does this food agree with you?

Body: Add 10 minutes to your cardio workout during the holiday season.

Soul: Smile at yourself everytime you look in the mirror. It will seem odd at first, but keep it up and learn to like what you see.

I would love to hear from you.  Contact me through email at and Facebook at TammYoga and Twitter @TammYoga.




TammYoga In Balance

15 04 2012

In Balance

I will be writing a new column entitle, TammYoga In Balance, for Tipp City Record Herald. This first column is a question and answer piece to introduce the column. It was printed on Sunday, April 8, 2012. A new column will be printed every other Sunday. I hope you enjoy following me. Please let me know what you think.

Look for the next column on Sunday, April 22, 2012.


Tammy Shellhaas

Family (spouse and/or kids):

My husband, John, and I have been married for almost 29 years. We have two children: Ben, who graduated from Ohio State University and is currently serving in the National Guard in Afghanistan and Betsy, who is attending Ohio University.


I am an ACE certified personal trainer and yoga instructor at La Bella Viaggio in Troy.

Where you’re from and where you live now:

I grew up in Troy and currently live in Troy.

How you first got interested in health and wellness:

My initial interest in health and wellness began in college. I was overweight and did not eat right and began to educate myself on what I needed to do to make a change for the better. I started jogging and making healthy changes to my diet. When John and I were first married and starting our family, I took exercise classes and worked out at home to exercise TV shows and tapes I rented from the library. When our daughter was a senior in high school and we would soon be empty nesters, I made the decision to become a personal trainer. I knew I would need something to occupy my mind during this stage of my life. Once, I became certified and was training part-time, the transition to becoming a fulltime personal trainer and, eventually, yoga instructor was a natural progression. I enjoyed helping others to achieve their goals and share what I had lived and learned.

The most common fitness or nutritional mistake people make:

The biggest fitness and nutritional mistake I see is when a client makes a drastic change in diet or exercise at the very beginning. It is unrealistic to think that the goals they want to reach will be accomplished quicker if they skip meals or lift too-heavy of weights. I’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work. And more than likely, they will not stick with it because they cannot do this long term.

The best advice you’ve ever been given:

There is no quick fix. Consistency to a healthy diet and exercise program will help you to achieve your goals so that you can maintain the achieved results. I had to learn this after many trials and errors. It may not be easy or fast, but it is possible and has greater results for success.

Favorite music to listen to when you workout:

I like most genres of music. I listen to oldies (Oldies are now the music I grew up with!), as well as, Adele, Rihanna, Pink, U2, Rolling Stones, and Lady Gaga. I recently downloaded Shazam to my phone, so, when I hear a song playing over the speakers at the mall, I can download it and add it to a Spinning playlist. So, it could be any artist, it just needs to catch my attention.

Future goals:

My future plans are to continue learning from my fellow trainers and clients to challenge myself and be the best that I can be. I feel I am doing what I was meant to do. I enjoy seeing my clients surprise themselves by doing something they never thought possible.