Stay Sweet With Better Ingredients
Curb the cravings with better ingredients
There are few things as mouth-watering as a rich chocolate cake, syrupy shake or fudgy double-scoop ice cream – with the cherry on top. Whatever your sweet-treat of choice, most of us agree that sugar tastes oh-so good. Many of us need something a little sweet every day, be it in a cup of joe or tea-time nibbles. Perhaps we don’t even realise how much sugar we consume daily, given that we’re usually unaware of the amount of added sugar in the processed, seemingly healthy foods we eat, like the typical breakfast bars and cereals.
Sugar is dangerous if it’s more of an addiction than an occasional treat. While a spoonful can help the medicine go down, we’ve got to make an effort to cut back on it from our everyday diet. Sugar can affect our insulin, metabolism and hormones, contributing to multiple diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Fortunately for those of us with a sweet tooth, we’ve got plenty of options to choose from in the form of natural and artificial sweeteners. They’re available across stores and sometimes at health-centric eateries where they’re used in making confections.
So lay off the white gold and sprinkle in some of these tasty alternatives the next time you’re craving a batch of chewy home-baked cookies. Not all sugar substitutes are created equally though – read up on the cons too and pick those that will work best for you.
None of us needs an introduction to honey. Absolutely yummy, it contains antioxidants, has antibacterial properties and can aid sore throats, among other benefits. But honey also contains fructose, which in excess can be bad for us. It’s best to choose raw honey as it retains more natural goodness than the processed kind.
2. Coconut sugar
This natural sweetener, taken from the sap of the coconut palm, has some nutrients and antioxidants to its name and a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar (i.e., it causes a lower rise in glucose and insulin levels). However, it has equally high caloric and fructose content, and so isn’t a great option for regular use.
This brown, syrupy liquid is typically made by boiling sugarcane. It is natural and high in iron, calcium and potassium. Some varieties like blackstrap molasses have long been used to help with ailments like stress and anaemia and to support skin and bone health. It is, however, metabolised by the body in the same way as regular sugar.
Xylitol is found in many fruits and vegetables but is usually extracted from corn or birch wood. This low-calorie sweetener has 40% fewer calories than sugar and is devoid of fructose. In fact, it has demonstrated benefits as it doesn’t affect insulin and can support dental and bone health. Xylitol is not all good, as it can be very toxic for dogs. In human studies however, xylitol has shown to be safe for moderate consumption.
A popular option for those who pump iron, stevia is extracted from a South American shrub known as candyleaf. About 300 times sweeter than sucrose, although with slight variations in taste, stevia has zero calories and can actually lower blood sugar! While this all-natural sweetener is generally considered safe, there aren’t enough studies to confirm its long-term health attributes.
Better known by its most commonly used retail brand name, Splenda, sucralose is an artificial no-calorie sweetener that’s made from regular sugar. It’s one of the most widely used alternatives because it doesn’t generally affect blood sugar levels and is stable at high temperatures, making it ideal for use in baked goods and products like chewing gum. Although a few studies have noted health concerns, sucralose has been seen as safe in over 20 years of research.
Saccharin is another calorie-free, non-nutritive substitute used in brands like Sweet’N Low. Although over 400 times sweeter than sugar, it has a bitter, metallic aftertaste and so, is often combined with other substances to help mask this quality. It is absorbed slowly by the body and suitable for cooking because it is highly stable and has a long shelf life. Like other synthetic sweeteners, saccharin is not without controversy, but over 30 human studies favour its safety for consumption.
And there's more...
There are many more substitutes you could try, like maple syrup, yacon syrup, monk fruit sweetener and aspartame. There are also others you’ll want to avoid, like agave and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which are both very high in fructose. What’s important to remember is that most sweeteners are to be used in moderation. If you have any health concerns, please consult a medical professional. You can also learn to adjust your palate so you can begin to enjoy meals with reduced sweetness – or none at all. This is a great step towards optimal wellness!
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