Sugar, a five letter word which is on everyone’s lips of late. With years of research we have learnt that that we should all be consuming a little less of the unfriendly refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup as well as monitoring our daily sugar intake to improve our overall health and wellbeing.
The key to learning about sugar replacements is, always choose the most natural source (less refined) and organic where possible. It’s also important to note, while these suggestions may be a replacement, moderation is key - too much sugar, even alternatives isn’t always a good thing.
These little wrinkly sweet gems are bursting with flavour, naturally high in fibre and nutrients. They can be added into smoothies or raw treats, just be cautious as while they are a fruit they are high in fruit sugars which is sometimes overlooked. Aim for no more than 1 – 2 dates every couple of days and always choose fresh dates, sometimes sugar is added to dried dates and these little gems are sweet enough without the extra added sugar.
Nature’s nectar, honey has been found to contain trace amounts of Vitamins and Minerals. It is also suggested that honey has a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) compared to other sugar alternatives. There are many different forms of honey and as with all sweeteners the less refined the better. Raw honey has a higher nutrient profile when compared to the runny light coloured watery honey.
Dripped straight from the tree and into our kitchens, maple syrup has a delicious taste and texture that you can use in your baking recipes. Always read the label here and check its 100% organic maple syrup and not maple-flavoured syrup, as it is not uncommon for marketing to play a trick here. There are different grades of maple syrup which can explain the different price points and different colours. What helps maple syrup stand out is that it also contains some minerals and antioxidants.
Made from the sap of coconut flowers, coconut nectar has been found to have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) and a delicious amino acid profile, plus vitamins and minerals. Coconut nectar is relatively low in fructose and is higher in sucrose making it a nice alternative for people with fructose sensitives.
One of the biggest appeals of coconut sugar is its lower Glycaemic Index (GI), meaning that it shouldn’t give you a such big surge of energy and then a drop after a couple of hours as other sugars do. It has been suggested that coconut sugars lower GI level is due to the levels of fibre called inulin. Coconut sugar has been found to be high in fructose and should be considered when picking an alternative. Coconut sugar is darker in colour compared to raw sugar and has a delicious earthy taste.
It looks like sugar, can be used in cooking the same as sugar but xylitol is rather different. While Xylitol is refined (from natural fruits and vegetables) it has a very different nutritional profile to standard raw sugar. It has a much lower calorie count, has a very low GI, doesn’t spike blood glucose levels and often well tolerated. Research has also found that xylitol is much better for our teeth when compared to its cousin – sugar. In cooking you can replace the sugar 1:1 and still have delicious results. A little side note: Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs.
Sugar really can be too much of a good thing – even the alternatives. Sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, weight gain, learning difficulties and poor concentration in children and can interfere with our blood glucose levels. Always aim for a balanced and healthy diet full of fresh and seasonal vegetables.