It doesnít matter if you have a sweet tooth or if you usually stay away from the sodas, cakes, and chocolates, it's difficult to avoid sugar. It pervades almost every food source, sneaks up in your ready-made sauces, jumps out of your morning cereals, and throws itself into your frozen dinners. Itís everywhere.
Several ďsugar-freeĒ sweeteners have also started popping up, but these are not as healthy as often advertised. Try some of these more natural sweeteners recommended by the team at Art of Catering in home-made sauces and in your cooking to improve your health and reduce your waistline.
Honey is first on the list because itís one of the healthiest and most delicious sugar alternatives. While it should be consumed in moderation as itís still very high in fructose, honey is also a natural antibacterial that boosts the immune system, promotes digestive health, and provides your body with extra antioxidants.
Since itís sweeter and denser than sugar you end up using less, reducing you caloric intake. Experts advise that you should stick to raw honey from local markets as it contains less preservatives and glyphosate, a toxic pesticide that is often found in commercial honey.
While most sweeteners Ė even the healthy ones Ė are calorie dense, stevia is different. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant. Itís not as nutrient rich as honey, but it doesnít affect blood sugar levels, making it a viable substitute. The most popular extract is the white powder, but its available in dried leaf form, liquid extract, small pellets and a granular form that can be added to your tea or coffee. Go for the liquid stevia as itís the sweetest and purest form.
Two things are made from the Agave plant: tequila and agave nectar. While the latter has only started gaining popularity in recent years, agave has been used as an ingredient in food for thousands of years Ė specifically in South America, where its most commonly found. Itís almost twice as sweet as sugar, which means that you use a lot less when adding flavor to your tea or coffee - use sparingly.
Itís a versatile sweetener and is perfect for baking, especially chewy treats like flapjacks and muffins. Agave has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which allows it to be absorbed into the bloodstream slowly, preventing a rapid rise in insulin.
There are several types of molasses, each a by-product of refined sugarcane. Molasses, and its names, varies by method of extraction and age of plant. Blackstrap is the healthiest of the lot, but it should be used with caution because the pungent taste can be overpowering if too much is used. The thick, sticky consistency is between solid and liquid and is best used in baking. Health benefits include extra iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium and more antioxidants than any other natural sweetener.
Date sugar does not melt and is basically just dried dates ground into powder. If youíve eaten a date before, youíll know that itís very sweet and itís no different when turned into powder. Since it doesnít melt, using it in your coffee and tea wonít work unless you want dates floating around; this doesnít mean that you canít use it for baking. Youíll only need to use a fraction since itís so sweet and contains rich nutrients as well.