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The low-down on sweeteners

by skating tomato (follow)
www.skatingtomato.com
Nutrition (268)     
Over the past few years sugar has been getting a very bad rap. When compared to smoking and inactivity in regards to impact on our health, people are becoming more aware and looking to educate themselves on this sneaky but potentially detrimental ingredient.

courtesy of Flickr


To clarify, naturally occurring sugars such as fructose (found in fruit) and lactose (found in most dairy products) are perfectly fine and are recommended to consume in moderation. However, the real problem lies in added sugars – extra sugars or syrups added in cooking or manufacturing, and the ones we add to our meals and drinks.

Your Options
The best way to cut your sugar intake is to be vigilant when choosing processed and packaged foods, and limiting the amount of sugar you add to your everyday diet. Opt for foods with less than 5g sugar per 100g, or 2.5ml per 100ml.

But if you can't fathom life without a sweet hit, consider replacing standard sugar with a sweetener.

courtesy of Pixabay


Standard sugar is a high calorie and low nutrient ingredient that is of no benefit to our bodies. Sweeteners have been brought to the fore due to their (to varying extents) nutritional properties and lesser calorific content. Almost all of these can be found at well-stocked supermarkets or health food stores.

However, keep in mind that while these sweeteners may provide some additional nutrition at fewer calories, they should still be consumed in moderation and are advised to replace, not add to, the sugar in your diet.

Stevia
A shrub native to South America, the Stevia rebaudiana plant is responsible for this new and promising addition to the sweetener scene. Whether used in dry or liquid form, stevia can be 200-450 times sweeter than sugar (depending on the brand), meaning it punches well above its weight.

courtesy of Pixabay


One of the most appealing things about stevia is its low-calorie makeup. Whereas two teaspoons of sugar provides 30 calories, two teaspoons of stevia only has five. A huge difference when being used daily!

When using in cooking or baking, you will only need a very small amount to replace the sugar required. A teaspoon is more than likely enough!

Xylitol
Xylitol is sourced from carbohydrate molecules found in many fruits, vegetables, and starches, the main commercial source currently being corn cobs. It has the same sweetness as sugar, and looks very much alike, so you would use as you would sugar in cooking (i.e 1:1 ratio).

courtesy of Pixabay


Xylitol benefits from a low Glycemic Index value of seven, meaning its impact on blood sugar levels and insulin are minimal. Research has also shown its ability to aid dental hygiene by raising the pH level of saliva.

Agave Syrup
Agave syrup (or nectar) is a honey-like sweetener from the agave cactus. It has essentially the same calorie count as table sugar but tastes much sweeter, so less is actually needed to use. Be aware that many store-bought varieties of agave can be highly processed and so destroy its natural health properties.

courtesy of Pixabay


It is best used over yogurt or cereal, added to baked goods or in hot drinks. Agave is also a suitable substitution in sauces and dressings. For every cup of sugar called for, use 2/3 cup agave syrup, and reduce the liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

Other Options
When whipping up your next baked good, consider whether fruit can be used in place of sugar. For example, mashed bananas or apple can make a perfect replacement in a cake or slice, bestowing a rich sweetness with the nutritional benefits of the fruit. Dried fruits such as dates, sultanas, raisins and figs can also boost your smoothies or baked treats.

courtesy of Pixabay


Pure maple syrup offers over 50 antioxidants along with its lush tones, and it can be used on everything from waffles to salads. Replace a cup of sugar with 3/4 cup syrup, and reduce remaining liquids by three tablespoons.

courtesy of Pixabay


While there are a plethora of options available to you in your sweetener-switching-search, it is important to remember that like any good thing, it should be enjoyed in moderation and as part of a healthy, balanced diet.


Related articles
How sweet it is: Cutting back on sugar
8 easy sugar alternatives
The weigh in on sugar substitutes
Learning to live without sugar

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Has anyone tried Yacon Syrup as a sweetener? I was reading about it today, and was surprised by it's GI score of 1. Apparently the sweet flavour comes from its prebiotic content?
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