Sweet Isn't So Simple
There are an abundance of alternatives to sugar on the market, which is a fantastic thing. It can, however, become confusing when there are so many options out there, and it becomes difficult to decipher between the different brands and types of natural sweeteners. But why exactly is refined sugar so bad for your health that you should consider switching to a natural sweetener? Here’s the run down of the health concerns associated with refined sugar, and a round up of alternatives available:
Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Sugar that comes from either sugar cane or sugar beet is so processed and refined that it becomes completely void of any actual nutrition. The body processes sugars similarly to carbohydrates, meaning it turns sugars into fat. Not only is refined sugar nutritionally null, it’s highly addictive and is found in pretty much any processed food available on the market. In addition to these negative qualities, sugar has directly been linked to health concerns like diabetes, cancer, obesity, high cholesterol and liver disease.
Keep in mind that almost all natural sweeteners used to avoid refined sugar have some of the same properties as refined sugar, however the list below contains options that are full of nutrients, as well as adding a hint of sweetness.
Honey: Honey is incredibly common, and actually contains minerals and antioxidants, and can help the body with improved blood lipids, lowered inflammatory markers, and had minimal effect on blood glucose levels. The darker the honey, the more nutrient rich it is, and can be found in a variety of flavours and textures. When using honey as a sugar substitute in baking, it’s recommended that you substitute ½ cup honey for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup, and increase the baking soda by ¼ tsp.
Stevia: Stevia is around 300 times sweeter than your run of the mill table sugar. Stevia is derived from a plant in the Sunflower family, and has been used in both South America and Japan for quite some time. Stevia actually makes up 41% of the sweetener market in Japan. The appeal of Stevia comes in the form of it’s lower effect on blood glucose levels, making it suitable for people with diabetes, and because it’s so much sweeter than sugar, you need a lot less of it.
Coconut Sugar: Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar tastes similar to brown sugar, however it has a low score on the glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels. Coconut sugar also contains vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper, as well as inositol, the vitamin B that helps boost your mood.
Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post