Sugar refers to sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose bound together. Sugar is made from sugar beets and sugar cane. With whatever reasons you may want to avoid sugar, there are a lot of options to choose from. There are natural and artificial (factory-made ) sugar alternatives that you can add to your diet instead of regular table sugar.
Is sugar bad for you?
Sugar can mess up your body especially when you have a lot of it. Even with proper diet and lifestyle, when you have sugar in large quantities you are still exposed to a set disease related to excess sugar. These include; heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
If you think of reducing your sugar intake by reducing the sugar you take with tea, you are not yet there. This is because sugar exists in almost every food that we eat. There is sugar in bread, sauces, processed drinks, and many other foods we eat daily.
So, what are other alternatives to sugar? Will they taste the same or even better than sugar? Or will they be healthier than regular table sugar?
In this article, we shall look at popular sugar alternatives and try to answer your questions about sweeteners, syrups, and others.
Sugar alternatives you can try.
There are plenty of sweeteners you can try instead of syrup. The most common ones and popularly used are honey, stevia, and others.
Stevia is a popular natural sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of a shrub known by the scientific name Stevia rebaudiana. The plant from which stevia is extracted belongs to the chrysanthemum family, a subgroup of the Asteraceae family (ragweed family).
What makes stevia so healthy is the fact that stevia has no calories since it’s a nonnutritive sweetener. There are many health benefits linked to the use of stevia such as keeping sugar levels in check and lowering cholesterol.
Stevia can be a great alternative to sugar since it has fewer health risks compared to sugar. Stevia can be used as a substitute to sugar in coffee or tea, homemade juice, smoothies, unsweetened yogurt, and others.
Honey is very popular and I guess most people have seen or tasted it. It is a sweet substance made by bees and related insects. When bees visit flowers, they collect nectar which they use to make honey. The honey is stored in wax structures called honeycombs.
The sweetness from honey is from monosaccharides fructose and glucose. Honey is very healthy and can be a great alternative to refined sugar which is 100% empty calories.
However, unlike stevia, honey contains calories and from a tablespoon of honey (21 grams) you get around 64 calories. It also lacks fiber, fat, or proteins.
3. Maple syrup.
Maple syrup is a thick, sugary syrup that is made from the sap of maple trees. Usually, maple syrup is made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees. It can also be made from other maple spices.
Maple trees store starch in the cold climate before winter, the starch is then converted into sugar that rises in sap form late in winter and early spring. The trees are then drilled to collect the sap that is processed by heating to evaporate the water leaving a concentrated syrup behind.
In maple syrup are more antioxidants than in honey and also contains huge amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese.
4. Brown rice syrup.
Also known as rice syrup or rice malt, brown rice syrup is a sweetener that is derived from steeping cooked rice starch with saccharifying enzymes to break down starch. The liquid is then strained and reduced by evaporating excess water to remain with the syrup.
Basically, the brown syrup is like 100% glucose inside your body. Brown syrup however has low nutritional value. The syrup carries more calories than nutrients and thus might be referred to as empty calories.
5. Coconut sugar.
Also known as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is a natural sugar made from coconut palm sap which is the sugary fluid of the coconut plant.
Coconut sugar is made by collecting liquid sap from the flowers of the coconut palm. The sap is then heated to evaporate excess water so that we get brown granulated sugar.
Coconut sugar is nutritious compared to normal sugar and has minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium. Additionally, coconut sugar also contains fiber (inulin). It is however very high in calories.
6. Yacon syrup.
This is extracted from the roots of the yacon plant which is scientifically known as Smallanthus sonchifolius. The yacon plant is a native of South America.
The plant is believed to have powerful medicinal properties and is used for medicinal purposes. To make yacon syrup, the juice is extracted from the roots of the yacon plant. It is then filtered and evaporated in a chemical-free process like that used in the making of maple syrup. The final product is a sweet syrup with a dark color.
Yacon syrup is healthy compared to refined sugars. It is one of the best sources of dietary fructooligosaccharides which is a type of soluble dietary fiber. Yacon syrup has about 20 calories in a tablespoon.
Neotame is a non-alcoholic artificial sweetener that can be used as an alternative to sugar. It is low in calories yet is 8,000-13,000 times sweeter than normal table sugar. It is normally used in baking since it can tolerate high temperatures.
Despite its sweetness, neotame has zero calories per serving and also has a zero glycemic index. It can be an alternative to sugar for people on a diabetic diet.
8. Agave nectar.
Also referred to as agave syrup, agave nectar is extracted from the agave plant which is native to Latin America. Although its popularity and use has increased recently, gave syrup has been used in Mexico for hundreds of years. Agave is also fermented to make tequila.
Traditionally, agave nectar is made by boiling the sap to produce a sweetener. The factory production of agave nectar is a bit different from the traditional way. The plat is cut and the sugary sap extracted is processed with heat and enzymes to create a highly refined and unhealthy syrup.
The traditionally made syrup is way healthier than the processed counterpart. This is because during processing the fructans are extracted and broken down into fructose.
The use of xylitol is becoming popular since people are trying to avoid sugar sweeteners. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar but has fewer calories compared to the normal sugar.
Xylitol is categorized as sugar alcohol since it combines traits of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. Since xylitol is found in fruits and vegetables, it is considered natural. In comparison in terms of calories, xylitol (2.4 calories per gram) has almost a half calorie to those present in table sugar (4 calories per gram).
The bad thing is xylitol contains no vitamins, minerals, or proteins since it’s a refined sweetener.
Erythritol is a natural low-calorie sweetener with fewer side effects. It also has fewer calories than table sugar and xylitol. There are 0.24 calories per gram, xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram, and table sugar has 4 calories per gram. It is just like regular sugar but without the side effects.
It belongs to the class of sugar alcohols just like xylitol. To make erythritol in a large quantity, a type of yeast is used to ferment glucose from corn or wheat starch. Erythritol is generally safe compared to many sugars.
Molasses is a product got from refining sugar or sugar beets into sugar.
Molasses can vary depending on the method of extraction, amount of sugar, and age of the plant. They are used for sweetening and flavoring of foods.
How much sugar should you take?
We know the dangers of taking too much sugar. So which amount has fewer health risks?
The American Heart Association recommends men consume an average of 150 calories from sugar. This is about 9 tablespoons or 38g. Adults are recommended to consume 100 calories which are about 25g or 6 tablespoons and children are advised to consume less than 25 grams.
Different ways of cutting sugar out of your diet.
Since a lot of sugar is not healthy for your body, limiting your sugar intake can be a smart move towards your health.
But how can you cut out sugar from your diet yet most foods are sweetened or made with sugar. Below are some of the ways of limiting your sugar intake.
- Avoid pre-made soft drinks, sodas ad sweetened drinks. These usually carry empty calories and can cause sugar-related health risks.
- Cut on your packaged food intake. Most of the packaged foods contain added sugar. Opt for whole and fresh foods instead.
- Always check on the label to find out how much sugar a product you are buying contains. This will help you avoid foods that have a lot of added sugars.
- Prepare your own meals to be sure of the amount of sugar added to your food.
- Go for unsweetened yogurt, cereals, and related foods. Then add whole fruits into these kinds of food as a substitute for sugar and other sweeteners.
- Snack on vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, and other foods that don’t contain sugar. Avoid biscuits, donuts, chocolates, cakes, and other sweet foods.
Read in details: Different ways of how to curb cravings for sugar
The bottom line.
Sugar alternatives above arent the healthy alternatives to sugar, some will even cause more health risks than table sugar. Generally, you should cut on your sugar intake and consumption.
Read the articles below to open up your mind about sugar.
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