Do healthy sugar alternatives really exist?
If you are anything like me, you may enjoy baking. I find it so satisfying to find a recipe that contains healthy sugar alternatives. To feed my family with cakes and sweet treats that are delicious and don’t contain refined white sugar is very important.
There are many healthy sugar alternatives. Try using carrots, raisins, dates, figs, bananas, cranberries, apricots or beetroot. Cinnamon is a wonderful flavour and natural sweetener too.
Look out for future blog posts with recipes containing some of these alternatives.
Its important to be aware that if something is sold in a health food store, it doesn’t automatically mean it is healthy. Healthy sugar alternatives may be labelled as a natural sweetener but it is still important to choose carefully.
Take a look at some of these healthy sugar alternatives and next time you’re baking, perhaps try a couple of them…
This was my preferred choice for many years until I realised it could be up to 90% fructose and there doesn’t seem to be a way of knowing for sure if it has been made in the traditional way or has become commercially produced.
In theory it should be a good choice as it comes from the Mexican Agave plant where traditionally the sap would have been boiled for hours to obtain the sweet syrup. However, producing agave on a commercial scale has meant that this process has been compromised and now agave is made from the starch of the root bulb – the final product being refined fructose. It is made by the same process that converts corn starch into high fructose corn syrup. There are better healthy sugar alternatives… read on…
Honey – A natural sweetner indeed but to be used sparingly. Honey is a simple sugar made up of glucose and fructose and so it is absorbed into your blood stream quickly. Not ideal if you are trying to control your blood sugar levels or lose weight. It is known for its medicinal properties of course, Manuka honey being the most effective.
Xylitol – This occurs naturally in plants so it is considered to be a good natural alternative to sugar. It is beneficial for diabetics as it does not need insulin to be metabolised in the body and is low in calories. However, it requires a lot of refining to get it from the raw product to a white powder and this whole process is very complex and is far from natural.
Maple Syrup – This is made from the sap of maple trees by making a hole in the tree and collecting the syrup. Maple syrup causes the least amount of digestive problems so is good for IBS sufferers. It contains significant amount of zinc and manganese and more calcium than honey. Primarily it is sucrose and small amounts of fructose and glucose. Organic maple syrup is a good choice for baking with and drizzling on top of porridge, crumbles etc.
Barley Malt syrup – This is an unrefined natural sweetener produced from sprouted barley malt which is dried and the cooked. It contains hardly any fructose or sucrose and is a good healthy sugar alternative where a malty taste is required, such as in flapjacks.
Brown rice syrup –This contains 3 sugars – maltotriose, maltose and glucose and no fructose which is great. This is a good choice although it does change the texture of baked foods. It works best when a little crunch is needed such as in granola, flapjacks or crumble.
Stevia – Stevia comes from a South American plant called stevia. To benefit from this century old sweetner it must be 100% pure stevia which is 2-300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It has a bitter taste when used on its own so is often used with other sweetners. It needs to be used in moderation and in its purest form, if at all.
Palm Sugar – Also known as jaggery. This is made from the palm flowers where their juice is released then boiled down to produce the syrup which is then allowed to crystallize. It is considered a suitable choice for diabetics and contains good amounts of B vitamins. It’s a good natural sweetener and can be used in cooking as well as in drinks.
Coconut sugar – This is produced from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut tree. It is found in the form of a syrup or as crystals. Also known as coconut nectar and coconut blossom syrup. This is a rich source of nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc and has a low glycaemic index. An excellent healthy sugar alternative.