Although it is a well known fact that refined sugar is the most unhealthy type of sugar, most of the people consume it daily in high amounts. We can also notice that if we deliberately reduce the use of sugar, than we won’t desire for sweet flavours after a short time.
Today we can find more and more alternatives on the market, to substitute the white crystal grains, and put sweet flavours in our food in a natural way. In the following these alternatives are summarised.
Some takes honey as an elixir of life, as it contains many important substances of medicinal value. Its main ingredients are fructose, glucose and water. To be able to enjoy all its valuable ingredients (amino acids, mineral nutrients, enzymes, vitamins etc.) its has to be consumed at a temperature below 40°C, if we put in tea wait until its cooled down. Due to its healing power it is wholeheartedly recommended by the traditional medicine, but take extra care: it is not permitted to be given to infants under the age of one, as it can cause botulism.
Maple syrup is an ancient “invention” by indigenous peoples, and it is still one of the basic ingredients of the North American cuisine. Maple trees, not younger than 40 years are tapped by collecting the sap through a hole cut to the tree. One litre of maple syrup can be made from 40-50 litres of sap, and it contains sucrose, mineral nutrients, malic acid, water and glucose. It has many classes, grade AA is 100% pure maple syrup (dark amber), grade D has a colour like honey.
Fructose (fruit sugar)
It can be found in vegetables and fruits in its natural form, while the industry produces it from corn or sugar beet. Its advantage over refined sugar, that instead of causing a sudden change, it elevates blood sugar level slowly and more gradually. As many contradicting researches conclude, as it can cause fatty liver disease, obesity and contributes to elevated cholesterol levels, do not use it exclusively and in high amounts.
Besides tequila, the Mexican native agave can be used as sweetener as well. It is sweeter than sugar, so smaller amounts can be used, thus for the same sweet sensation we consume less calories. Due to its fructose content consuming in high amounts is not recommended.
Xylitol can be found in many vegetables (cauliflower), fruits (plum, strawberry) in natural form. The industry produces it mainly from white birch or beech trees and corn ear and cob. Thus it is sometimes called birch sugar. It has no smack or aftertaste and it resembles to ordinary sucrose. It changes blood sugar and insulin levels in a more subtle way, thus it can be recommended to people with diabetes. It can be used for cooking, baking, however it is not suitable for foods with yeast in it as it prohibits the growth of fungi. For the first usage it can have side effects as tympanites or diarrhoea, so a gradual familiarisation is recommended.
Stevia (sweet leaf)
The plant originated from Paraguay can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it has zero calories and not damaging teeth. It can have the form of powder, drops and fresh plant, even we can produce it on the balcony or in the garden.
Since last December steviol glycoside, which can be extracted from stevia has been accepted by the European Council as food additive, which means that we can have it in yoghurts or in soft drinks.
Raw cane sugar – not much better than refined sugar
It is a widespread opinion that brown sugar is more healthy than white sugar. However this is not exactly true. There are brown sugars which are produced exactly the same way as refined white sugar, but molasses is added to obtain brown colour. This is not healthier than the white one, and has the same empty calorie and high glycemic index.
Raw cane sugar however is different. The original molasses content is preserved, so it has special flavour and blown colour. It is only better in a way, that it contains vitamins (vitamin
B) and mineral nutrients (Potassium).
I try to reduce consumption of refined sugar, and use more of the natural sweeteners instead.