We all know sugary treats are the best buds to our taste buds.
Every situation needs that hint of sweetness. Went through a breakup? Ice-cream tub! Wedding party? Three-tier cake! Hot day? Soda! Much needed break? Coffee! The list goes on and on.
Be it the innate tendency to like the sugar rush or the temporary relief sugar provides in a stressful situation, sugar is massively prevalent in our diets.
However, the processed sugar can get notably addictive, and adding just empty calories to the diet has adverse effects on health, such as the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, tooth decay, and accelerated ageing.
Unfortunately, sugar is sugar and challenging to cut from the diet.
Hence, to seek the same satisfaction level while keeping your health, sugars that give more than just a sweet taste can be sought after.
Here are some natural alternatives to the sweet poison on your table.
This substitute has been in the market for a long time. We have all, at some point, seen that jar of golden syrup. Its versatility goes from usage in calling dear ones to sweetening different foods and beverages. In its raw form, honey contains vitamins, minerals, and an abundance of antioxidants. It has multiple health benefits and is slightly easy to digest as it has already partially been broken down by the bees. Sugar carbohydrates within honey constitute glucose, fructose, maltose, and sucrose, which increases the number of calories in one tablespoon to as much as 64 calories and the glycemic index to 58.
With the increasing trend of veganism and eating plant-based, coconut- sugar stands out as a good option. This natural sugar made from coconut palm sap is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Coconut sugar also contains inulin which is a prebiotic fiber good for digestive health. Although, it spikes up blood sugar level due to 75% similarity in composition as table sugar and has a glycemic index around 50-54. Also, to avail the goodness of the beneficial compounds, a large amount is required to be consumed, which may not be a preferable choice. However, there are other plant-based sweeteners to choose from, such as monk fruit and stevia.
Indigenous to Southern China, Monk fruit or Luo Han Guo is a green melon, sweeteners made out of which tend to be 150-200 times sweeter than table sugar with no calories. The sweetness is derived from ‘mogrosides’; sweet compounds present in the fruit, which is typically blended with other ingredients for practicality in usage.
Monk Fruit has been approved to be used as a sweetener by the FDA since 2010 and has the status GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). However, it can be allergic to a certain group, and symptoms like rashes, rapid and weak pulse, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and swollen tongue can be observed in some people.
Loaded with numerous documented health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, antimicrobial, zero calories, zero allergens, etc., Stevia has risen as the most preferred natural sugar alternative. Native to Paraguay, Stevia is a plant that yields sweet compounds called steviol glycosides which are 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and does not spike up blood sugar due to zero glycemic index.
High purity steviol glycoside compounds have been deemed GRAS by the FDA since 2008, in addition to approval by EU FSA, WHO’s JECFA, and FSSAI. Similar to Monk Fruit, steviol glycosides are blended with other food regulatory body-approved ingredients to ease the usage of the sweeteners made from the extract.
Some benefits that Stevia offer over the other sweeteners is, zero calories, zero glycemic index and load, zero allergens, long-shelf-life, non-fermentative, high-temperature tolerance, versatility and pH stability.
With plenty of options available in the market, it all comes down to personal preference in the end.