Wednesday, 11 July 2012

9 Non-Artificial Alternatives to Sugar

Humans naturally enjoy sweet tastes. Right from birth, the first food passing our lips contains sugar (lactose) which gives milk its slightly sweet taste. From then on, through childhood to adulthood, the treats we crave the most are those sugar laden, high calorie snacks such as biscuits, ice cream, cakes and chocolate.

The majority of these sweet foods are generally sweetened with refined sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup. When using sugar at home, it's commonly of the refined white or brown variety. But, while these types of sugar give food it's sweet taste, it provides nothing nutritionally, except calories. It also has a high Glycaemic Index (GI), meaning it's quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This often results in a sugar rush followed by a low and a craving for more sugar.

But not all sweeteners have such a negative effect on blood sugar. If you're looking for sugar substitutes but don't want to use artificial sweeteners, there are many non-artificial alternatives to sugar that you can use at home and some even have fewer calories.

There are many types of sweetener that can be used in the same way as sugar. Most have a similar number of calories, around 16 calories per teaspoon, some have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) whereby the sugar is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, providing a longer lasting source of energy.

Here’s a look at 9 different non-artificial, alternatives to sugar which are available in the UK.

9 Non-Artificial Alternatives to Sugar

1. Stevia

Stevia is a sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It has a zero GI (Glycaemic Index), is calorie free and is around 25-30 times sweeter than sugar. This natural sweetener has gained enormous popularity since its arrival on the supermarket shelves in early 2012. It's highly versatile and can be used in place of sugar in most instances. Brands to look for include  Truvia and Pure Via.

2. Xylitol

This sweetener is used in many products and is commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum. Xylitol is a naturally occurring, sweet tasting substance found in several plants, raspberries and plums for example. It has 40 percent less calories (36.4 calories per 15g tablespoon), but looks, feels and tastes like sugar. It also has a low GI. One of the brands you may find in supermarkets and health food shops is called Total Sweet. This can be used like regular sugar and is suitable for diabetics. 

3. Fruit Sugar

Fruit sugar, or fructose, is found naturally occurring in many fruits, honey and some vegetables. It is much sweeter than cane sugar you only need use a third less. It has a low glycaemic index and can be used on drinks, on cereals and for baking. Fruit sugar has 11 calories per 2/3 of a teaspoon. Brands include Fruitsana and Tate & Lyle Fruit sugar.

4. Honey

Honey is a naturally sweet substance produced by honeybees collecting nectar from flowers. The taste, texture and colour of honey varies depending on where it was produced. Also, because it has quite a distinctive taste, honey is most commonly used as a spread for toast, or for cooking, baking and desserts. You can find numerous brands of honey with the majority having a similar number of calories, typically around 49 calories per 15g. Honey isn’t suitable for infants under twelve months of age.

5. Agave Nectar

This natural sweetener is produced from the leaves of agave plants, usually found in Mexico or South Africa. It tastes quite similar to honey, though it is sweeter and slightly more runny. Agave nectar has a low GI which can help prevent sugar highs. Gram for gram it has fewer calories than sugar with around 45 calories per tablespoon (15g). Agave nectar is suitable for vegans and can be used instead of sugar to sweeten hot and cold food and drink. Brands to look for include: Groovy Food and Hale & Hearty.

6. Fruit Syrups

There are a huge variety of fruit flavoured syrups available these days. However, the majority are used for sweetening drinks such as fruit cocktails or coffee. But one fruit syrup which makes a great sugar substitute is Sweet Freedom which contains only naturally occurring sugars from apples, grapes and carob. It has a more neutral taste than honey with no bitter aftertaste.

Per tablespoon Sweet Freedom has 42 calories. with a relatively low fructose content of 24g per 100g and a low GL (Glycaemic Load). Sweet Freedom is highly versatile with 25% fewer calories than sugar. It’s suitable for diabetics (as part of a healthy diet) as well as vegetarians and vegans and is registered with the Vegan Society.

7. Sugar Syrup

This is simply a mixture of pure cane sugar and water which is evaporated to create a thicker than water syrup. It’s most commonly used to sweeten cocktails. However it’s also suitable for using in hot or cold drinks, desserts or other food where you need a bit of added sweetness. Sugar syrup has around 53 calories per 15g and is most likely to be found in the alcohol section of supermarkets. Brands include Monin and Fruiss Creativ’.

8. Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup is the result of evaporating water from the sap found in maple trees. This delicious syrup has a unique sweet taste which has 38 calories per tablespoon. Maple syrup can be used to sweeten many types of food as well as drinks. But it really is the perfect partner for topping pancakes. Brands include Tesco Finest Maple Syrup, Tate & Lyle Pouring Syrup and Clarks Original Maple Syrup.

9. Golden Syrup

Golden syrup is made from refined sugar cane or sugar beet. This thick and golden coloured syrup has a unique sweet taste. It’s most often used in baking as it helps prolong the moistness of the food but also to enhance its flavour. Golden syrup has 49 calories per tablespoon and brands include Lyles Golden Syrup.

Most natural sugar alternatives, with the exception of Stevia, contain a similar number of calories to sugar (gram for gram). Therefore, choosing a natural alternative sweetener won’t necessarily help with weight loss. However, since they have varying degrees of sweetness, and different effects on blood sugar, you may find that you can use less of some sweeteners that you would normally use with sugar, thereby saving calories.

This link provides more information on the difference between Glycaemic (glycemic) Load and Glycaemic Index.

© Diets and Calories

Related Posts:

Sugar and Sweetener Blends in the UK - Read Post
Sugar Substitutes and Sweeteners Using Stevia - Read Post
Truvia Calorie Free Sweetener - Read Post
Outline of the Low GL Diet - Read Post


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