Sugar is a vital component of our daily diet, be it a spoonful in tea or coffee or as additives in soft drinks and processed foods. This sweetener is derived from refining molasses and has wide spread culinary, medical and industrial usage. Although this sweetener makes our food and drinks delicious its high calorie content and glycemic value has negative impacts on the body. It gives rise to diabetes, obesity, acidity, allergies, cardio vascular diseases etc. Substituting sugar with other healthier natural sweeteners has become a practice that has gained momentum across the world. Healthy and natural alternatives for sugar not only render similar sweetness to food stuff but also rendered excellent curative benefits.
10 Such Sugar Substitutes Are Mentioned Below:
Natural and organic honey is one of the best known substitutes of sugar. Not only is it delicious in taste but is also a healthy natural sweetening agent. Raw or unprocessed honey, especially darker coloured ones, are rich in antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C that display excellent anti microbial and anti inflammatory and thus help keep infections, allergies and inflammations at bay. It also helps to promote cardiac, digestive and respiratory health, boosts immunity, lowers cholesterol and even cures cancer. Although honey has a higher calorie content than sugar, it is still widely used as a sugar substitute in desserts, yogurt, tea. This is because it is sweeter than sugar and hence needs to be added in smaller quantities as compared to the former.
The boiled sap of maple tree concentrated into caramel-coloured sweet syrup is called maple syrup. Usually associated with waffles and pancakes, this syrup can be also used as a natural alternative of refined sugar in ice creams, cakes, desserts, yogurts etc. This natural sweetener is enriched with potent antioxidants like riboflavin that help to boost stamina and energy. It also contains small traces of calcium and zinc benefits the general health of an individual.
Barley Malt Syrup
This malty tasting thick sticky syrup has a texture similar to that of molasses. It is an unrefined sweetener produced from sprouted barley. It possess half the sweetness of refined sugar and is sometimes combined with other sweeteners to lend the malt flavour to dishes and beverages.This sweetener get digested slowly but is low on the glycemic index and thus controls blood sugar levels effectively.
Blackstrap molasses is the by product from the process of refining sugar cane into sugar. It is rich in vital nutrients like vitamin B, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium and is the healthiest of all natural sweeteners. It is thick and dense liquid which is sweeter than sugar and hence is needed in lesser quantity than sugar. Blackstrap molasses is best used in baking.
Brown Rice Syrup
This wheat free and gluten free syrup is made from boiling brown rice. With a it’s butterscotch like flavour, this sweetening agent is best suited as an alternative for sugar in cooking. It is also used as a condiment to top waffles and porridges. Although it is more processed than other natural sweeteners, the health benefits of brown rice still remain intact in the syrup thus making it a healthy sugar substitute.
Date is a naturally sweet edible fruits from the Phoenix dactylifera tree, better known as date palm tree. These fruits are dried, dehydrated and ground to produces date sugar. Apart from its sweetening property, the essential nutrient content of this sugar like Vitamin A, vitamin B6, calcium and potassium make it equally healthy. It is beneficial for improving blood circulation; keeping body weight in check; making one feel fuller for long; and increasing stamina and energy in the body. The potent antioxidants in this natural sugar help to improve the digestive and cardiovascular health; relieve constipation and intestinal problems. Date sugar is the ideal alternative for brown sugar. The only restrain of using this sweetener is that it does not melt and dissolve, and thus is unsuitable for sweetening drinks, beverages and certain desserts.
The increased use of coconut water around the world has also pumped up the awareness about and usage of coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is basically useable granules of dehydrated coconut palm sap. This sugar tastes like brown sugar but is slightly richer in calorie content compared to the latter. Coconut sugar is a nutritious natural sugar substitute which is low on the glycemic index and thus is useful in controlling blood sugar levels and diabetes. The low fructose content of this sugar helps to limit fat formation in the body thereby making it a better sweetening alternative compared to other sweeteners.
Xylitol is a five carbon sugar unlike other sugars that generally contain six carbons atoms. This special property makes xylitol a much healthier sweetening agent compared to other sweeteners. The structure of xylitol renders anti bacterial properties to it that help fight and restrict bacterial infections in the body. Xylitol is naturally found in fibrous fruits and vegetables like beets, berries and corn cobs; some hard wood trees and even in the human body.
Stevia is a sweetener derived naturally from the leaves of the South American plant Stevia Rebaudiana is 300 times sweeter than common sugar. This powdered plant extract is a risk free and calorie free sugar substitute that is used in foods and beverages worldwide. Its low glycemic impact and zero calorific value make it an ideal choice of sweetener for diabetic patients and weight watchers.
Derived from the agave plant, this sugar contains a little more of calories than the normal table sugar. However, agave sugar is 25% sweeter than regular sugar and is thus added in lower quantities to food and beverages than the latter. Apart from sweetening properties, agave sugar also render health benefits. It contains prebiotic, a dietary fibre, that helps to nourish healthy intestinal bacteria, improve digestion, increase satiety, lower blood sugar levels and reduce body weight on the whole. The anti inflammatory, anti microbial and anti carcinogenic properties help to ward off infections, inflammations and cancer away. It also ensures better renal and cardiovascular health.