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Sugar is among the most common ingredients in foods and beverages. It’s also one of the most confusing.
With so many options in the market, from natural to artificial ones, how do you know which one is right for you? And why should you make the switch?
Let’s be clear – not all sugar is bad sugar. Added sugar is the culprit.
Sugar naturally occurs in foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Added sugar, on the other hand, is the sugar (typically refined) used to make foods sweeter. This can be the sugar added to cereals or the syrup in your cup of coffee.
Unlike foods that naturally contain sugar, those with added sugar offer no nutritional value. It significantly raises calorie content sans the nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamins, or minerals. It’s also digested by the body quickly so it’s not a lasting source of energy.
Excess sugar has been linked to weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease due to high triglyceride levels.
It’s hard to avoid sugar. But we can control our sugar intake by choosing better sugars.
Processing removes the nutrition in foods. But because these sugar alternatives are not as processed as refined sugar, they retain nutrients. They also have lower carbon footprints compared to highly processed sugars, making them better for the environment.
1. Raw honey
Raw honey comes from the honeycomb. It’s a sweet liquid that contains bee pollen, beeswax, and bee propolis.
Regular honey undergoes heavy pasteurization. Much of the beneficial bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants of honey are destroyed in this process. In contrast, raw honey goes through light straining, removing only the physical impurities but keeping the nutrients. And while it contains high fructose levels, it has a lower glycemic index and has antiseptic and anti-allergy properties.
Stevia is a plant extract that has little to no calories. It’s also about 200 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you need less of it to sweeten your food or drinks. However, when highly refined, stevia loses its potential health benefits.
Coconut nectar comes from the sap of the coconut blossoms, not the fruit. The sap is heated and naturally occurring sugars help to caramelize it until sweet, sticky nectar is left. Coconut sugar is the dried, crystallized version of coconut nectar.
Both coconut nectar and coconut sugar have low glycemic index, are rich in potassium and electrolytes, and contain inulin fiber which improves glucose levels and digestive health.
If you must stick with cane sugar, go for certified organic options like Alter Trade’s Mascobado Sugar. This Naturland-certified sugar is nurtured in eco-friendly farms so you get aromatic and tasty sugar that is naturally processed.
Just remember, these alternatives are still considered added sugars. You can enjoy them as long as you consume in – you guessed it — moderation.