Tate & Lyle
Carst and Walker
sugar alternatives

Better than sugar? Five natural sweeteners demystified

More flavourful alternatives to white sugar abound, but are they any healthier for you? Here’s a guide to what’s actually in your sweetener of choice.


The mind-boggling array of honeys on grocery-store shelves today attests to our growing fondness for this fragrant sweetener. All honey is made by bees from the nectar of flowers, which the bees mix with enzymes in their saliva and then deposit into honeycombs made of wax secreted by female worker bees.

But is honey better for you than table sugar? From a nutritional standpoint it is a draw…..

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Stevia extract

One of the biggest drawbacks of any sugar-based sweetener — no matter how raw or organic it might be — is that it packs just as many, if not more, calories than plain-old table sugar. Stevia extract, which is derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant native to Central and South America, solves that problem: it’s both all-natural and calorie-free. “Stevia is not sugar,” notes New York University nutritional scientist Marion Nestle……

Coconut sugar

Made from the boiled, dehydrated sap of coconut trees, coconut sugar has a rich, maple-like flavour and contains trace amounts of vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. OK, so it’s no multivitamin — this naturally caramel-coloured sugar is still 70% to 79% sucrose plus an additional 3% to 9% each of fructose and glucose (the two sugars that make up sucrose) and packs 15 calories per teaspoon. But unlike its sugar-cane-derived cousins, coconut sugar does not cause your blood sugar to spike as quickly, a real plus for diabetics or anyone concerned about mood swings due to sugar overload……

Agave nectar

Extracted from the same large succulents that are used to produce Mexican tequila, agave nectar looks like honey, but pours like syrup and has a much richer flavour. It’s great in cold drinks — especially margaritas — because it doesn’t harden or crystallise like regular sugar. And it’s flavourful enough to squeeze straight from the bottle on pancakes or waffles. Available in light (neutral flavor), amber (tastes like maple syrup) and raw (processed at a lower temperature and has an even stronger taste than amber) versions, there’s a variety to suit every palate. And because it is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it, if you can muster the willpower to do so.

But here’s the rub: unlike table sugar, which has equal ratios of fructose to glucose, agave is up to 90% fructose. That’s more than you’ll find in the much-villainised high-fructose corn syrup used in sodas, which is typically a mere 55% fructose (and 45% glucose)……

Turbinado sugar & sucanat

Popularised by the ubiquitous ‘Sugar in the Raw’ brand found in every Starbucks shop and many supermarkets, the coarsely grained, light-brown turbinado sugar gets its name from the turbines that are used to process it. The “raw” name is somewhat misleading, however, since Sugar in the Raw isn’t actually raw, as in totally unrefined. Turbinado sugar is what’s left over after raw sugar cane juice has been stripped of its natural molasses and impurities, as well as its vitamins, minerals and other trace elements.

For a less-processed alternative with small amounts of nutrients in it as well, look for sucanat, which is simply dehydrated sugar cane juice. Sucanat (an abbreviation for sugar-cane-natural) has a stronger molasses flavor than refined white sugar and retains all of the nutrients found in natural sugar cane juice, including iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium. Though, as New York University nutritional scientist Marion Nestle points out: “The amounts of trace minerals in raw sugar are so small that they are nutritionally insignificant.”…..

Source: Time Healthland


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