- Sugar – what it really is
- Natural equivalents of sugar
- Which substitutes are better to avoid?
Sugar – what it really is
Sugar is sucrose produced in Poland from sugar beets. It is highly caloric – 100 g provides 405 kcal. However, these are so-called empty calories, because sugar does not provide us with any additional nutrients except energy. It is recommended that the amount of sugar does not exceed 10% of the daily energy ration for a given person. Sugar consumed in excess may cause, among others tooth decay, overweight and obesity, and diet-related diseases, e.g. diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension or kidney disease. It is worth to learn about natural alternatives to ordinary white sugar, which will be much better for our health.
Natural equivalents of sugar
Let’s look at some of the most popular and the most easily available natural counterparts of sugar.
In 100 g it contains approx. 325 kcal. In Poland, it is the most popular replacement for sugar. It is hardly surprising – it is easily available, and therefore cheap. Known for generations as a means of strengthening immunity, accelerating wound healing, reduces cough, lowers blood pressure, as well as the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. Manuka honey, in turn, is used not only to treat wounds and ulcers. As you can see, honey not only contains fewer calories, but also brings a number of other health benefits. The honey can be successfully added not only to tea during colds, but it can also sweeten other products, such as coffee. Equally tasty, but much healthier.
Attention – it is worth remembering!
In the case of diabetics, the reports are ambiguous. On the one hand, honey improves the lipid profile, however, as a medium with a fairly high IG, used in excess may make it difficult to control glycemia. Certainly it is better tolerated than sucrose, but scientific reports advise not to exceed the daily portion of honey in the amount of 30 g. In case of doubt, it is worth consulting the honey issue with a diabetologist or a dietician.
Stevia is a plant native to South America. It does not contain calories. It is even 300 times sweeter than regular sugar. For centuries she was in Brazil and Paraguay used in folk medicine, but in the world for many years stevia was considered by experts as a carcinogen. Only in 2011, based on new research, it was recognized that stevia is safe. Steviol glycosides and Stevioside are two compounds responsible for high stevia sweetness. It is worth noting that the steviozide inhibits the absorption of sugar in the intestine, so its increase after ingestion in blood is smaller. Thus, it has a positive effect on glycemic control in the body. In addition, the steviozide lowers blood pressure because it has a diuretic effect and relaxes the walls of blood vessels. The stevia added to the dishes does not change their IG, thanks to which it suppresses postprandial glucose – so it can be used by diabetics. It has antibacterial properties, which prevents tooth decay.
Attention – it is worth remembering!
For available shop products, which are described as stevia, producers often add maltodextrin, which is a carrier of taste, but at the same time contains calories. It is therefore necessary to carefully read the label before buying to choose a good quality product that will fulfill your task. It is also worth remembering that stevia is not very well suited for baking, especially on the basis of yeast.
Derived from the bark of a birch tree. It has high antibacterial and antifungal properties, thanks to which it works against caries. It has a low glycemic index and contains about 240 kcal in 100 g of product. Xylitol inhibits gastric emptying, stabilizes glycemia, so it can be used by diabetics because it is metabolized without insulin. It also increases the absorption of calcium in the intestines.
Attention – it is worth remembering!
Xylitol is not suitable for baking, especially on the basis of yeast, due to its antifungal properties. In addition, it may induce a laxative effect in excess, which is why it must be used with moderation, especially in children. Remember that it is dangerous for our pets – dogs are particularly sensitive to its effects and it can be lethal for them.
It has practically no caloric value (0.2 kcal / g), it does not affect glycaemia. Its sweetness is about 80% of the sweetness of ordinary sugar. It is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, it is excreted unchanged. Safe for diabetics. It has a zero glycemic index and it has a beneficial effect on the endothelium of the blood vessels.
Erythritol is also used to remove plaque, it prevents tooth decay. It is more delicate than xylitol and does not cause discomfort from the digestive system. The above suggestions are an interesting alternative for people who love a sweet taste, but at the same time want to eat healthy. However, it is worth remembering that the presented sweeteners, although they are often calorie-free, should not be misused. Contrary to appearances, the information itself for the brain that we eat something sweet, can fuel our appetite and cause that we want to eat more. It is therefore worth trying to completely give up the sweetening of dishes, and treat the indicated exchangers as a last resort in the case of, for example, baking.
Which substitutes are better to avoid?
There are many products on the market that are an alternative to regular sugar. Manufacturers praise their products as better and healthier than regular sugar. However, it is worth approaching these declarations with a large amount of reserve, especially for the following substances.
Several years ago it was indicated as a great sugar exchanger for diabetics. Today we know how wrong and wrong it was. Fructose, above all, does not cause a feeling of fullness – so it works like a perpetuum mobile, causing us to feel like more and more sweet.
It significantly influences the development of obesity, gout, tooth decay, lipidogram disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. It can also damage the liver and cause it to become greasy. It is worth remembering that the popular glucose-fructose syrup is fructose. So let’s try to avoid fructose in the form added to the product, especially for non-alcoholic beverages. It is definitely better to consume it in an unprocessed form in fruits that have many other valuable ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
It contains a lot of sugar, which significantly affects postprandial glycemia due to the high IG. The high calorie content (about 30 kcal / 100 g) makes it not recommended for people who are on a diet or struggling with metabolic diseases.
Both maple syrup and agave syrup, even though they contain minerals, are a good source of fructose and sucrose. They are therefore not recommended as a sugar exchanger for everyday use.
Each of the presented alternatives has its pros and cons. In the case of people struggling with specific health problems, it is worth consulting the choice of a sugar substitute with a doctor or a dietician.
However, it is definitely not worth using substitutes in the form of syrups, fructose and molasses. First of all, it’s worth realizing that sweetening and getting used to eating sweets can be unlearnened. Sugar is like a drug to us – it gives us the feeling of pleasure by releasing serotonin, thanks to which we feel relaxed and calm. Unfortunately, the appetite grows as we eat and the more sweet we eat, the more we feel like it. It is therefore worth trying to break up with sweetening of meals and liquids. However, if we are big geniuses and can not imagine a day without coffee with sugar, choose a healthier alternative for us in the form of replacements presented in the above-mentioned article.