Sometimes, when you need to replace white sugar or artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, for healthier options, you may not know what natural sweeteners are on the market, or which one you should choose.
It’s true that natural sweeteners contain more calories than artificial ones, but we also must know that regular use of natural sweeteners will provide us several nutritional benefits and interesting medicinal properties, as discussed below.
Why should we do without refined sugar?
Commonly known as “table sugar” or “white sugar”, refined sugar is considered as an “empty calories” food, because when we compare it to another foods rich in carbohydrates (for example, fruit), in its composition there is a complete deficiency of proteins, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, although it isn’t mandatory to dispense totally with this food, unless prescribed, I advise you not to abuse refined sugar because it can lead to a lower intake of more nutritious foods and, therefore, could cause organism failure and could lead to obesity due to the increased energy content of the diet. Don’t forget that for every tablespoon (10 grams) of refined sugar we’re adding about 40 calories to our body.
Saccharin … yes or not?
As we know, it’s the oldest artificial sweetener ever used, but its use is accompanied by controversy, as now I will tell you… Saccharin has been used for years to sweeten beverages and low-calorie foods, and has been consumed by diabetic people for decades, because it doesn’t alters the sugar levels in the bloodstream. However, the controversy about its consumption is due to a Canadian study made in 1977, which showed the existence of tumors in the bladder of rats. Nevertheless, none of the several studies that have been conducted subsequently has proved a direct relationship between saccharin use and the incidence of cancer in humans. Anyway, to be honest, I would rather advise you to choose the natural sweetener that you prefer, although the caloric intake is higher.
Is brown sugar a healthy option?
Brown sugar, even though it’s obtained from sugar cane, is presented as a healthier option to sweeten your drinks and desserts because it doesn’t suffer any refining process and, therefore, should retain all their nutrients intact. We can recognize a good quality cane sugar if it’s has a sticky texture; this is the main indicator that it hasn’t been refined. Although a tablespoon of brown sugar brings us about 37 calories, also contains B vitamins, minerals like potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium and, of course, a very pleasant licorice flavor.
Can I sweeten with honey?
Of course! Many and widely known are the benefits of honey to our body. The natural honey is rich in carbohydrates (fructose, glucose, sucrose, maltose,…). It also presents B vitamins, vitamin C, D and E, and minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus and potassium. On the other hand, honey is an important source of antioxidants (flavonoids and phenolic), and we can find in its composition the 8 essential amino acids, which the human body can’t produce itself.
One tablespoon of honey provides us about 33 calories, but keep in mind that taking small amounts of this wonderful delicacy can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce metabolic stress and promote sleep recovery.
Do you know Agave syrup?
It’s a natural sweetener derived from a species of cactus native of Mexico. Thanks to its low glycemic index (term that we could discuss extensively about in another article), Agave syrup is an ideal choice for diabetic people because it doesn’t cause drastic increases in blood glucose. If anything characterizes Agave syrup it is, crearly, its great sweetening power, that’s why we’ll need a smaller amount of this syrup to sweeten our drinks and desserts. Remenber that 10 grams of Agave syrup give us about 34 calories.
They’re natural sweeteners extracted from cereals such as rice, barley and corn, among others, as well as fruits and berries through a fermentation process. They are usually very soft and very suitable for people with insufficient digestive power (elderly, sick people, babies, …) thanks to its high content of digestive enzymes. Surely, they are healthier than any artificial sweetener, but we must be careful in case of diabetic people because molasses raise the blood glucose level in the same way sugar does. And equally, we must pay attention in case of celiac disease. In these case, we only can take rice and corn syrups if they doesn’t contain in their composition traces of another cereals with gluten.
Try Stevia !!!
This wonderful natural sweetener is obtained from a shrub native of Paraguay and Brazil, Stevia rebaudiana, and its leaves are 30 times sweeter than sugar. In fact, is in its leaves where we can find all its therapeutic properties. Stevia is an ideal option for those people for whom, due to diabetes or another medical reason, sugar is contraindicated, because regular consumption of this plant helps to regulate blood glucose levels. Actually, Stevia exerts a hypoglycemic action in people with diabetes type 2 (non-insulin dependent).
Moreover, it’s a totally calorie-free sweetener (contributes zero calories to our diet), a fact that makes it highly recommended in weight loss treatments as well as when you need to follow diets for a long time. In fact, if we use Stevia regularly, it will help us to reduce food cravings and to drecease appetite for sweets and fats.
Stevia is also beneficial for people with high blood pressure because it has a mild hypotensive and cardiotonic effect: Stevia regulates tension and the heartbeat. Moreover, it’s an exceptional antioxidant (about 7 times more potent than green tea) as well as a mild diuretic, which helps to reduce uric acid levels.
As a sweetener, you can find it as dried leaf powder or translucent white liquid. The healthiest option, though more expensive, is to consume Stevia (powder or liquid) from organic farming, because this is the only way to ensure that during processing masked sugars or artificial ingredients haven’t been added.