Sugar, omnipresent in our modern diet, is often singled out for its negative effects on health. We know that excess consumption is notably involved in the occurrence of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even dental caries. However, this does not mean that you have to completely give up the pleasure of sweet taste to preserve your health. There are different alternatives to refined white sugar. To replace it, you have the choice between several natural sweeteners and here are them…
Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruits, beets, sugar cane, chicory, and even corn. As high in calories as sucrose (the famous refined white sugar that we all know), it nevertheless has a sweetening power 20 to 40 times greater than sugar. It therefore allows you to use much less to obtain the same sweet taste.
It is now quite easily found in the health food sections of supermarkets in powder form where it is marketed as a healthier alternative to table sugar. Fructose actually has a relatively low glycemic index compared to glucose, which means that it has a lower impact on glycemia (blood sugar level). It is particularly suitable for fruit-based recipes and its sweetening power is much better cold than hot.
Extracted from the sap of the agave plant, a Mexican cactus, agave syrup is a natural sweetener whose texture and color resemble those of honey. With fewer calories than table sugar, it has a greater sweetening power than the latter, which means that you can use less to obtain the same sweet flavor. Rich in fructose, agave syrup has the particularities of having a low glycemic index, dissolving easily, and caramelizing well.
COCONUT BLOSSOM SUGAR
Coconut blossom sugar is a natural sugar obtained by the evaporation of nectar from coconut blossoms after cooking. It is also sometimes called simply coconut sugar.
Very rich in fructose, it has a taste with deep caramel aromas, a strong sweetening power, and a low glycemic index. This sugar also contains fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, unlike refined table sugar. Even more interesting: it also contains inulin, a prebiotic that serves as a support and substrate for our microbiota.
Brown in color, this sugar is sold in the organic sections of supermarkets or in specialized stores. It is used in the same quantities as table sugar and in the same way.
PALM BLOSSOM SUGAR
Not to be confused with coconut flower sugar, palm flower sugar comes from the sap of the flowers of the Palmyra palm tree, known as “sugar palm” , which grows mainly in India and Sri Lanka.
This sand-colored sugar with caramelized notes and subtle aromas of honey and vanilla has been used for millennia in Ayurveda. Displaying a fairly low glycemic index, palm flower sugar has a high sweetening power, which makes it possible to divide the quantity of sugar normally required by two in the recipes in which it is incorporated. And, as an unrefined sugar, it is also a source of minerals and vitamins, which doesn’t spoil anything!
XYLITOL (OR BIRCH SUGAR)
A natural sweetener from the polyol family found naturally in fruits and vegetables, xylitol is extracted from birch bark or corn husks. Less caloric than table sugar, it has a sweetening power identical to the latter but which increases during cooking. We can therefore use up to half as much as table sugar in preparations that require cooking.
With its very low glycemic index, xylitol therefore constitutes a very interesting substitute for table sugar. Its neutral taste makes it possible to sweeten all preparations without denaturing them.
Note, however, that consuming more than 50g of xylitol per day can have laxative effects and can lead to some digestive disorders, such as bloating.
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, native to South America, including Paraguay and Brazil.
Stevia is naturally calorie-free and has a high sweetening power, which makes it a very interesting dietary alternative to table sugar.
Particularly indicated for people who monitor their calorie intake and people with diabetes, stevia does not increase blood sugar levels.
The only downside is that its licorice aftertaste and its slight bitterness mean that it does not please all palates.
The ultimate natural sugar, honey, is an excellent alternative to table sugar. Rich in antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals, it comes in many flavors depending on the flowers collected by the bees.
With a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, honey therefore causes a slower rise in blood sugar than the latter. For an identical sweet taste, simply replace 100 grams of sugar with 75 grams of the honey of your choice. However, be sure to choose it of good quality because low-cost honeys are often mixed with glucose to reduce manufacturing costs and therefore have no nutritional benefit.
Like xylitol, erythritol is a member of the sugar alcohol family found naturally in fruits and corn. Virtually calorie-free and with a zero glycemic index, this natural sweetener can completely replace table sugar in the same quantities as the latter. In fact, it is its molecular structure that makes it a stimulant for the tongue’s receptors sensitive to sweet taste. With erythritol, we therefore perceive a sweet flavor without the caloric intake of sugar.
Erythritol is generally well tolerated but may cause gastrointestinal upset, including bloating and diarrhea, in some sensitive individuals. These side effects are generally less common than those associated with other polyol sweeteners, such as xylitol or sorbitol.
Naturally sweet, fruits can also be used as an alternative to sucrose to sweeten yogurts, cottage cheeses, or even cake batters. Banana, apple, or pear puree can therefore be used very easily instead of table sugar.
For an even more pronounced sweet taste, it is also possible to prepare fruit jellies by stewing fruits until all their vegetation water has evaporated. Apple, pear, grapes, lychees, mango, cherries, or dates…all can be used in the preparation of fruit jellies, ideal for naturally sweetening all your desserts.
Obtained after boiling the sap of Canadian maple trees, maple syrup is a delicious alternative to sugar with rich caramel flavors. Also rich in manganese, zinc, and antioxidants, it is particularly appreciated for sweetening crepes, pancakes, and cake batters. In the latter case, you will then need to replace 100g of powdered sugar with 75 ml of maple syrup. So be sure to choose pure, unflavored maple syrup with no added sugars.