Quitting sugar is no easy task, everywhere we look we see something that contains either refined sugar or harmful artificial sweeteners. Processed sugar is commonly found in desserts that include cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate, as well as fizzy drinks. Shockingly refined sugar is also found in food items that we assume are healthy! For example some cereals, yogurt, granola, sports drinks, salad dressings, pasta sauce and condiments such as tomato sauce.
Regular refined sugar is stripped of nutrients in it’s processing, and spikes blood sugar levels rapidly. Consequently resulting in blood sugar slumps that may affect energy levels, mood, hormones and increase sugar cravings. In order to reduce rapid blood sugar fluctuations consume sweet treats only after a protein rich meal, or after eating a protein based snack such as a small handful of almonds. Opting for natural sweet alternatives means that the hormone insulin doesn’t have to work so hard to get rid of excess sugar in the bloodstream.
Xylitol: Xylitol is traditionally manufactured from birch tree bark, and some is now made from corn husks. This natural sugar alternative looks almost identical to refined white sugar, although at closer inspection the granules are finer. This means that xylitol tastes twice as sweet as regular sugar, so you don’t have to use as much sweetener in a recipe – only use half the amount of xylitol required in a recipe to replace refined sugar.
Interestingly unlike processed sugar, xylitol does not require insulin to be metabolized, and therefore has a very minimal affect on blood sugar levels. For this reason xylitol is often suggested as a sweet replacement for diabetics. In addition this low calorie alternative has been reported to reduce tooth decay, as researchers believe that it prevents bacteria sticking to teeth.
Coconut Sugar: Coconut sugar, another natural sugar is made by dehydrating the sap of the coconut plant. It contains various nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium – these minerals are essential for good heart function and for regulating water content in the body. Coconut sugar also contains iron, zinc, and calcium famously known to help improve bone health. In addition, this natural sugar has a much lower glycemic index than regular white sugar, meaning that it doesn’t raise insulin levels as much as refined sugar.
This brown looking sugar has a distinct flavour, similar to regular brown sugar. So where dessert recipes require the use of brown sugar, coconut sugar can be used as a healthy alternative.
Maple Syrup: Interestingly, most of the world’s maple syrup comes from Canada. So there can’t be anything more Canadian than maple syrup, this amazing sweet syrup not only tastes tantalizing, but it’s also good for us in moderation. Maple syrup is extracted from the maple tree by boiling the sugary sap found in the tree. Research reports that maple syrup has high levels of antioxidants that help to boost the immune system. Nutrients such as zinc and manganese have been found in maple syrup, as well as small amounts of potassium and calcium.
In addition, scientists have reported that maple syrup may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Powerful compounds found in the syrup have been found to inhibit the enzymes involved in the conversion of carbohydrates to sugars. Consequently, helping to manage the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
Yacon Syrup: Yacon is a root vegetable, similar to a potato or sweet potato – the syrup looks similar to maple syrup, only it’s thicker in consistency. This delicious syrup is extracted from the roots of the yacon plant, a tuberous root vegetable.
Yacon Syrup is thought to benefit the digestive system due to its prebiotic properties, meaning that this delicious syrup is rich in good bacteria. The Syrup is also fiber rich, and as a result has been found to encourage bowel movements, therefore reducing constipation. In terms of weight loss, the syrup may be used as a weight loss tool alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle. This is because yacon syrup is thought to speed up the metabolic rate, and help curb the appetite.