Friday, February 28, 2014

Cleaner Sugar Substitutes


Wondering what is out there when it comes to sweeteners? I grew up wanting to add the sweet stuff to my cereal, then my tea, and for awhile I was adding it to my coffee. Now, monitor the sugar  intake of my son, who is a type 1 diabetic. We have definitely learned a bit about sugar in the past 1-1/2 years!

I include a little information about the glycemic index of a few of these substitutes. Glycemic index is the ability and rate of a particular food to raise blood sugars. A food higher on the glycemic index will raise blood sugars faster than a food that is lower on the glycemic index. So, on your journey to becoming a more health conscious individual, here are some sugar alternatives that you may have not known about already, and some that you know about.

As with just about everything we eat, there has been research that shows pros and cons of foods. Oftentimes, the results from one study can contradict the results from another. If you hear the same results often, you may be more likely to believe it. Also, listen to your body, and the affects that food can have on it, as well. For the longest time, the artificial sweetener sucralose, which also goes under the name of Splenda, was causing me horrible migraines. The following are just a few options to consider as replacements for white sugar.

1) Agave-most agave comes from the blue agave plant. This sweetener is sweeter than sugar, so you will want to use less than you would of sugar. It is also lower on the glycemic index.

2) Rice amasake-made from fermented brown or white rice (or mix of both). This sweetener looks like yogurt, and adds some texture, but not as much sweetness as sugar. You will have to experiment to see how much you want to use (a few recipes I've seen call for 1-2 cups, but maybe start with less).

3) Brown rice syrup-has a higher glycemic index than sugar, so you will probably use less than sugar.

4) Barley malt-not as sweet as sugar, but it causes lower spikes in blood sugar, and can also be beneficial for the texture of baked goods.

5) Date sugar-made from finely chopped dates, so adds fiber, but is more expensive than sugar. Date sugar doesn't melt like regular sugar, but can replace equal parts brown and white sugar. It may appear as small black flecks in baked goods.

6) Fruit juice concentrate-made from fruit juice that has been cooked down. You can find this in the frozen section.

7) Evaporated palm sugar-made from coconut palm blossom juice. Substitute equal parts of white sugar, and enjoy because it looks, tastes, and melts like white sugar. It's also low glycemic index.

8) Evaporated sugarcane juice-may be very similar in nutritional content as white sugar, so use caution. This can be used in equal parts.

9) Stevia-a sweet herb from South America, and is several hundred times sweeter than white sugar, but with zero calories. It can be found as a powder or liquid extract. 1 tsp. replaces 1 cup of sugar.

10) Xylitol-comes from a birch tree, and is almost as sweet as sugar, but fewer calories. It also is lower glycemic index. It's been shown to promote healthier teeth and prevents cavities (you can find it in gum), but in larger doses, it can cause GI issues.

11) Yacon syrup or powder-made from yacon roots, which are South American vegetables, tastes similar to molasses, and doesn't elevate blood sugar levels.

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