Should we be adding sweetness to our diet?
We all know that we should limit the amount of sugars and sweeteners that we intake into our system to maintain a truly healthy body. However, most people crave a little bit of something sweet from time to time. So how can we ensure that when we do indulge our sweet side, we don’t send our bodies into a nose dive?
There are now many alternatives to sucrose (derived traditionally from cane/corn). Most of us are familiar with sucralose, and aspartame, the ‘artificial’ sweeteners, but these are no longer the only options available. When wishing to reduce your calorie intake from sweeteners, some of the available alternatives may assist with a weight loss program. Listed below are some of the options currently widely used and their benefits.
Stevia has quickly become a staple of the food industry for providing lower calorie sweetness from a naturally derived source. It’s available in a number of different forms and can be used on most occasions when a sweetener is called for. The advantage to Stevia is that it has a higher degree of ‘sweetness’ than sucrose delivers which means a smaller amount can be used to obtain the same level of sweetness and the benefit is a calorie saving. There are other benefits as well, there is increasing evidence to suggest that stevia use can regulate blood sugar and insulin levels and lower blood pressure. Sweet news indeed!
Examples Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol, these are popular as sweeteners because they are almost entirely calorie free. Erythritol and Xylitol are most commonly found in crystalline granular form. These sweeteners are derived from plants and fruits, so are natural as well as the extremely low calorie. Xylitol is often used in products such as toothpastes as a sweetener because unlike sucrose, it has no negative impact on dental health. Unlike sucrose, Xylitol also has a negligible effect on blood sugar and insulin secretion, has a low glycemic index and reportedly helps prevent ear and upper respiratory tract infections and may even help increase bone density. Erythritol is reported to have similar properties although not as well documented at this time.
Coconut sugar delivers a lower calorie count than traditionally produced sucrose and is normally minimally processed to provide a more natural product that has a pleasant caramel flavor. It is lower on the glycemic index than sucrose derived from cane/corn and does have some nutritional value containing trace levels of the minerals; Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium.
Honey is a very traditional sweetener, and contains antioxidant properties. Honey is produced naturally by bees and is a sustainable harvest. The maintenance of honey bee swarms is always done in controlled environments. This way the honey bee can continue to provide a unique and important environmental role that is essential for sustaining agriculture.
Maple Syrup is similar to honey in that this is a very traditional product that is derived by a very natural process. In this case the product is produced from the sap of trees and is extracted by gravity, and is minimally processed. Maple syrup has some antioxidant properties and contains the essential minerals Manganese, Zinc and trace amounts of Calcium, Potassium and Iron.
Another natural and traditional sweetener from South America. The Yacon looks similar to the sweet potato and has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It is lower in calories than sucrose from cane/palm because a lot of the sweetness in the syrup is derived from fructooligosaccharides that the human digestive system is unable to process, so it passes through our system. Although they can’t be digested, they can and do feed the friendly bacteria our body needs in the large intestine. This process also produces short-chain fatty acids that are thought to have an anti-obesity effect.
Agave syrup is a product derived from the agave plant which is a succulent plant traditionally grown in South America and incidentally is also used to make Tequila. The syrup is extracted using a process that is similar to the production of corn syrup. The syrup is very sweet and therefore a smaller amount is required which can reduce your calorie intake compared to sucrose.
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