If you suffer from diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, candida, autoimmune disease, bacterial, viral or fungal infections you absolutely need to cut it out entirely until your body is back in balance. Sugar does all sorts of bad things to you and if you are already unwell it hugely reduces your chances of getting back into balance and feeling better. However, if you are fit and healthy your body can tolerate moderate levels of good quality sugar.
The list of reasons that we should avoid sugar is endless and fairly depressing. Some of the biggest red flags are detailed below:
Fact: Milk contains lactose which contributes an acidic pH to the body in much the same way as sugar does. For this reason, you may not be getting as much calcium as you think when drinking dairy milk – the acid leaches the dairy out of your bones and back into the blood!
It is important to consider the context within which you wish to use sugar alternatives. Every one has a varying flavor profile, glycemic index, fructose content, nutritional and culinary properties. For example, date sugar has a slight molasses taste and is brilliant for baking but cannot be dissolved in water so is utterly useless for your morning coffee. Similalrly raw local honey is packed with additional nutritional properties (it even helps to ward-off hay-fever!) but has a high GI and freezes badly.
As a general rule of thumb, when using a sugar substitute you should use a solid sweetener where the originally recipe required it – for example replace white table sugar with granulated coconut sugar – and a liquid sugar where the original recipe required that – for example replace glucose syrup with brown rice syrup. If you choose to substitute a liquid sweetener for a solid sweetener in a baking recipe – for example agave for cane sugar – then you should reduce the content of the other liquids in your recipe by 25% to compensate for this.
To help you better understand the topic of sugar substitutes here are some of the key parameters you should look at when comparing your options:
Glycemic Index (GI)
This is a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar levels. Pure glucose has a GI of 100 so if a food has a GI of 50, it raises blood sugar half as much as pure glucose. The GI index of table sugar is 60. Low GI foods are those with a rating below 55, medium are between 56 and 69, and high are above 70. You should target low GI foods.
Tip – adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your meal helps to balance blood sugar levels and eliminate spikes. A very good advert for cinnamon buns if ever there was one!
Glycemic Load (GL)
This is defined as the grams of available carbohydrate in a food multiplied by that food’s glycemic index. It effectively estimates the impact of carbohydrate consumption using the glycemic index while taking into account the amount of carbohydrate that is consumed. For example, watermelon has a high glycemic index but a low glycemic load. You should target low glycemic load foods.
This is the proportion of fructose in any particular food. The liver is the only organ in the body that can effectively metabolise significant quantities of fructose – excess fructose damages can damage the liver and hence fructose levels should always be kept to a minimum. Regular white table is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. You should target low fructose content foods.
Molasses, coconut sugar, date sugar, maple crystals, stevia and xylitol.
Agave, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, date paste, barley malt syrup, yacon syrup and pomegranate molasses.
I have outlined the properties of coconut sugar (my personal favourite) in the table below. You might wish to extend this table to compare and contrast other sugar alternatives in the future…
Source Produced from the sap of the coconut palm’s flower buds
Description Light brown granules with a flavour similar to that of rich brown sugar
Sweetness Equivalent level to sugar
Fructose content ~ 40%
Nutritional extras Contains amino acids, prebiotics, short chain fatty acids, polyphenols, antioxidants, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and B vitamins.
Culinary uses Can be substituted for traditional white table sugar in the same ratio for all recipes.
Glycemic index 35 – contains a fibre called inulin which slows glucose absorption
Glycemic load 1.4
Vegan friendly Yes
Retail Price £7.85 per 500g (Biona Organic)
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