If you are diabetic or striving hard to reduce the sugar and calories in your diet, sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners are a good alternative. Artificial sweeteners are added to many foods and beverages which are marketed as – ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’. Exactly what are these sweeteners? Which alternatives are available in the market? What are their origins and benefits? Let’s take a look.
Understanding Sugar Substitutes
Sweeteners, a good substitute for sugar, are usually obtained from naturally-occurring substances and are rather concentrated. They can also be a lot sweeter than sugar. Artificial sweeteners have a lot of appeal because they help eliminate white sugar and may add almost no or very few calories to your diet. Moreover, while cooking you require a lesser amount of sugar substitute in comparison to sugar.
Healthy sugar replacements
Honey: Raw honey is natural and provides plenty of vital nutrients such as iron and vitamin B-complex. It’s an immunity booster as well. Honey has potent anti-bacterial compounds too. It is most definitely sweet, but is rather high in calories and on the glycaemic index as well. It is best used in small quantities.
Stevia: Obtained from the leaf of a plant native to South America, Stevia is practically calorie-free and approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. You need very little of it to sweeten your drink or dish. Additionally, it does not cause drastic oscillations in the blood sugar level. At the same time, stevia is best used in moderation.
Xylitol: A sugar alcohol with sweetness comparable to sugar, it is obtained from corn or birch wood. Xylitol contains 40 % fewer calories than sugar and does not raise blood sugar levels.
Maple syrup: Sap from maple trees, boiled down into sticky syrup gives you a natural and unprocessed sweetener. It also proffers certain minerals – manganese and zinc, which boost immune health. However, it is high on calories and has a very distinct flavour.
Coconut Sugar: Obtained from the sap of the coconut palm, it contains - iron, calcium, zinc and potassium. It has a lower glycaemic index compared to sugar which is attributed to its inulin content. Inulin is a fibre which slows down the absorption of glucose. Then again, coconut sugar is high in calories. So you need to monitor the amount you consume.
Quitting sugar can be really difficult! On the other hand, given how unhealthy sugar could be for some, it is certainly worth the effort. Fortunately, there are a few low-calorie sweeteners which you could use in place of sugar.
One such viable alternative is Stevia. Manufactured from stevia herb extract, it has a low glycaemic index and is permitted for diabetics. Stevia is a sweet herb which contains no calories. It is natural and safe. A good choice is Tata NX Zero Sugar as it blends easily in hot and cold beverages and foods. It is a healthy natural alternative to sugar and you can have your occasional sweet treat without feeling anxious and guilty!
Moderation is the key though. When choosing a sugar replacement, be smart and informed! Artificial sweeteners allow you to consume sweet treats and they do help with weight management as well. However, they aren't magic pills and must be consumed in restrained amounts. Cut back on sugar by choosing natural substitutes and opt for indulgences as occasional treats.
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