With everything that we hear about sugar and what its excessive consumption can cause to our bodies, along with the fact that sugar is everywhere, even in foods that we would never expect to find it (like cereals or salad dressings), we avoid adding it to our diet. Now, that it’s summer, even more actually…It is not a coincidence that I hear so many people following a new trend-challenge…that of the sugar-free month!
Sugar seems to be one of the main factors that cause obesity, dental problems, and many other chronic diseases. I imagine that you -just like me- keep discovering sweet alternatives that you can use instead of processed sugar. Shall we take a quick look at the pros and cons of some of them?
Honey, Maple or agave syrup
Honey or otherwise known as floral nectar, it is a good source of vitamins and minerals, since it contains the vitamin B complex, iron, manganese, potassium, and selenium, while it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. The enzymes it contains seem to boost our immune and digestive system. In fact, it appears that because of the calcium it contains, honey helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and low bone density.
Their consistency is very similar to that of honey and they also contain many antioxidant substances, vitamins, and minerals. Specifically, maple syrup contains manganese, zinc, calcium, and potassium. On the other hand, agave syrup has a low glycemic index and helps prevent blood sugar levels from rising abruptly. Actually, it seems to have anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties, while it contains prebiotics too. Due to their intense sweetness, we usually add a much less quantity than we do with processed sugar.
Honey contains 322 calories and 80 g sugars, maple syrup contains 260 calories and 58 g sugars, while agave syrup has 307 calories and 68 g sugars (per 100 g). As you understand, their calories and sugars are more than enough, so you should consume them reasonably too, just like sugar.
Add honey to your energy bar or to your yogurt, and try the vegan chocolate pudding as well as the Chocolate-glazed and date caramel cookies.
Pros: Coconut sugar, which comes from coconut palm tree, is also an alternative that has become widely known the past few years, mainly because of the fact that it has a lower glycemic index (35) than sugar (68), but also than honey (68) and maple syrup (63).
Cons: It definitely does not contain the nutrients of coconut itself, while it has 374 calories and 91 g sugars per 100 g. Despite its lower glycemic index, it does not seem to have any substantial difference with processed sugar; it is simply used a lot in recipes that contain processed sugar as a replacement, due to their similar texture.
Aspartame / Saccharin / Sucralose / Stevia
In case you didn’t know it…The average American gets 350 calories from sugar consumption daily. So, they should use sugar alternatives which will not add so many calories to their diets. The best options, in this case, are the non-caloric sweeteners, like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. They are used as sugar substitutes in sodas, desserts, cookies, drinks, drugs, jams, and dairy products.
Stevia's use has also become widely known, especially over the past few years. It does not give us plenty of calories, just like all the above sweeteners, and it does not raise the blood sugar levels abruptly. The difference of stevia with all of the above is that it is a natural sweetener and comes from the plant Stevia rebaudiana. In fact, it seems to have antimicrobial properties and antioxidant actions.
You should always check the recommended daily intake and not consume more than that. It is a given that sweeteners also have to be consumed reasonably and you should also keep in mind that there is still ongoing research. Some of them may have negative effects on health, as for example aspartame which should not be used by people who suffer from phenylketonuria. Keep in mind that the recommended daily intake usually appears on the packaging of each product!
Oat tarts with stevia – Try them and I believe that their flavor will amaze you.
Obesity levels constantly increase and one of the many reasons why this is observed is excessive sugar consumption. What is certain is that you should consume everything reasonably and, of course, follow a balanced diet in combination with physical activity in your everyday lives. In that way, a little sugar or some sweetener won’t affect your weight or your health in a negative way! Of course, in some special cases like diabetes mellitus, you should consult your doctor or another health professional regarding what is allowed and what is not.
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.
*The above information is based on published research findings.