Keeping sugar intake at low levels is absolutely key to regulating your energy levels and maintaining peak health. But where do you start if you want to cut down?
Here are some of our favourite processed sugar alternatives – keeping the “empty calories” down.
1. Coconut nectar
Coconut nectar has a low Glycaemic Index – GI 35 (versus honey at 55 and table sugars 65) so it has the benefit of being slow-release energy and as a result much less likely to leave you without sugar “highs” and “lows” that set up a vicious cycle of sugar intake. Coconut nectar has a high mineral content being a rich source of potassium, zinc and iron. It also contains some of the B vitamins, twice the iron of brown sugar, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc.
Pros: A nutritious sweetener, great in small amounts. Loved for its butterscotch flavour and creamy texture.
Cons: It is pricier than many other sweeteners.
2. Coconut Sugar
Produced from the coconut palm blossoms, coconut sugar is another low GI (35) sweetener and is mineral rich like coconut nectar. It is a low fructose sweetener.
Pros: It comes in granule form and can be substituted for regular white sugar 1:1 meaning it is easy to use and good in baking.
Cons: More expensive than cane sugar (though much more nutritious!)
3. Rice Malt Syrup
Rice Malt Syrup is made from cooked and fermented rice. It is great for a little bit of sweetener here and there for people on low/no fructose diets or FODMAPs, as its 100% fructose free. As with all sweeteners, use as a treat rather than an everyday food.
Pros: Fructose free. Less expensive than coconut sweeteners.
Cons: Very high Glycaemic Index (98). Not as nutritious as the coconut sweeteners – no iron, potassium…
Stevia is an herb, originally from South America, though it now grows throughout the world. It is naturally very sweet and considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is especially good for people with diabetes or blood-sugar issues because it contains no sugar at all. It has been used as a sweetener and medicinal herb in various cultures around the world for centuries.
Pros: Sugar free. Great alternative to artificial sweeteners.
Cons: The powdered form is highly processed and contains additives. Stick with a quality, liquid one or alternatively, keep the plant and pick leaves to use in tea etc.
5. Local, Raw Honey
Raw honey contains bee pollen, which is known to ward off infections, provide natural allergy relief (especially to pollens), and boosts overall immunity.
Pros: High antioxidant, low GI natural sweetener.
Cons: Relatively high fructose content. Not suitable for vegans.