As I have made the personal commitment to give up the use of Refined Sugar 99% of the time (oh yes.. even my baking.. eek) I started a bit of research to gather a better comprehensive understanding of Natural Sugars. I have spent a vast amount of time starring at the grocery store shelves in the past feeling a little aimless wondering how these sugars differed. I thought that I might pass on my new found knowledge by providing a list of the Sugar's I researched and the Pro's and Con's of each! These statements do not reflect my opinions- rather they are just what research provided..
Here we go.. In no particular order:
Stevia : is is a small shrub like perennial plant which belongs to sunflower family. The PROS: is is a small shrub like perennial plant which belongs to sunflower family. A few studies have shown that stevia may lower elevated blood pressure levels. There is also research that shows antibacterial properties of Stevia may help with gingivitis, cavities, tooth decay and mouth sores. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than Cane sugar yet it will not affect your Blood sugar levels. Stevia is a good choice if you are trying to watch your weight as it is Calorie Free! CONS: If consumed in Large amounts, Stevia can cause stomach issues- including gas. There are studies out that that say Stevia may be a form of Carcinogen and may have a contraceptive effect- this has not been yet proven.
Xylitol: is a sugar that is found in fruits and some vegetables and is used as a common sugar substitute. Pros: It is about as sweet as sugar, but only 1/3 of the calories. It is used mainly as a sugar in chewing gums, because it supposedly produces fewer cavities than sugar gum and reduces plaques. Xylitol may help control yeast, such as thrush and has less of an impact on blood sugar. Xylitol is notoriously hard to convert to fat and has a minuscule effect on insulin levels in the body; this makes it very appealing to diabetics, bodybuilders or anyone trying to diet away the pounds. It also has a lower caloric and carbohydrate content. CONS: I really did not come across any cons- other than potential stomach discomfort if Xylitol is eaten in excess.
Raw Agave Nectar: It is important for you to read the label, and buy only raw agave nectar. The raw nectar is heated at temperatures below 118 degrees, which means all the natural enzymes are left intact, and no additives or other enzymes are added. But even the raw agave has its pros and cons. PROS: in general, agave nectar is better than refined sugar, and by using it as a substitution for refined sugar you will reduce your calorie intake. When comparing the calories between the two, you will find that they both contain the same amount per teaspoon. But because agave is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar; you will not need as much, thereby you can reduce your calories. If you are Diabetic you may want to consider agave because it has such a low glycemic index. This is due to the high levels of fructose in it which are not as easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Agave contains small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. CONS: Some studies suggest that if you are Pregnant you should consume agave with caution, as some species of agave contain anordin and dinordin steroids, which can lead to a miscarriage. Even though agave does not spike blood sugar levels, it does make its way into the bloodstream as triglycerides These can cause the arteries to harden, and eventually may cause heart attacks and strokes. Therefore it is suggested to avoid Agave if you have heart problems.
Sucanat: is essentially pure dried sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated and cooled at which point the small brown grainy crystals are formed. Sucanat is generally accepted as a substitute for Brown Sugar. Unlike regular brown sugar, sucanat is grainy instead of crystalline. PROS: It’s not as highly processed as white sugar. It can be used as a one-for-one replacement for refined sugar. Sucanat retains trace amounts of molasses’ nutrients. CONS: Although less refined, it’s still sugar, with all of its inherent problems -it offers only empty calories, it’s problematic for people with certain health problems such as diabetics. Sucanat, dried cane syrup and evaporated cane juice have the same glycemic index as sugar.
Brown Rice Syrup: is simply cultured rice and enzymes. PROS: Mostly a complex carbohydrate, brown rice syrup breaks down slower in the body than sugar and thus provides a steadier supply of energy. CONS: Brown rice syrup is only slightly lower than sugar on the glycemic index. It is treated with Barley which makes it unsafe for Celiacs and the Gluten Intolerant.
Honey: PROS: Honey contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and it never spoils. The vitamin and mineral content of honey depends on the type of flowers used for apiculture. Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and hence it can be used as a natural antiseptic. Though honey has more calories than sugar, honey when consumed with warm water helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. CONS: Honey has 64 calories per tablespoon. Honey should not be given to infants. Local honey can affect some with seasonal allergies negatively.
Molasses: PROS: Sweet molasses or light molasses is the liquid left after the first extraction of sugar crystals. Blackstrap molasses is the liquid left after the last extraction of sugar crystals, and has a stronger, bittersweet flavor and is richer in potassium, calcium, iron, and B vitamins than sweet molasses. Both sweet molasses and blackstrap molasses are 70 percent sucrose. Sweet molasses is an excellent substitute for brown sugar. Blackstrap Molasses has a higher antioxidant capacity that Honey or Agave. Opt for unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses. CONS: With its strong distinct somewhat bitter flavor it can be hard to use.
Palm Sugar (Coconut Sugar): was originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm, the date palm . Now it is also made from Coconut Palms. The taste of pure coconut palm sugar resembles that of brown sugar, yet with more rounded caramel and butterscotch notes, without the metallic ending flavor that brown sugar has. It has a rich flavor. For cooking purposes, it has a very low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature. This makes it a suitable sweetener for confectioners. PROS: Coconut Palm Sugar has an extremely low glycemic index and is low fructose. Making it a safer choice for Diabetics and for those looking to watch their weight. an extremely high nutrient content- rich in B vitamins. Check out THIS article for more nutritional facts. (there are many more pro's) CONS: As palm sugar is newer to the American Market it can be more costly. Keep a watchful eye for fillers mixed in (such as refined sugars) to cut cost.
Date Sugar: Date sugar is a natural sweetener produced by powdering or grinding the chopped and dried dates. It is not processed. Date sugar has approximately 40% sucrose, 30% glucose and 30% fructose. It is light brown in color, has a very sweet taste, and a grainy texture. PROS: Can be used in baking where the recipe does not require melting of sugar. One cup of refined sugar can be replaced by about two-thirds of date sugar. Date sugar can be seen as tiny brown specks in the baked goods, but does not impart any peculiar taste. Good source of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium, which are essential co-factors in many enzymatic reactions in the body and are essential to maintain proper metabolic processes of the body. Good source of potassium; this along with low amounts of sodium helps to maintain blood pressure and reduces water retention.Moderate source of B-group vitamins and a good source of magnesium. CONS: It may cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, so diabetics have to be cautious and use it in moderation. It does not melt and can clump, so cannot be used as a natural table sweetener.
Turbinado: Raw turbinado sugar is made by pressing the sugar cane plant to extract its juice. Once extracted, the juice is heated until it forms crystals which are spun to remove water and form the large, light brown sugar crystals that are characteristic of the finished product. Turbinado sugar crystals can be used as a substitute for brown sugar or white sugar PROS: Most references say that raw turbinado sugar is a healthier choice because it’s less processed. it’s slightly lower in calories than granulated sugar. Raw turbinado sugar has 144 calories per quarter cup, compared to granulated sugar which has 194 calories. It contains trace amount of minerals. CONS: Turbinado sugar does undergo some processing to produce the finished product and loses about two-thirds of its molasses content. When added to foods, it affects blood sugar levels in much the same way as regular, granulated sugar. Even though it’s less refined than granulated sugar, it has undergone some processing and cannot truly be called an unrefined sugar.
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and opinions on this sugary matter! As well as positive and negative experiences from using these different sugars.
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