sugar

Day 9 of our 30-day nutrition challenge is introducing you to sugar alternatives – it’s easy to keep reaching for the caster sugar in baking or the granulated sugar in hot drinks, but now’s the chance to try a different type of sugar which has a better nutritional value than the standard white refined stuff.

Sugar (sucrose) is “empty calories” it has no nutrition value which means you may gain weight but with no nutrient benefits. Sucrose is made up of fructose and glucose. It’s the fructose which Nutritionists focus more on as it’s 1.5 x sweeter than glucose therefore widely used in food manufacturing (High Fructose Corn Syrup) but it’s broken down in the body differently to glucose – it’s broken down in the liver and may lead to increased risk of fatty liver.

Free sugars

If we can cut down on the “free sugars” – the ones which are added to food/drinks this would be a big step forward. Free sugars should be less than 30g (7 sugar cubes) per day (a can of cola can have to 9 cubes!).

Some sugar alternatives include:

  • Fruit
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Stevia

Fruit

Adding an overripe banana rather than sugar to muffins or sponge cakes is the perfect way sweeten cakes. How about experimenting with freezing chopped banana and blending it with frozen berries to make an ice-cream alternative – much lower in sugar than the standard ice-cream.

Coconut sugar

We’ve not found this in supermarkets yet, but it can be bought online. It tastes good in hot drinks, and it contains calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and has a lower Glycaemic Index (54) compared to glucose (100) which is a big positive if you are type-2 diabetic as the effect of coconut sugar on blood glucose levels is less dramatic.

Honey

It’s natural and considered good to include if you suffer from hayfever, but honey has a relatively high fructose level.

Agave

A natural product from a Mexican plant, but it is heavily processed and higher in fructose than honey.

Stevia

300 x sweeter than sugar and made from a plant leaf, plus is doesn’t impact blood glucose levels or contain any calories. However, many stevia brands are combined with other sugar alternatives and sugar alcohols which unfortunately in some people may cause digestive problems like bloating and diarrhoea. A 2019 study also questioned whether stevia altered gut bacteria, however this was a study conducted on rats.

Our money is on coconut sugar as a good switch away from sucrose, and fruit (fresh, frozen or tinned) in baking and cooking wherever possible. Remembering the fruit counts towards your 5-a-day!

We’ve written a great Sugar alternatives blog for further information, and you can also find out more in our webinars, and our Bitesize Nutrition podcasts.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think using #nutritionchallenge30

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