sugar

Sugar is definitely addictive, but there are healthier alternatives.

Day 9 of our 30-day nutrition challenge is introducing you to sugar alternatives – it’s easy to reach for the caster sugar when baking or adding sugar to hot drinks, but now’s the chance to try a different type of sugar which has  nutritional value compared to 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 or HFCS) however, 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 which is a bigger problem than many of us are aware (it’s also called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or NAFLD).

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 ice-cream – much lower in sugar than the standard ice-cream.

Coconut sugar

This can be bought from supermarkets or 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 so not conclusive for humans.

Our money is on coconut sugar as a good switch 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. If you’re new to podcasts you can listen free without registration on your phone or PC by clicking on the podcast link in this paragraph. You can also find Bitesize Nutrition on iTunes & Spotify.

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

A reminder:

  • The information in this article is for educational purposes and should not replace medical advice.
  • The information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
  • If you have a diagnosed medical condition, you should consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet, and;
  • Some supplements may interact with medications and you should check with your GP before commencing any supplement programme.
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