Refined sugar is completely void of nutritional value and with the increasing media attention on the dangers of the white stuff, many alternatives have been popping up in the supermarkets, but what are they? And are they actually any better for us?
Here we summarise the key information you need to know on the most popular alternatives.
Agave syrup is twice as sweet as sugar, so you need less of it to get an impact. However, at 90% fructose (sugar is only 50%) it should still be used in moderation as excessive fructose can result in insulin resistance and put additional stress on the liver. Overall, it is not the best alternative to use.
Stevia is zero-calorie granulated sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant. A whopping 300 times sweeter than sugar with no carbohydrates or fructose, it is quickly becoming the most popular sugar replacement.
Honey contains a large proportion of glucose, the simplest form of sugar, therefore a good option for post workout snacks. It is still 40% fructose but it is also high in enzymes, anti-oxidants and with antibacterial properties it has much more nutritional value than sugar.
Maple syrup also contains anti-oxidant compounds and can give the immune system a little boost with its zinc and manganese content. It is an ideal replacement in baking.
Date syrup, as the name suggests, is made from dates and therefore has the same health benefits as the fruit. It is a good source of iron, magnesium and potassium.
Coconut palm sugar has a relatively low GI (around 35) compared to sugar (around 60) due to its inulin content which can slow down sugar absorption. It has a caramel taste and can be used as a direct replacement for sugar. It also contains 16 amino acids along with potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and B vitamins.
Whichever substitute you choose don’t forget to check the ingredient lists on bottles for any added nasties that may have been sneaked in and always shop organic!
It's also really important to try reducing your sugar intake wherever possible, even when using more nutritionally valubable substitutes!