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Sweeten the deal - move on from sugar to better things

08 Oct 2014

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If you’ve done your homework, you know that the biggest enemy of weight loss – and your overall health – is sugar.

(If you didn’t know that – you’re welcome.)

The carbs that we try to avoid turn to sugar in our bodies. Those ready-made products full of preservatives that we know we should stay away from (like ketchup, chocolate sauce, and so on)? They’re full of sugar in one of its many incarnations – like high fructose corn syrup – even if you can’t taste it.

So now that you know it’s sugar that’s your real enemy – what do you do about? After all, it would be a depressing world if everything sweet suddenly ceased to exist, wouldn’t it?

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The answer’s simple

First of all, don’t go running to artificial sweeteners – they can be dodgy. Just do a quick Google of the one you’re using right now.You’ll most likely bin the lot.

However, wherever possible, you can sweeten your dishes with natural sweeteners – of which there are several.

Here are just a few, listed with their potential uses. Substitute sugar with these here and there, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

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Stevia

The extracts from this all-natural plant-based sweetener can have upto 300 times the sweetness of sugar – and it has a negligible effect on blood glucose. Sound amazing? Well, a 2009 study found that stevioside and related compounds could have anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive,anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory effects. The Guarani have been using this plant for over 1,500 years, and the Brazilians and Paraguayans for hundreds of years, so you could say it’s been tried and tested.

 

Agave Nectar

A product of the agave cactus, this is something else that’s been around for thousands of years. In fact, the Aztecs claimed it was a gift from the gods. Probably because it let them cut sugar out of their diets. To make things more fun, it’s derived from the same plant as tequila. It looks and tastes similar to honey, and can be used to sweeten tea, among other things. It does have a high fructose content though, so don’t overuse it – it’s sweeter than sugar, anyway, so you’ll have to use less.

 

Honey

Chock full of antioxidants thanks to our friends the bees, honey can be used semi-medicinally in soothing teas to soothe the flu or a bad throat, or just as a sweetener in pretty much anything from a smoothie to a salad dressing. It’s pretty amazing over yoghurt as well.

 

Palm Sugar

There are a variety of these sugars, and aside from being sweeteners, they’re full of various minerals, like potassium in coconut sugar. A couple of spoons of this in your coffee, tea, smoothie or cookies, and you’re good to go.

 

Maple Syrup

What could be better than having something that’s come straight out of a plant? And that contains over 50 antioxidants, to boot! Now, keep in mind we’re talking about pure, 100% maple syrup here. Not diluted pancake syrup full of HFCS. Grab yourself some real maple syrup and use it over waffles, yoghurt, and in cereal – or get creative.

 

Molasses

This is a great sugar substitute when it comes to baking, especially for stiffer goodies like cookies. Try a gingerbread recipe using molasses instead of sugar, and don’t forget to thank us later! You’ll also be consuming some extra iron and calcium – just as a bonus.

 

Erythritol

FDA approved. Naturally occurs in many fruits. Doesn’t result in tooth decay or any of sugar’s other negative effects. 0.2 calories per gram. Wow, right? It’s a sugar alcohol, which sounds like a pretty amazing sugar substitute. It’s not as sweet as sugar, so you’ll have to use a little more of it – we recommend trying it in brownies to start off with!

 

Puréed fruits

Some of these are great sugar substitutes in baking. Try applesauce instead of sugar in your oatmeal cookies – just use an equal amount to the sugar called for in the recipe! Use a sweeter variety of apple, like a Fuji – you can make your own applesauce, or buy the type with no added sugar or preservatives. Puréed Banana works fantastically in banana bread – just use overripe bananas and leave out the sugar! Processed dates are perfect for brownie batter, just substitute ⅔ cup per cup of sugar. Low GI and an extra dose of antioxidants – guilt-free deliciousness, coming right up!

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