Nutri-Dictionary #2: Sugar & Sweeteners

sweeter than sugar

Sugar – the devil word in 2014. The press is completely saturated this year with reasons to quit the sweet stuff, but those of us who have tried it know you that half the battle is finding your way through the maze of alternate options.

Quitting sugar cold-turkey is hardcore. I did it for the whole of January and limited sugar to fruit only in effort to see if my hard-earned results in the gym would increase. After two weeks of what my colleagues refer to as the ‘hellish bitch phase’ I slowly saw the merits of quitting. I’ve slowly reintroduced it but have relied on various sweeteners since, to try and replace a lot of the sugar I’d use in baking or on porridge for breakfast. Here’s the low down…

Stevia: A plant native to Central and South America that can be processed to produce a sweetener 3 times sweeter than sugar, with 0 calories. Hard to imagine but boy, is this stuff sweet. Easily utilised in baking where other sweeteners fail, Stevia is widely used and regarded among nutritionists as the best sugar substitute. The downsides are that widely available brands such as Truvia cost £5 a tub, although a little goes a verrrrry long way!
Best used:  To replace sugar in baking or hot drinks, weight loss

Xylitol: Due to the similarity in sweetness to sugar, xylitol is the most popular sugar alcohol and provides only 2.4 calories per gram compared to 4 calories in sugar. It sounds like Russian, but if you’ve ever eaten sugar free gum or sweets, chances are you’ve had your fair share of Xylitol. It’s perfect in these products because it has a slightly minty-fresh edge to the taste, meaning it’s not ideal in recipes or drinks. However, it’s a great product for diabetics as it doesn’t stimulate insulin production or increase blood sugar levels.

Best used: For a sweet confectionary fix when you need it

Agave Nectar: Agave nectar contains more calories than sugar (20 calories per teaspoon compared to 15 calories in sugar) and is 90% fructose.  However, since agave is significantly sweeter than sugar, less is needed when used for substituting.  Unlike other sweeteners, agave contains iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Not preferable to Stevia if you’re wanting to lose weight, but good in baking and desserts.

Best used: On porridge with banana and cacao nibs

Sweet Freedom Syrups: My personal favourite, these syrups are a combination of fruit sugars from apples, grapes and carob. Although the syrups have a high level of fructose, their taste is fantastic – similar to honey or golden syrup. Sweet Freedom do a light and dark syrup and a ‘Choc Shot’ with only 14 calories per tsp. Ideal for baking and desserts, this stuff was a saving grace for me when I quit sugar and continues to keep my Carb macros on track today.

Best used: On pancakes, in hot chocolate, or as a replacement for honey

 

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