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Sweet Surprise

Most of us have grown up knowing that sugar is the culprit for tooth decay, weight gain and potentially many other problems. but is sugar really as bad as we think it is? Let’s be very clear, there is no nutritional value in sugar itself. None whatsoever! There is also no dispute that the tip of our tongue is sensitized to enjoy sweetness.

sugar 150x150 Sweet SurpriseSugar is not a foreign substance that we have adapted to. It is natural in that there are no artificial or synthetic substances added to it. We were hard-wired from birth to enjoy the sweet sensation. The key is to know and understand the limitations we should use in consumption. Let’s be realistic and admit that there are few people who omit sugar altogether. If you are one who does, keep up the good work! Fruit is always the best choice when you feel like eating something sweet. If you choose to indulge in something a little more processed, there are some sweeteners that may be somewhat less harmful than others. Here are some comparisons between different sugars:

Turbinado Sugar, also known as Sugar In The Raw – Is a cane-based, minimally refined sugar. Many people consider it to be healthier than white sugar since it is less refined. It also holds more moisture so if you are using as a replacement, be sure to slightly adjust the moisture content in your recipe in order to avoid a soggy product.

Honey Powder – Is made by spray drying honey into fine powder using high heat and may contain stabilizers made of wheat, starches or sugars such as fructose. Use powdered honey in the same way you would honey, with added ease of storage and dissolving. Use a one to one ratio when replacing table sugar with honey power. Some discerning cooks believe that honey powder is sweeter than sugar so you may want to tweek your recipes to your taste.

Sucanat – Sucanat (an abbreviation for sugar-cane-natural) has a stronger molasses flavor than refined white sugar and retains all of the nutrients found in natural sugar cane juice, including iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium.

Agave – Extracted from the same large succulents that are used to produce Mexican tequila, agave nectar looks like honey, but pours like syrup and has a much richer flavor. It’s great in cold drinks because it doesn’t harden or crystallize like regular sugar. And it’s flavorful enough to squeeze straight from the bottle on pancakes or waffles. Available in light (neutral flavor), amber (tastes like maple syrup) and raw (processed at a lower temperature and has an even stronger taste than amber) as well as several fruit flavors, there’s a variety to suit every palate. And because it is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it, if you can muster the willpower to do so.

But here’s the rub: unlike table sugar, which has equal ratios of fructose to glucose, agave is up to 90% fructose. That’s more than you’ll find in the much-villainized high-fructose corn syrup used in sodas, which is typically a mere 55% fructose (and 45% glucose).

A word to the wise: because agave nectar tastes so good and has more calories than white sugar (20 per teaspoon versus 15), it’s easy to overdo it. So be judicious.

Coconut Sugar – Made from the boiled, dehydrated sap of coconut trees, coconut sugar has a rich, maple-like flavor and contains trace amounts of vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. So it’s no multivitamin – this naturally caramel-colored sugar is still 70% to 79% sucrose plus an additional 3% to 9% each of fructose and glucose (the two sugars that make up sucrose) and packs 15 calories per teaspoon. But unlike its sugar-cane-derived cousins, coconut sugar does not cause your blood sugar to spike as quickly, a real plus for diabetics or anyone concerned about mood swings due to sugar overload. (Its glycemic index, which measures the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar, is a relatively low 35, versus 70 for cane sugar.) Natural enzymes and minerals in the sugar help slow its absorption into the bloodstream.

Take a few minutes to watch this short video by Dr. John McDougall where he explains why he recommends small amounts of sweetener.


Article is from Chef Mark Anthony.