Soluble in water, crystallized when hot and easily melted, sugar seems to have become world of the worlds favourite food additives; although there are many other alternatives to compliment food, drink and cooking.
Sugar cane was discovered growing as a wild grass in the South Pacific around 8,000 BC, since then travellers and traders have helped spread the sweetener all across the globe. For Britain, their love affair may have began in the 1600s as settlers on the British colony of Barbados as it came to attention sugar cane thrived in the island’s stony soil. Mass production of sugar saw Britain grow rich and helped to build the Empire. Sugar releases an opiate-like substance which activates the brain’s reward system and it might be a challenge to give up.
As the nation looks to minimise on sugar there are many healthy and varying ingredients which may be used instead of sugar, the philosophy maintaining that sweet natural sources are better than anything man made.
Coconut palm sugar. Primarily a substitute when baking this alternative may be much healthier then sugar due its glycaemic index rating of 35, opposed to table sugar at 58. It is produced from the sap of the coconut palm’s flower buds and has been found to contain amino acids, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and vitamin B. With a small effect on your blood sugar levels, coconut sugar seems to be emerging as a favourite among vegans and raw foodies, especially when it may be used in the same ration system as refined table sugar for recipes.
Stevia. Stevia is natural and comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, grown in Paraguay and Brazil. The sweetness is intense, almost 300 times sweeter then the sucrose in sugar, yet has zero calories or carbohydrates and a glycemic index of 0. Over the past three years stevia has been allowed to be used in food and drink, a common ingredient found in Coca-Cola and Sprite to help cut the calorie index.
Date sugar. Surprisingly dates have the highest sugar content in the world of fruit, this may be extracted and condensed however to make a sugar supplement. The fruit is dehydrated and grounded to replicate the taste and uses of brown sugar. It carries all the nutritional benefits of dried dates in fibre and vitamins and is best used for dessert toppings.
Brown rice syrup. Offering a much more mellow and subtle sweetness whilst releasing a slow stream of complex carbohydrates into the bloodstream, it makes brown rice syrup a healthier switch from sugar. Brown rice is boiled with a selection of enzymes to break down the starch, resulting in a substance that is then cooked to form a sweet, tasty syrup.
Maple syrup. Another source which may be ideal for baking and a delicious combination when mixed with oatmeal for cookies, cake or baked fruit. Look out for the authentic organic versions as the cheaper, conventional brands are usually fake coloured, contain sugar and are watered down. Maple syrup contains calcium, iron and manganese, an essential nutrient for bones. Like coconut sugar, this syrup has the most similar qualities to sugar and may be used as a substitute in everyday life.
Raw honey. Organically and locally produced honey may be a divine treat to both health and taste buds. Full of vitamins, it has antimicrobial properties and there are a wide variety of flavour types to suit ones use. Honey has been around as a natural remedy for 5000 years and may be considered much more regularly in a diet instead of sugar.
The important actions start from home with sugar. Stock up on some of the recommended sugar alternatives and aim to consume clean, natural food and drink. Add a little healthy sweetener when needed to enhance favourite foods.
How might this allow the public to become more mindful of their sugar levels and intake?