We tell you about 4 natural sweeteners that are a healthier and more flavourful option to white sugar, and can be used in a variety of dishes.
#1 Agave Nectar
This honey-like liquid is produced from juice extracted from the leaves of the Agave plant. Traditionally, it was prepared in a way similar to that of gur (jaggery). Commercially available agave nectar, however, goes through several steps of processing. Agave nectar is used in ice creams and sodas, and a multitude of desserts.
This resembles high fructose corn syrup, and doesn’t have a significant vitamin or mineral content. Importantly, the entire calorie content of agave nectar is derived from sugar, with approximately 55 g fructose and 12 g glucose in every 100 g of syrup.
Because of its high fructose content, Agave nectar ranks relatively low on the glycaemic index. But don’t imagine this makes it healthy!
#2 Coconut Sugar
This mildly flavoured sweetener is obtained from the sap of coconut flower buds. Mostly sold after minimal processing, coconut sugar often retains diverse minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, zinc and magnesium.
The main sugar in coconut sugar is sucrose, with a calorie content similar to that of white sugar. Coconut sugar imparts a lovely flavour to desserts and ice creams, and can be used in gravies as well. It is also regarded as a ‘sustainable sweetener’, as coconut palms require less water and fuel as compared to sugarcane.
#3 Maple Syrup
This quintessential pancake accompaniment is obtained from the sap of Maple trees, and is produced almost exclusively in Canada and the United States. The sap is treated to remove water and concentrated into syrup. The more concentrated the syrup, the thicker its consistency.
Sucrose is the main sugar in maple syrup. But this syrup has a higher antioxidant value than refined sugar, corn syrup or agave nectar. Besides being used as a topping on pancakes and waffles, maple syrup can also be used to prepare desserts and dessert sauces.
Honey is a popular substitute for sugar in many foods and drinks. It’s healthier than white sugar since it contains about 69% glucose and fructose, which more easily digestible. According to the USDA, honey contains about 64 calories per tablespoon, which is more than sugar.
In terms of nutrition, honey contains some vitamins, trace enzymes, amino acids, and minerals like calcium, iron, sodium chlorine, magnesium, phosphate, and potassium. Its acidic PH level (3.2 to 4.5) helps reduce the growth of bacteria and confers an antiseptic quality to it.