Alternative healthy sugars - GulfToday

Alternative healthy sugars

Abeer Majed Al Kusayer

Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Al Qassimi Hospital – Ministry of Health and Prevention

Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Al Qassimi Hospital – Ministry of Health and Prevention


Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

Different types of sugar differ in their characteristics. Most of them are extracted from beets or sugar cane by processing. Learn about different types and uses for each of them as well as the best natural healthy alternatives that you can turn to when you want to lose weight, when you have diabetes or any health problem.

Types of sugar and their different uses:

1. Regular (refined) white sugar is made by refining and processing sugar cane and beets. It is the regular white sugar that we use to sweeten our drinks, make sweets, cook and bake.

2. Caster sugar has the same composition as regular sugar but is a little softer and its granules are smaller. This makes it dissolve faster, so it can be used in making meringues, dessert syrups and some types of baked goods.

3. Powdered sugar is regular white sugar but is finely ground until it resembles a powder. Three per cent corn flour is added to the powdered sugar found in stores to prevent clumping. It is used in making sugar paste, decorating and making sweets and whipping creams.

4. Raw sugar (cane sugar) is extracted from the cane and subjected to minimal processing. It contains a percentage of minerals. Its colour is slightly darker than regular white sugar and its granules are slightly larger. It is used as regular sugar.

5. Brown sugar contains 95 per cent of sucrose and 5 per cent of black honey or cane molasses, which adds a nicer flavour and moisture to the sugar. Its effect is negligible in terms of nutritional value and it contains a little potassium, magnesium and calcium in small and ineffective quantities.

Brown sugar is sometimes used in baking, as it gives it a caramel taste. There are several types of it that differ according to the percentage of black honey or molasses in colour and texture.

6. Fructose sugar is also known as fruit sugar and it tastes better than regular sugar. You can use it in smaller quantities and get the taste of the usual amount of sugar. It is currently being marketed as an alternative to sugar, especially for those who want to lose weight.
Fructose has other disadvantages.

The cells of the body can carry out the metabolism of glucose, while the liver is responsible for the metabolism of fructose, which makes its excessive consumption stressful for the liver and its enzymes.

The consumption of regular sugar stimulates insulin and thus the hormone of satiety, while this does not happen when consuming fructose, and thus increases the feeling of hunger. One of its other disadvantages is that it raises blood pressure and stimulates the liver to produce triglycerides, which increases exposure to cardiovascular diseases.

Healthy natural alternatives to regular sugar:

1. Stevia is extracted from the extract of the stevia plant and its leaves can be used directly. It nourishes the pancreas and does not raise the level of sugar in the blood which makes it safe for diabetics and a good way to lose weight.

2. White honey is another natural alternative to sugar and it is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It is not recommended to use it frequently if you want to lose weight due to its high calories.

3. Dates or other dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots are an option. Dates are rich in fibre, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the body. They can be eaten with bread or with coffee instead of sweetening them with sugar.

4. Coconut sugar is a good alternative to regular sugar and its glycemic index, which measures the percentage of carbohydrates based on how high blood sugar after eating them, is almost half the glycemic index of regular sugar.

5. Maple syrup is an ideal substitute for white sugar, it is also rich in antioxidants that protect you from cancer and heart disease.

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