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The link between sugar, obesity and health is well established. What’s worse is that studies are showing that we eat more sugar than we think! And it’s not completely our fault either. While on the one hand, yes we do consume a lot more processed ‘treats’, an awful lot of processed foods you would never suspect are actually very high in sugar. Like tomato sauce for example. All in all, sugar is the dietary enemy number one. And while we know the ‘white stuff’ is bad, what we don’t realise is that one, it’s very well hidden on the label and two, there are some great alternatives available to you! Read on to find out the what are the best sugar substitutes!
Over fifty different names
When it comes to sugar, the problem starts with our diet. Many of us consume a large amount of processed and/or packaged foods where the label can tactically mask sugar and dupe you into a false sense of security. Did you know that companies can choose from over fifty different names when it comes to sugar, artificial sweetener and even natural substitutes? The ingredients list is marked in order of most abundant to least abundant ingredient. So one tactic is to choose a couple of different ‘sugars’ on purpose and spread them across the ingredients list and in this way avoid placing it first on the list. Whether it’s due to sugars’ addictive properties or perhaps more just to meet consumer demand, there is a marked increase in ‘unlikely’ products that contain copious amounts of sugar.
It’s not just cake and biscuits! Flavoured yogurt can carry as much as 19g of sugar per serving, tomato sauce can have up to 15g and even salad dressings often too contain quite a bit. What blind’s us even more, are clever marketing terms like ‘no added sugar’, ‘natural’ or ‘organic’! Organic sugar is still sugar!
Check out the image below and see how many you recognise!
Dangers of Sugar
According to WHO, we should limit our daily sugar intake to just 6 teaspoons a day or circa 24 grams. However, it is estimated that the average Briton consumes circa close to 22 teaspoons daily! Not good at all especially when sugar wreaks havoc on your health! There are over 141 reasons sugar ruins your health! To list just a few:
- Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes
- Sugar can lower your immunity
- Sugar can inhibit vitamin and mineral absorption
- Excess sugar is stored as fat in the body.
- Sugar can cause anxiety, inability to concentrate and hyperactivity
What are the Best Sugar Substitutes: Artificial Sweeteners
Anything artificial and not found in nature is best avoided full stop. To keep it very simple, ask yourself; if I can’t recognise the name on a label, how can I expect my body to know what this ingredient is, let alone what to do with it. The image above highlights the culprits in red but some ones to take note of:
- Aspartame – most commonly found in soda drinks and to be avoided at all costs.
- Saccharin – a common artificial sweetener
- Stevia- when it’s white/bleached like, for example, Truvia.
- Sucralose – For example, the Splenda you see in the shopping aisle.
Bottom line is if your body cannot process it, it is a toxin to the body.
What are the Best Sugar Substitutes: Natural Sweeteners
When asking what are the best sugar substitutes, sweeteners that come from nature are always the first choice when it comes. Natural, non-chemical sweeteners include the following:
- Raw honey – this isn’t a vegan choice but if you are going to consume honey, be sure to buy local and organic to make sure you get all the bang for your buck. Conventional store bought honey can often be bulked up with high fructose corn syrup or heavly processed.
- Molasses – kind of like marmite, you either love it or hate it. It is incredibly rich in nutrients and great for adding a brown sugar like flavour to baking.
- Date sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar – Each of these is derived from the natural plant or fruit. For example, date sugar is finely chopped dry dates. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of a coconut tree that can be processed to create a syrup or honey-like substance, which is then dried to form coconut sugar.
- Fruit juice – be careful with this one. Yes it’s natural, but removing the fibre also leaves you open to consuming large amounts of fructose based sugar in one go. Stick to whole fruit where possible
- Maple syrup – like honey, many store brands are not true maple syrup. Look for organic and grade B on the label
- Cane sugar – Look for organic and fair trade.
- Green leaf stevia – not to be confused with bleached stevia products you might see in supermarkets. Green leaf stevia comes in green powder form and has quite a mild sweetness.
Overall, it is advisable to reduce sweeteners and sugar to a bare minimum because natural or not, too much is not good for your health. Here are some tips to help you decipher labels better:
- As mentioned above, remember that the ingredients are listed in order of abundance. The first item is the most abundant ingredient. So if a sweetener or a sugar is in the top three, you can assume that the product is high in sugar overall. Similarly, if you see a number of ingredients that fit into the next three points, it is probably best to avoid it.
- Check the total carbohydrate grams in the food, then check the sugar grams. 1tsp of sugar is equivalent to about 4g so take note how quickly it can add up to 6 tsp (24 grams)
- Look for ingredients that end in “-ose” or “-tol” – this means it’s a sweetener. For example: sucralose, glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose etc.
- Look for the words ‘sugar’, ‘nectar’, ‘syrup’. While these terms represent natural sources, they are STILL sweeteners you should be aware of.
Lemon in Love
At iRaw, we use only natural sweeteners with high micronutrient value. Albeit natural, many raw, vegan and/or ‘healthy’ products tend to be very high in sugar. Asa, our founder, felt it very important that the product range focused primarily on maximising the nutrient value.
The Lemon in Love cookie is a favourite with the iRaw team, offering a zesty energy zing!
“I have always been a huge fan of Lemons, in fact when I was pregnant I had about ½ kg lemons daily the first 3 months of the pregnancy. I had loads of pulp from making almond milk and started developing cookies which I dehydrated. Later, I added chia seeds to give them softer consistency and some omega 3.” Both the almonds and coconut provide plenty of natural and healthy form of sugars which allows us to use minimum quantity of natural sweetener on top to make the cookies even more enjoyable.
Star ingredient: Chia seeds fantastic source of super soluble fibres
To celebrate #OrganicSeptember we are offering a discount on all our Organic, raw, vegan cookies. Shop Now!