In addition to having no nutritional value to the body, white sugar is seriously detrimental to health. Bio à la Une is back with five natural alternatives to refined sugar, so we can stay healthy without sacrificing our pleasure.
Refined foods are low in nutrients and only provide empty calories, it’s a fact. But this is not the only downside of white sugar, which not only provides no benefits for the body, but is actually harmful to it. We are all aware of the harmful effects of sugar such as food addiction, diabetes, obesity or cardiovascular disease, and yet the consumption of white sugar remains abnormally high in industrialized countries, particularly in the US with 75 kg consumed per person per year compared to the world average which is around 20 kg.
Purified and bleached refined sugar has lost all its nutritional properties and is 99% sucrose, which makes it a particular culprit for the development of oral and intestinal bacteria. In the face of excessive consumption of sugary products, health authorities are starting to sound the alarm, recommending to reduce our daily consumption of simple sugars by 25%. While sugary foods are fine to be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, there are nevertheless alternatives to white sugar, which are more natural and more interesting nutritionally.
1. Complete cane sugar or whole sugar
Though it should still be consumed in moderation, unrefined cane sugar, also known as whole or full sugar, remains much better than white sugar. Without having gone through the various bleaching processes, this sugar has preserved the minerals, vitamins and protein substances naturally present in sugarcane. It contains forty times more iron than white sugar, which gives it its caramel color. But cane sugar is also much richer in potassium, magnesium and calcium than its refined counterpart, which is almost totally lacking because of the treatments it undergoes. Better yet, the trace elements they contain reduce the risk of cavities by 15% compared to white sugar, a real scourge for teeth. However, be careful not to confuse whole sugar and brown sugar, the latter being more refined sugar colored with caramel!
Despite its glycemic index being almost as high as sugar, honey is less calorific and much healthier. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it is an undeniable health asset. It is recognized as having particular important antibacterial properties, including a stabilizing action on the intestinal microflora, as well as a preventative role in the formation of certain pathologies such as cancer or neuro-degenerative diseases. On a culinary level, honey has the advantage of marrying well with both sweet and savory dishes. It would be wrong to deprive yourself of it.
Originally from South America, stevia ribaudiana has a sweetening power 300 times higher than sugar. This has made it a perfect natural sweetener, particularly popular with diabetics and overweight people since it was approved by Europe as a food additive in 2011. In supermarkets we can find stevia in powder form or in liquid form which are both suitable to add to food or drink. Nevertheless, despite its low calorific value, stevia is not for everyone, as some people do not appreciate the bitterness of its licorice aftertaste.
4. Maple syrup
Rich in manganese, zinc and vitamin B, this syrup is nothing more than maple sap having undergone a boiling process. More natural and with a lower glycemic index, it is richer than white sugar in terms of nutrients. However, as its main sugar is sucrose, it should still be consumed in moderation, especially as consuming too much can cause diarrhoea.
5. Birch sap
Since about 50 years ago, birch sap is no longer part of our eating habits, yet birch sap is an extremely interesting alternative to refined sugar. This is because it is a source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, zinc, antioxidants, and even more – a wealth of nutrients that gives it analgesic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.