is the wonderfully rich golden liquid that is the miraculous product of honeybees and a naturally delicious alternative to white sugar. Provided you’ve chosen a high-quality raw honey—meaning that it’s as fresh from the hive as possible and minimally processed, unpasteurized and unfiltered—you’ll be getting plenty of benefits along with the flavour.
It furnishes your body with a number of critical vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B2 and B6, iron and manganese. Research has also revealed honey as a powerful natural weapon against free radicals, with studies showing that four tablespoons of buckwheat honey per day can boost blood markers of polyphenolic antioxidant activity within a month.
Research supports its use as an antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic agent—effective as a topical wound healer, immune booster and cough suppressant. Studies also indicate that honey can balance good bacteria in the gut, and most notably, that it may actually help to improve blood sugar control.
Analysis shows that honey boasts a sugar ratio that makes it ideal for storage in the liver as glycogen—an important source of fuel during sleep and prolonged exercise—as well as a structure that the body seems to tolerate much better than sucrose or glucose alone.
On the other hand, heavily processed honey that’s stripped of the unique nutritional benefits of its raw form has little advantage over plain old white table sugar. In fact, spoonful for spoonful, honey is actually more carbohydrate- and calorie-dense so consume with moderation in mind.
The glycemic index of honey is around 50 (moderate).
(Source: Worlds Healthiest Foods)
are the fruit of the date palm tree and are grown primarily in dry, arid regions like the Middle East. Though dates are often used as an ingredient in sweets and other recipes, they offer several nutritional benefits when eaten fresh and pitted.
Recent studies shows that while dates contain high amounts of natural sugars, they are actually a low-glycemic index food (around 40) and did not significantly raise blood sugar levels after they were eaten.
Dates are loaded with fiber. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, just one pitted date contains 1.6 g of fiber, or 6 percent of the recommended daily intake. Fiber is known for its ability to help lower cholesterol and fight and prevent obesity, heart disease and colorectal cancer.
Adding dates to your diet delivers vitamins and minerals that are necessary to maintain optimum health. The primary vitamins in dates are the B vitamin family, with vitamin B-6 topping the list. The B vitamins help with the metabolism of food and the formation of new blood cells. Other vitamins include K and A. Dates are an excellent source or minerals, with potassium in the No. 1 spot. Copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron and zinc complete the mineral profile. The body only needs small amounts of minerals, but if it is depleted of any one, it can be disastrous to your health. Snacking on dates can help you build up your body's mineral stores.
(Source: Nutrition Journal, USDA Database)
contains fewer calories (around 50 cal/tbsp), a higher concentration of minerals and almost twice as much water than honey.
The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians, who used it both as a food and as a medicine.
This natural sweetener features over 50 antioxidants and high levels of zinc and manganese, keeping the heart healthy and boosting the immune system.
Antioxidants are vitamins and nutrients that protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Common health conditions related to free radicals include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and degenerative disorders.
Pure maple syrup has the same beneficial classes of antioxidant compounds found in berries, tomatoes, tea, red wine, whole wheat and flax seed.
In addition to its mineral content, pure maple syrup is a source of several vitamins which include niacin, B5, B2, folic acid, B6, biotin and vitamin A. Niacin and both of the B vitamins assist in the energy metabolism of body cells. B5 is a component of a significant enzyme that enables the release of energy from the energy nutrients. Vitamin B6 is important in protein and amino acid metabolism and enables conversion of one type of amino acid to another kind that is needed in higher amounts. Vitamin A is significant for vision and for maintaining the skin and the linings of the body, such as the stomach lining.
Maple syrup has around 66 to 67 percent sugar content by weight and are primarily in the form of the sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. The glycemic index of maple syrup is around 54.
(Source: Pure Maple Syrup Canada, Diabetes Health, Livestrong)
is a dark syrup that is actually good for you. The unsulfured blackstrap version of this sweetener is by far the most potent from a health standpoint. That’s because molasses is actually the leftover byproduct of sugar cane processing. Grades range from mild to dark to blackstrap, with mild molasses retaining the most intact sucrose and blackstrap containing the least.
What blackstrap molasses does offer is more concentrated amounts of vitamins, as well as essential and trace minerals—namely, manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium. This stellar nutritional profile accounts for its many health benefits—offering support for energy, strong muscles and bones, heart and circulatory health and more. Even better, molasses is lower on the glycemic index scale, which means that it won’t spike your blood sugar the way that refined white sugar and corn syrup will.
For most people, the robust, slightly bitter taste of blackstrap molasses is the main factor working against it. But while sweeter, mild versions may be more palatable, they’ll cheat you on nutrients while loading you up with more sugar.
It is a calorie-dense condiment so remember that a little goes a long way here. The glycemic index ranges at 55.
Available in crystalline form and derived from the sap of coconuts, coconut sugar is emerging as one of the best natural sweeteners available for a number of reasons. One of these is the purity and sustainability of the product. Coconut trees are prolific, hearty and sustainable, requiring little to no pesticide use—thus making farming practices more environmentally and socially responsible.
But while this obviously means a cleaner, greener product, coconut sugar is generating more excitement for its low glycemic index (35) rating and high nutrient profile, featuring potassium, magnesium, iron, boron, zinc, sulfur and copper. Like molasses and honey, however, coconut sugar isn’t a diet-friendly food, and it rivals table sugar on a calorie-for-calorie basis.
(Source: Natural News, Sugar & Sweetener Guide)
a nectar derived, as the name suggests, from the agave plant—is by far one of the most popular natural sweeteners on the market today. The industry has sold it as a blood sugar-friendly alternative to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), with all-natural origins that would appeal to the health food industry.
Unfortunately, however, the facts reveal that these claims don’t hold much water. And the truth about agave has caused a large number of natural health advocates to condemn it as worse than the HFCS that manufacturers purported it to replace.
That’s because commercial agave syrup often contains as much as 97 percent fructose—the very type of sugar that, when isolated from its fruit-based origins, research has implicated in the rapidly rising rates of obesity, heart disease and cancer. (Just to offer some perspective: HFCS typically contains 42 to 55 percent fructose.) And yet, fructose-based sweeteners claim to be safe for diabetics. Why? Because they don’t impact insulin levels the way that glucose does.
This, however, is part of the problem. Without insulin to help convert fructose into energy, your liver is left to do all the work. When it can’t keep up, fructose converts into artery-clogging, pant-splitting fat and triglycerides. Even worse, fructose fails to stimulate other appetite-controlling hormones like leptin, which works in combination with insulin to send satiety signals to your body. So not only do you end up fatter… you end up hungrier, too.
The bottom line: Pass on agave. Ultimately, there are much healthier sweeteners out there for you to choose from.
(Source: Natural News)
If it’s a low-calorie natural sugar substitute you’re after, stevia is one of your safest bets. People have been using preparations of this South American plant as a sweetener for centuries. In traditional medicine in these regions, stevia also served as a treatment for burns, colic, stomach problems and sometimes as a contraceptive.
Critics of the latest move to commercialize stevia-based sweeteners argue that there’s no way of guaranteeing their safety, on account of the fact that they only contain isolated active stevia compounds—including rebaudioside A—instead of utilizing the whole leaf. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to view natural stevia with a skeptical (and, some argue, profit-motivated).
Nevertheless, studies support the benefits of whole, natural stevia, revealing that it may be able to reduce blood sugar and triglycerides, and act as a free radical-scavenging antioxidant.
In the meantime, you’ll want to look for stevia in its tried-and-true, whole-leaf, dietary supplement form.
(Source: Natural News, livescience)
OVERVIEW SUCROSE, GLUCOSE AND FRUCTOSE
Sucrose, glucose and fructose are important carbohydrates, commonly referred to as simple sugars. Sugar is found naturally in whole foods and is often added to processed foods to sweeten them and increase flavor. Your tongue can't quite distinguish between these sugars, but your body can tell the difference. They all provide the same amount of energy per gram, but are processed and used differently throughout the body.
Simple carbohydrates are classified as either monosaccharides or disaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest, most basic units of carbohydrates and are made up of only one sugar unit. Glucose and fructose are monosaccharides and are the building blocks of sucrose, a disaccharide. Thus, disaccharides are just a pair of linked sugar molecules. They are formed when two monosaccharides are joined together and a water of molecule is removed - a dehydration reaction.
The most important monosaccharide is glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. Glucose is also called blood sugar, as it circulates in the blood, and relies on the enzymes glucokinase or hexokinase to initiate metabolism. Your body processes most carbohydrates you eat into glucose, either to be used immediately for energy or to be stored in muscle cells or the liver as glycogen for later use. Unlike fructose, insulin is secreted primarily in response to elevated blood concentrations of glucose, and insulin facilitates the entry of glucose into cells.
Fructose is a sugar found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and added to various beverages such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. However, it is very different from other sugars because it has a different metabolic pathway and is not the preferred energy source for muscles or the brain. Fructose is only metabolized in the liver and relies on fructokinase to initiate metabolism. It is also more lipogenic, or fat-producing, than glucose. Unlike glucose, too, it does not cause insulin to be released or stimulate production of leptin, a key hormone for regulating energy intake and expenditure. These factors raise concerns about chronically high intakes of dietary fructose, because it appears to behave more like fat in the body than like other carbohydrates.
Sucrose is commonly known as table sugar, and is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beets. Fruits and vegetables also naturally contain sucrose. When sucrose is consumed, the enzyme beta-fructosidase separates sucrose into its individual sugar units of glucose and fructose. Both sugars are then taken up by their specific transport mechanisms. The body responds to the glucose content of the meal in its usual manner; however, fructose uptake occurs at the same time. The body will use glucose as its main energy source and the excess energy from fructose, if not needed, will be poured into fat synthesis, which is stimulated by the insulin released in response to glucose.