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Natural Sweeteners : Hyped OR Healthy?

While we get carried away in the hype of natural sweeteners all over the internet, let's look into what really makes it special.

Having a sweet tooth does not have to be a problem. Instead of using regular white sugar, switch to a natural unprocessed one. Unprocessed sugars still retain their nutrients and can be good for your body in the right quantities. 

There are numerous healthy sugars on the market and deciding which one to use can be a hassle. We’ve got you covered. We’ll be comparing five different types of natural sugars, right from how they’re made to their benefits. Types of Natural Sugars and their GI index benefits

Glycemic Index (GI) is a value that helps to determine how fast, foods can increase glucose levels in the blood. A low GI value indicates that food releases glucose slowly. People with diabetes must be careful of food with high GI values as it can spike blood sugar levels.

1. Palm Jaggery (also called Karupatti)

  • How it’s made
    Highly skilled sugar tappers make their way to the top of palm trees and collect sap from palm flowers. The sap is then quickly sent to be cooked for several days. Wait too late to cook it, and it will ferment and turn into toddy. The molasses that remain after cooking, are filled into coconut shells. Which give it their signature dome shape. 
  • What can it replace?
    Granulated white sugar and jaggery can be swapped for palm sugar. The measurements stay the same as they are just as sweet as regular sugar. As its taste is comparable to that of brown sugar, palm sugar can be used as a substitute for recipes that call for brown sugar.
  • Where can you use it?
    Palm sugar is used extensively in Indonesian cooking. It’s a key ingredient in Pad Thai. However, it doesn’t have to be boxed into just Indonesian cooking. Low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature make it a great sugar to work with when it comes to desserts. 

    Dark brown in color, it will add color to any dish that it is added to. Its color makes it hard to instantly notice when it has been caramelized; a thermometer will have to be used instead.

    With a distinct caramel and butterscotch flavor, palm sugar has a taste akin to brown sugar. But unlike brown sugar, it does not leave a metallic aftertaste.

    It can be used as a sticky glaze for meats and fish. Or in a green chili chutney.
  • Health Benefits:
    Palm sugar is rich in Potassium and other minerals. It has a very low fructose level. Fructose is a type of sugar that turns into triglyceride; a form of fat, very quickly. The presence of dietary fiber helps to keep a check on blood sugar levels.

2. White Sugar (Sulphur Free)

  • How it’s made
    Conventionally, sugar is cleaned by using sulphur. But sulphur-free sugar is cleaned by using phosphoric acid and phosphate salts instead. It is safer and healthier. 
  • What can it replace?
    The slight yellow tinge of sulphur-free sugar does not affect its taste. In fact, it tastes just like the sugar you’re used to. Treat this sugar just as you would use normal white sugar. Therefore, measurements will stay the same if you intend to use sulphur-free sugar while baking. Replace your jar of white sugar for this safer option instead. 
  • Where can you use it?
    This sugar can be used exactly like the white sugar that you’ve been using. Be it in your morning tea, or pancakes, this is a safe option that you can count on. 
  • Health Benefits
    White sugar with Sulphur is known to cause respiratory problems. Using sulphur-free sugar will prevent that. Sulphur free sugar is safer and healthier to use. However, there are no added nutritional benefits.

3. Brown Sugar

  • How it’s made:
    Brown sugar is a sugar that still contains molasses from the refining process. The sugar is left in a more natural state and there aren’t any additives such as Sulphur Dioxide or Phosphoric acid. The molasses gives the sugar more moisture. 
  • What can it replace?
    Though there aren’t many differences between brown and white sugar, brown sugar is still a healthier alternative to white sugar. 
  • Where can you use it?
    Brown sugar is great when it comes to baking. Cookies get a chewier texture if you add brown sugar as the sweetener. All in all, desserts are best made with brown sugar. The moisture content present in the molasses makes desserts moisture and denser.

    However, its uses do not end there. Its rough texture makes it a great skin exfoliant. Which makes it a perfect all-natural addition to your skincare routine.
  • Health Benefits
    Brown sugar is generally considered to be healthier than white sugar because of the presence of molasses. However, it only has slightly more nutrients than white sugar. Molasses is known to increase metabolism and also curb hunger.

4. Jaggery

  • How it’s made 
    Made from sugarcane, jaggery is unrefined sugar. The juice and sap from sugarcanes are extracted by pressing them through machines. This juice is strained and then boiled for hours, while constantly stirred. This is continued until a yellow, thick paste remains. This paste is then poured into moulds and then cooled. Notably, jaggery can also be made from the date palm.
  • What can it replace?
    Jaggery has a rich caramel taste. The darker the jaggery, the deeper the flavor. Its rich taste can enhance the flavor of dishes that are normally sweetened with white sugar. 
  • Where can you use it?
    Sweetening your tea or coffee with jaggery is a no brainer. It can replace brown sugar in most recipes. However, baking with jaggery can be a little tricky. Jaggery contains more moisture than brown sugar and this may throw off the balance while baking.

    You can grate it on top of ice cream, or make it into a syrup and drizzle it instead.

    Used extensively in Indian cooking, jaggery is also known as gur. You can sweeten anything from laddoos to kheer using jaggery. Melt the jaggery block into a syrup and drizzle as required. However, be careful with milk, as jaggery, when boiled with milk, could lead to the milk curdling. Cautiously add jaggery at the very end of milk dishes when the stove is off. Never boil milk with jaggery.
    You can even use it in savory recipes!
  • Health Benefits
    Jaggery has anti-allergic properties and is also great for getting relief from constipation. It is known to boost digestion and is also a good immunity booster.

    People who are diabetic must keep an eye on how much jaggery is used as it can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. It is high in calories, so people who are trying to lose weight must use jaggery moderately. 

    5. Honey

    • What can it replace? 
      Raw honey can be used instead of sugars to sweeten teas. As honey is a little sweeter than sugar, for every cup of sugar, replace it with a 3/4th cup of honey.

      However, when it comes to baking, try to reduce the number of liquids that go into the recipe. Honey itself is in a liquid form so it will have an effect on the end result if the other ingredients aren't adjusted accordingly. 
    • Where can I use it?
      As a glaze on veggies, meats, or as a sweetener in your ice cream, honey can be used in numerous ways in the kitchen.

      Honey has been used to heal burns and wounds for centuries and studies have shown that it can help quicken the healing process. It can be added into a DIY face mask to make use of its antioxidant properties.
    • Health Benefits
      Rich in vitamins and minerals, honey contains Calcium, Vitamin C, and Iron. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Honey can strengthen your immune system and is a natural sleeping aid.

    Remember Natural Sugar’s need to be used carefully with milk. This applies to Cane Jaggery and Palm Jaggery especially. Boiling milk with these sweeteners for a long time will Curdle the milk. Always put off the stove/add these sweeteners right before you put off the stove and just mix well to melt it. You can also pre-melt it in a heated bowl OR in hot water and mix it in the end if you are doubtful about it melting when mixed. But avoid boiling milk with these natural sweeteners. This does not apply to sugar/brown sugar. 

    Including too much sugar into our diet, even healthier alternatives can lead to obesity and heart disease. We need to keep a watchful eye on our sugar intake. On those accounts where we cannot forgo them, try to use a healthier alternative. There’s no need to completely relinquish your sweet tooth, just make healthier choices.

    To see our entire range of Natural Sweeteners - Click Here

     Have you seen our Recipes Section? If not Click Here!

     


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