A sugar substitute, which is a food additive, duplicates the effect of sugar in taste. This has less food energy. A sugar substitute could be natural or synthetic and of course, it is an artificial sweetener. A high intensity sweetener has many times the sweetness of sucrose, common table sugar. Hence, much less sweetener is required and the energy contribution is often negligible.
Why sugar substitutes?
Eliminating sugar from diet is not a perfect solution to your dieting needs. Since sugar substitutes provide sweetness to food without the calories of sugar, they are used to control the amount of calories eaten. Sugar substitutes are used in several light or reduced calorie or sugar free foods and drinks.
Healthy sugar substitute
There are plenty of natural choices to choose from to sweeten your coffee or tea. These can even work well for baked goods. They include:
Stevia, a sweet herb from South America which is available in powder and liquid form in most health stores. Stevia with FOS (Fruit ogiliosaccharides) is beneficial for healthy intestinal bacteria or flora. This is a non nutritive powder found in health food stores or in the health food section of grocery store.
Honey, such as red clover honey or orange blossom honey in low glycemic. She can comfortably use this to sweeten beverage. The same with agave nectar. Both have high caloric and high carbohydrate. So use sparingly.
Xylitol, which is birch sugar, can be used for baking and sweetening beverages. This is low glycemic and healthy. It does not cause blood sugar imbalances or yeast overgrowth. But if too much is consumed, you could experience gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea.
Fructose is a natural low glycemic sugar that is found in fruit. It can be found in granulated form in food stores. Fructose is in fact sweeter than table sugar and research indicates that ingesting lots of fructose as in drinking sodas and beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup can elevate the lipids and increase the risk of heart ailments. However, fructose can be used sparingly as a sweetener and for baking.
Sucrose is a regular table sugar and is medium glycemic. Eating large amounts as in a candy is not advised.
Date sugar is a great natural substitute derived from dehydrated dates. This form of sugar is usually used in raw food preparation and not good in drinks as it does not dissolve easily.
Yacon syrup which is made from the roots of Yacon plant grows only in Andes. This rich syrup is very sweet and it has no glycemic index. It is a terrific natural sugar substitute.
The above listed sweeteners can be used with confidence but restraint. In the US there are six intensely sweet sugar substitutes that are approved by FDA - stevia, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame, potassium and saccharin.
While there is ongoing controversy whether artificial sweeteners pose health risks, FDA regulates the use of artificial sweeteners as food additives which must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Understanding sugar substitutes
Splenda is a commercial name of a sucralose based artificial sweetener, manufactured from sugar. Sucralose is low caloric sugar and in the US it is legally labeled 'zero calories'. Splenda contains relatively small amounts of sucralose and its content is derived from dextrose or highly fluffed maltodextrin. While thousands of diet and no caloric products use Splenda, many claim it is dangerous chemical and that it is more addictive than sugar. It is recommended to use this sparingly.
Agave is a cactus like plant which is found in Mexico. The nectar extracted from Agave is mostly fructose or fruit sugar and it is absorbed into the blood stream more slowly than regular sugar. It is much sweeter than sugar and less of it can be used. It is better to used agave in moderation.
Turbinado or Saccanat is a great brown sugar substitute made by pressing the juice out of the sugar cane plant and then dehydrating it. Saccanat is usually not raw as it is generally dehydrated at temperature about 115 degrees.
Rapadura is the rawest form of sugar available considered acceptable by chefs. It looks and tastes much like Saccanat. Rapadura is normally substituted in baking and it is used in raw desserts.
Brown sugar substitute
This is a popular culinary item used in the preparation of cakes, cookies, desserts, breads among others. Sugar with molasses is brown sugar. It is the molasses that gives this sugar its unique flavor. While in some forms of brown sugar molasses are retained naturally, in some other brown sugar, molasses can be unrefined or partially refined.
Commercial brown sugar varieties are made by adding molasses to refined sugar. Light brown contains 3.5% of molasses and dark brown sugar 6.5%. Because brown sugar retains moisture, most of the commercially available brown sugar varieties are 'soft'.
What happens when there is no brown sugar in the kitchen? The most practical option is to substitute brown sugar. Some methods to prepare brown sugar substitutes:
- Brown sugar can be replaced with powdered sugar in case of emergency. But two cups of powdered sugar make one cup of brown sugar.
- If you have dark brown sugar and need light brown sugar for making a dish, then all you need to do is to take half of dark brown sugar and add half of white sugar. One cup of light brown sugar is ready.
- Some homemade brown sugar can substitute brown sugar. If the recipe requires one cup of light brown sugar, take a cup of white sugar and mix it with 1 ½ teaspoons of molasses.
Some use artificial sweetener and sugar free syrup as brown sugar substitute. Beware that by using honey or any other sweetener, the flavor and texture of the dish is affected. Since substitutes cannot replace brown sugar in food recipes, use homemade brown sugar or opt for powdered sugar which can be brown sugar substitute to some extent.
Maple sugar substitute
This is obtained from maple syrup. Maple syrup is sweetener that is derived from maple trees and is more commonly from the red, black and sugar maple trees. Maple sugar is mainly sucrose, though a small amount of glucose and fructose can also be found.
Ordinary white sugar prepared from sugar cane juice can be used as an alternative to maple sugar. But maple sugar is twice as sweet as ordinary sugar. Another alternative for maple sugar is light brown sugar. Sometimes, maple syrup is also used as a substitute for maple sugar. Sucanat and date sugar are other two important maple sugar substitutes. These are non refined or minimally processed version of cane sugar.
Since maple sugar is primarily sucrose, 1 teaspoon of maple sugar contains approximately 11 calories. White sugar which is also sucrose 1 teaspoon contains 15 calories.
Maple sugar comes with number of health benefits due to the presence of nutrients like manganese, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Pure maple sugar also contains B vitamins and few minerals. It is minimally processed sweetener and as compared to refined sugar, it is a healthier alternative.
As a sweetener, maple sugar is added to baked goods, cereals, pudding, desserts, and cookies. Light brown sugar, sucanat, date sugar and even white sugar can be used as maple sugar substitutes.
This is a different type of sugar and it is basically, finely chopped into pieces of dry and dehydrated dates. Dates are not processed sugar and many may not prefer it. As mentioned elsewhere in this article, date sugar forms clumps and does not melt. Hence, it is not used in baking goods. However, date sugar can be used as a substitute for maple sugar in the recipe that does not require sugar to melt.
Sugar substitutes for baking
There could be many a reason to substitute sugar for baking. The major reasons could be diabetes or health conditions, and for improving or preserving better health.
Regular sugar has the ability to not only provide the right amount of sweetness but also liquefies when it bakes, caramelizes at high temperatures and increases the shelf life of many baked goods and often provides moistness, structure, texture and volume necessary for a fantastic bakery product. Three top sugar substitutes for baking are:
Erythritol which is a sugar alcohol derived from fruits and fermented foods like sugarcane and corn starch. This is available in liquid and powder forms. This sweetness has a clean taste and it almost has no calories. This does not affect blood sugar or cause tooth decay. This can be used in place of sugar in recipes.
Agave nectar is syrup which comes from agave, a succulent plant that resides in the agave nectar and is not low calorie.
Sucralose is made from sugar when it gets combined with chlorine. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and tends to bake faster; so baking time is reduced.
There are plenty of natural sugar substitutes that have fewer calories than sugar. It is best to use healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Although refined white sugar is delicious, natural sugar substitutes can work and recharge your body without causing any havoc.