Are you the one who picks up a canned juice or an aerated drink to quench your thirst instead of homemade lemon water or buttermilk? Do your fridge and pantry have more cupcakes, pastries, cookies and cream rolls instead fresh fruits? Are you the one whose meal isn't complete without a gulab jamun or ice cream at the side? In India, 'muh mitha karana' has been associated with happiness, rewarding and celebrations. However, do you know the calories that you consume for that one additional piece of cake piece that you had on your colleague's birthday or two extra rounds you made to the kitchen when your favourite rasogulla was kept in the fridge?
Anything prepared from white sugar means high blood sugar levels, 'empty' calories and zero nutritive value. As a result of which one gradually starts experiencing weight gain, headaches, heart sickness, tooth and cavity issues which further translate into bigger health problems such as oral health issues, diabetes and even cancer.
It is very important to know what you eat and then to know what to eat. Here are a few sugar substitutes for you to make those informed choices. A cheat meal once in a while is completely fine, but if you are eating out of stress or cravings, then it is time to take charge of your life. Remember even the labels that read sugar-free have sugar under different names.
Here Are 6 Of The Best Healthy Sugar Substitutes You May Try To Avoid Sugar:
1. Raw Honey
Honey has been used for nutritional healing and medicinal purposes since ancient times. Due to the high level of fructose, it is sweeter than refined sugar which clearly means a lesser amount of honey is needed for the same dish. So, is honey the ultimate substitute to white sugar? Let's find out.
Honey can be stirred with tea or spread over the toast. It can be a great substitute to white cane sugar for your full flavoured bakes, hot drinks and sauces. However, when I talk about honey, I am talking about raw honey. A lot of nutrients are lost during the standard processing of honey. Raw honey consists of flavonoids which means it is packed with antioxidants and has several anti-viral & anti-bacterial properties. However, moderation is the key here as honey is high in calories. It may not be a suitable alternative for diabetes patients as it does increase blood sugar levels.
(Also Read: Honey And Weight Loss: How Are The Two Connected?)
Honey is loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce sore throat symptoms
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2. Date sugar
Date sugar is derived from the dehydrated dates which are then grounded to convert them into granules. It is rich in antioxidants as well as has an added fibre advantage. Owing to its amazing binding and blending properties, date sugar works best with smoothies as well as cookies. For your bakes and cakes, date syrup can be an extremely appetising choice. However, you need to keep in mind that date sugar also has a high fructose level; hence people looking to cut down on sugar levels should use it in very moderate levels.
(Also Read: What is Palm Sugar? Is it Really Good for You?)
3. Coconut Sugar
A cut is made on the coconut palm and the sap is collected which is further left for evaporation. After this process, a crystallised substance is left back which is then processed to make coconut sugar. A great thing about natural sweeteners is that it adds a texture and flavour of its own to the main dish. For example, the earthy flavours of coconut sugar can add a new dimension when it is stirred on tea or coffee or sprinkled over a waffle or a pancake, or even added to spicy curries. It could be a good substitute for artificial sugar as it retains the nutrients of a coconut. It has the presence of inulin fibre due to which it is good for gut health. However, it is high in calories and should be used moderately.
Coconut sugar absorbs more slowly than regular sugar
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4. Maple Syrup
Are you the one who orders maple syrup pancake for your breakfast? Maple syrup is one of the best alternatives to white sugar and quite unprocessed in its extraction. With powerful antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, maple syrup can be used for a variety of sweets, ranging from doughnuts ice creams to savouries like salmon and pork. It has a lower glycemic index as compared to refined sugar which means it is great for the people who are battling the issue of high blood sugar levels. You can use it in your lemonades, tea, salad dressings and smoothies to reap it's health benefits to the fullest.
(Also Read: Is It Safe For Diabetics To Have Maple Syrup?)
maple syrup is full of zinc
Fig consists of very simple carbohydrates which can be broken down very easily. This means it will not raise your insulin levels the way processed sugar would do. Add the punch of figs in the form of fig halwa, fig ladoos and fig biscuits and make your festive and holiday binge guilt-free. Soak them in water and convert them to a puree and say yes to good bone health, blood health and digestive system.
Figs are called Anjeer in Hindi
We all know that jaggery is a natural form of sugar substitute derived from sugar cane. Owing to its unrefined form, it is a powerhouse of essential vitamins, minerals, irons and antioxidants. Having a small piece of jaggery after your meal activates your digestive enzymes. It is great for an anaemic patient as well as it increases haemoglobin levels in your body. One can create a lot of dishes such as jaggery halwas, jaggery rotis, jaggery laddoos and chikkis beneficial especially during the winter season as it wards off the effects of cough, cold and flu like magic.
So, try these natural and healthy sugar alternatives and keep your health in check, especially if you are a diabetic or watching your weight (weight loss). But make sure, you practice moderation. Always consult your doctor before adding anything new to your diet.
Jaggery is known to be a healthy sugar alternative
Photo Credit: iStock
About Author: Ekta Sood is a Delhi-based nutritionist and lifestyle coach
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.