Last week I posted about artificial sweeteners and just how bad some of them are for us.
For those of you who prefer to go a-la-natural when it comes to adding sweetness in the kitchen, you may find the below run-down on natural alternatives interesting.
Agave syrup - Up until recently I had heard good things about agave syrup. With a low glycemic index (Low GI) this all-natural sweetener has been publicised as a great alternative for diabetics.
The reality however is that most agave syrups in fact have a higher fructose content than any other sweeteners out there, even higher than high fructose corn syrup (read more about just how bad HFCS is here).
Raw honey - raw organic honey is just about as close to 'natural' as you can get when it comes to adding sweetness to your cooking. It tastes great too. I wouldn't however recommend going overboard with this one (and if you're off the sugar then I would of course give this a miss all together) as it does raise your blood sugar level and it is higher in calories than white sugar.
Organic Maple Syrup - contains fewer calories and more minerals than honey. A good source of magnanese and zinc, organic maple syrup has a lovely rich, earthy taste. Great in tea or on porridge.
Brown Rice Syrup - Made by culturing brown rice with enzymes, brown rice syrup is 52% maltotriose, 45% maltose and 3% glucose. Can sometimes be used in sweetening drinks like rice milk.
Stevia - I mentioned this one in my post about artificial sweeteners. Stevia is a natural sweetener that is 250-450 times sweeter than sugar. Although it is naturally derived, it is still early days when it comes to known effects of this sweetener.
Xylitol - Although the name doesn't exactly sound 'natural', xylitol has roughly the same level of sweetness as sugar and is made by fermenting xylose, which is a sugar found in the embryos of most edible plants. It is converted to glucose by our livers, so ultimately it looks like there are no ill effects on humans.
Fruit - possibly the most natural of them all. Adding fruit to your diet can give you just the hit of sugar that you need. Whether it be dried, stewed or fresh, fruit tastes great when added to smoothies, on cereal or porridge, or in salads (think pear or mango in a salad... mmmm).