Where we used to talk about ‘sugars’, we now talk about ‘honey’, ‘corn syrup’, ‘galactose’ and all other forms of sugar. We know that sugar isn’t good for your health, however in the Netherlands we consume about two to three times more sugar than the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (NRC, 2015). Shocking, right?! To be more conscious about our health, we choose for honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugars. But is it a better choice? We will give you a short introduction.
Sugar and sugar alternatives
Sugar is a collective name for monosaccharides and disaccharides, which are carbs. This is why ‘sugar’ is underneath ‘carbs’ on food packages. Mostly when we talk about sugar, we talk about refined sugar, which is sugar from sugar beets and sugarcanes. But sugar also occur naturally in food, like: fruit sugar, milk sugar, starch (potatoes and grains) and corn. Next to that, also syrup, molasses and honey consist for a big part out of sugar.
Honey has a little bit more kilocalories and a little bit less sugar than refined sugar. The ingredients exists for 79 percent out of sugar, 17 percent out of water en 4 percent out of enzymes, protein, vitamins and minerals. Honey has an antibacterial effect, most likely because of the combination of enzymes, a special protein in honey and the high concentration of sugar. This effect is not strong enough to prevent an infection, but it could soothe a cold. In conclusion: even though honey has some health benefits, it isn’t a healthy choice because of its kilocalories and sugars.
Maple syrup is a Canadian sweetener, especially great on top of your pancakes. It contains less kilocalories and sugar than honey and refined sugars. Next to that it also contains vitamins and minerals, but not as much as honey does. The glycemic index is lower, which means maple syrup is less bad for you blood sugar level. However, the vitamins and minerals in maple syrup don’t weigh up to the amount sugars.
There is no clear picture about agave syrup according to science. Agave syrup exists for a big part out of fructose. Science shows that fructose can damage the liver, which can cause fatty liver disease. However, agave syrup contains less glucose than other sugars, which means the blood sugar level will increase less compared to other sugars.
Coconut blossom sugar
Sugar from a palm tree, sounds like the most healthy one on the list! Nope. Coconut blossom sugar has about as many kilocalories and sugars as refined sugar. The only advantage of coconut blossom sugar is that it’s not heated during processing, so the minerals won’t get lost.
Sweeteners don’t contain sugar or kilocalories. There are unhealthy variants of sweeteners, but all permitted sweeteners in the EU are carefully examined on safety. So even though sweeteners don’t have any health benefits, they are also not harmful. Also, sweeteners don’t have an effect on your blood sugar level. Only good news! However there is one (little) disadvantage of sweeteners: some sweeteners contain polyols. The colon converts polyols into bacteria, which releases gasses. Also they attract water, resulting in diarrhea and flatulence. And that’s not what we want right… 😉
NiceDay: Would you like to eat healthier? Try to reduce your sugar intake. Write in your diary how that works for you.