Don’t Sugarcoat It

Have your cake and eat it too, with healthy sugar alternatives and sweeteners explained.

Granulated sugar is the standard ingredient for most baking recipes, but as people become increasingly mindful of their personal health, there is a growing demand for a variety of natural sweeteners and sugar alternatives.

Like sugar, sweeteners provide that sweet, comforting and addictive taste, but what sets them apart is that they don’t increase blood sugar levels after being consumed. But most of the sweeteners comprise non-nutritious “weird” complex chemicals that could potentially disrupt your metabolism, elevate blood sugar and disrupt the body’s ability to properly metabolise glucose, so perhaps they aren’t the best solution you were looking for anyway.

With so much focus on provenance of ingredients, quality and indeed their method of production, most people naturally want to eat as healthy as possible, without compromising on taste or texture. So what’s the next best thing to use instead of sugar and chemically produced sugar alternatives?

The healthiest alternative to sugar is whole fruits, followed by (non-sugar added) dried fruits, as they contain added nutrients and fibre. For instance, applesauce and mashed bananas are the perfect healthy sweetener substitutes for baked goods, adding moisture to the bake, while reducing the amount of fat needed.

Other natural sweeteners are nutritive (which do contain calories), such as non-refined sugar sources like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of flower buds of the coconut palm tree; maple syrup is made from the boiled sap of sugar maple trees; while dates add fibre and vitamins. Likewise, honey, though sweeter than sugar, is often heralded as the golden nectar loaded with health-promoting enzymes, minerals, antioxidants and prebiotics. Choose raw honey over processed, as the high heat used during the processing can destroy many of the beneficial compounds.

Can’t believe it’s that simple? Follow the Cookbook Critic recipes on page 75 for Perfect Scones using dried Zante currants for the sweet notes, and for Rosemary-Lemon Shortbread using only freeze-dried sweet corn and date sugar. And I’m not even sugarcoating it.