• Trishna Patnaik

From the kitchen- natural sugar substitutes

Not consuming white sugar is no longer just limited to diabetic patients these days. It has become an essential part of a fitness diet plan. At Elate Wellbeing Lounge, I get a lot of clients who are looking specifically to lose weight or are facing certain skin and stomach conditions. Being the Nutritionist, not only do I give them a “diet plan” but it is always something that is easily available or is not “fancy”. Weight loss is one such frenzy.

White sugar is nothing but empty calories.

All foods contain calories that are converted by the body into energy. But along with calories food also gives us important micro and macronutrients. But white sugar does not have any nutritive value, its only calories.

Interestingly, a client of mine once got completely bewildered, when I said, “I am cutting down on your sugar intake!” She went, “Oh my God! What if I faint? Where will the glucose and energy come from?” Well, you see, our brain needs glucose to function. It cannot use any other form of the energy source as it lacks the mechanism of converting other macro-nutrients into glucose. But your liver can. All food items that you consume are broken down to form a simpler compound that can be absorbed into the blood. Healthy carbohydrates, excess fat or protein too. Hence sugar is NOT your source of glucose. Your healthy diet is!

Now let’s look at some simple and easily available alternatives to white sugar:

1. Jaggery: This good old sweet and tasty thing is the processed extract of cane or sometimes made out of dates. It is rich in iron, magnesium and potassium. It is also a natural blood purifier in small amounts.

2. Stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener that's extracted from the leaves of a shrub known scientifically as Stevia rebaudiana. It contains zero calories and has no known links to weight gain.

3. Fruit concentrates: Home-made fruit concentrates can be added to various food items especially to desserts to enjoy the taste and also added vitamin benefits.

4. Honey: Fresh honey is rich in minerals and vitamins. It has a sweet taste and consists of mainly fructose sugar that can be added to tea or other beverages to cut on calorie amounts.

5. Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm. It contains a few nutrients, including iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, as well as antioxidants. It also has a lower glycaemic index than sugar, which may be partly due to its inulin content. Inulin is a type of fibre that has been shown to slow glucose absorption.

We need to, however, remember that all the above-mentioned substitutes have some amount of glucose too and are definitely adding on to the calories that you are consuming. Mindfulness is the key to healthy living. Anything that you are consuming, if taken in moderation and consumed mindfully, you will never have issues managing your weight or feel unhealthy. Moreover, you will not need to starve yourself or miss out on your favourite dessert. Remember, portion control is your key!

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