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Natural sweeteners & co.

If by now it’s clear that the fashion of healthiness has taken the upper hand, it’s also true that there’s greater awareness about what we eat and greater responsibility towards the wellbeing of our bodies.
From products purchased for domestic use to those consumed out of the home, everything revolves around a growing need to consume natural products which are good for the body. A research carried out by Nielsen on “Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment” and “Global Out-of-Home Dining”, affirms that more than 2 Italians out of 3 are worried about the artificial ingredients contained in foods and that the tendency is that of returning to origins, that is, essential ingredients (source: Nielsen).

These also include actual sweeteners. White sugar, as we know, is not very healthy, yet we find it everywhere: it raises insulin, promotes diabetes and doesn’t contain any type of vitamin or mineral, contributing, therefore, “empty” calories. For this reason, the need to find healthier and more natural alternatives has become imperative. We’re going to have a look at some that we think could be valid.

But first, a small review of the terminology in order to understand the properties of sugars and sweeteners.

COCONUT SUGAR

Coconut sugar is obtained from the sap of the flower bud stem of the coconut palm, found on the coasts of tropical and hot countries. This nectar is first boiled, and then dried in the open to allow for the formation of sugar crystals, which are brown in colour and rich in a series of important vitamins and minerals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations considers it the most sustainable natural sweetener on the planet. The sugar is obtained and processed by hand by local farmers, who climb up the trees to collect the precious sap; it’s then boiled by the women of the villages and shaped into blocks.

The taste is aromatic and quite fruity; it’s sweet like cane sugar, but conserves a light touch of caramel. Since coconut sugar is unrefined, its taste can differ on the basis of the species of coconut palm used and on the period in which the sap was extracted.

Its principle characteristics are as follows:

  • it’s a natural sweetener rich in trace elements (potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, zinc, group B vitamins and manganese);
  • it contains inulin, which enables a slow absorption of sugars into the blood;
  • it has a low glycaemic index, equal to 35, according to the Philippine Authorities, but to maintain the glycaemic level within values ​​that avoid swings in blood glucose levels, no more than 30 g per meal should be consumed.
AGAVE NECTAR

Agave nectar is obtained from the sap of agave plants and is characterised by a thin consistency and with a yellow straw colour; it’s tasteless but able to sweeten 25% more than white sugar. Its most important characteristic, however, is its low glycaemic index.

Here are its main advantages:

  • it acts as a re-mineralising agent, as it contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron;
  • it has a lower glycaemic index (GI) lower than other sugars;
  • it helps dieting in that it enhances satiety;
  • it helps the immune system, reinforced by the high percentages of vitamins;
  • it combats osteoporosis, thanks to the quantity of calcium contained;
  • it’s a friend of the intestine, as the inulin and fibre contained in the syrup protect it, facilitating the digestion and increasing bacterial flora.

(Fonte: Viversano)

STEVIA

Stevia arrives from South America and has an enormous sweetening capacity. The active ingredients are extracted mainly from dried and dehydrated leaves.

100 grams of Stevia has 0% calories, 0% protein, and 0% fats.

This natural sweetener does not seem to have particular contraindications; its use and consumption, however, must remain limited to the permitted daily dose, equal to 4 mg per kilo of body weight.

AND THEN, AND THEN…

The world of sweeteners is broad and varied: maple syrup is rich in potassium and group B vitamins; barley malt, rice syrup or maize syrup which contain amino-acids, potassium, sodium and magnesium.

We have mentioned only some but the range of possibilities does not end here. It’s up to you to choose the one you like best. Our advice is LESS IS MORE! 😉