Healthy Alternatives to Refined Sugar

Enjoyed a sugar rush during Diwali? Or had a sudden urge to reach out for a candy bar? Emptied a whole tub of ice cream to chase away blues? Had an extra cup of tea to stay awake? Whether you like making desserts, popsicles or baked goodies at home or eat a lot of processed food, refined sugar is lurking everywhere. Even found added in unexpected market bought foods like peanut butter, sauces, pickles and jams, we all love these tiny white crystals.

Many of us have read several reports of how increased consumption of refined sugar as compared to our ancestors is a cause of several health ailments. Refined sugar, being highly processed also has a lot of chemicals that help remove impurities. Sugar metabolizes quickly and makes us put on extra calories and leaves us with a sugar rush that feels like a temporary energy surge.

One can also try sweetening foods like desserts, pies, salads and more with natural alternatives like bananas, apples, berries and more. 

Since its not possible to completely stop using sugar, here are a few healthier alternatives:

Coconut Sugar

Extracted from sap of coconut plant, coconut sugar is low on the glycemic index and a rich source of minerals and vitamins. It may take a while to get used to the taste as it is very different from white sugar and more earthy. Coconut sugar can be easily included in daily cooking and baking. Though not a calorie free option, coconut sugar is not processed like normal sugar and doesn’t have any added chemicals or preservatives.


Stevia 

Stevia, a plant native to South America has leaves that are about thirty times sweeter than sugar. With zero calories, Stevia is a great alternative to refined sugar as one needs lesser quantities but be careful to buy in pure form. Crushed green leaves of the plant or green powder is better than processed Stevia. A thing to consider while buying Stevia is its shorter shelf life compared to other sugars.



Khandsari Sugar (Desi Khaand)

Khandsari Sugar or Desi Khaand is unrefined sugar that is not bleached of its properties by addition of chemicals. A raw form of sugar, Desi Khaand is more nutritious with presence of trace minerals.  While buying look for the variety that is made from organically grown sugar canes for better results and the sugar should have almost powder like tiny brown crystals.  
 
Image source - himjoli


Gur Shakkar

Also known as Ayurvedic sugar, Gur Shakkar is made from juice of sugarcane that is boiled until solidified. There are many health benefits of including gur shakkar in our diets. Regular consumption of gur shakkar helps alleviate digestive issues, helps with the detoxification of the liver and reduces digestive issues. Gur is rich in minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron and unlike refined sugar does not contain empty calories. Gur Shakkar can be used for daily cooking and added to beverages too.

Image Source - himjoli


Demerara Sugar

Differnt from brown sugar, Demerara Sugar is large-grained raw sugar with origins in Guyana and now widely produced in Mexico, India and Hawaii. Partially refined, Demerara Sugar imparts a caramel flavour when added to foods. Though Demerara Sugar has equal number of calories to white sugar, it is not excessively treated by chemicals and made by the first pressing of sugarcane juice.

Image Source - Elenadan - Creative Commons

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