IN THE FIRST PART, we spoke about the benefit of sugar in its natural form. Generally-speaking, the less refined and processed, the better (honey, coconut palm sugar, Panela). However, with the exclusion of stevia, Lo Han Guo and the sugar alcohols listed below, all sugars have a similar chemical makeup, carry a caloric load and have a glycemic impact. They should be used moderately and as occasional additions to treats that are part of a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. If you’ve been sugar-free long enough, a little of the sweet stuff will take you a long way.
Honey contains many beneficial enzymes, proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and polyphenols. It increases antioxidant levels (glutathione and and vitamin C). Reduces inflammation and increases HDL cholesterol levels. It also exhibits antibacterial and antiviral roles.
Stevia is a natural, sugar-free sweetener that comes from the plant species stevia rebaudiana. It has various therapeutic effects such as raising HDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure and glucose levels after a meal.
Lo Han Guo, also known as monk fruit, is a very sweet exotic fruit (250 times sweeter than sucrose) that is sugar-free with a zero glycemic impact.
Coconut palm sugar is made from the sap of coconut flower buds. The buds are opened to collect the rich nectar and then dehydrated to form the sugar crystals. It has a low glycemic index (GI) rating of 35 and is made of up to 79% sucrose, with the rest being free fructose and glucose; this is good for people with fructose sensitivity. It contains iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins.
Blackstrap Molasses is a byproduct of cane sugar refinement, obtained from the third boiling of cane syrup. It is high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium and calcium that are contained in the dark liquid after the sucrose in the cane syrup crystallizes.
Maple syrup is the product of boiling the sap of sugar maple trees. Grade A maple syrup is lighter, whereas Grade B is stronger in flavor and made from later sap runs. The sap is boiled to evaporate the water, what results is the viscous syrup.
Date syrup. Made by boiling dates in water, straining the liquid with cheesecloth and then reboiling until it thickens and a consistency similar to maple syrup is achieved.