It’s a fact that Ireland is getting fatter and, as people strive to buck the trend while still occasionally satisfying a sweet tooth, we’re frequently asked which of the many natural sweeteners we recommend people to use. Firstly I’d say it’s a matter of frequency. If your sweet treat is a once a week indulgence your choice will have less impact, if it’s more often think carefully. Before thinking about sweeteners at all give some thought to other refined carbohydrates like white flour and pasta and maybe cut them out or way down first. Then look at some of the unrefined natural sweeteners you can use in your own cooking and which are finding their way more and more into bought products.
Natural Sweeteners options:
is extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana and has been used for sweetening for centuries in South America. It’s compounds make it many times sweeter than sugar without any of the calories. It has been linked with health benefits like lowering elevated blood pressure and lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics. However… many people dislike the taste of Stevia. It does depend on the brand though, you may need to experiment to find one that you like.
How to use Stevia: Unlike raw honey, stevia is heat stable, so feel free to use it in any way you desire. Remember, it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar, so don’t use it in the same ratio. For baking, this can present a problem, as refined sugar gives bulk to recipes. However, this can be easily rectified. To make up for the lost bulk when using stevia, use 1/3 to ½ cup of one of the following bulking agents: fresh fruit puree, yogurt, roasted winter squash, two whipped egg whites, or you can use 1–2 tablespoons of coconut flour.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar. It contains 2.4 calories per gram, or about 75% of the caloric value of sugar. It appears to have some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay. It may also improve bone density, helping to prevent osteoporosis and it doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
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