– Contributed by – Kelley Herring, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Health-e Enterprises and writer of the award-winning book “Guilt Free Desserts”.
Few of us have the willpower to resist a freshly-baked, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookie. The smell wafting out of the kitchen and the sight of their gooey goodness is just too enticing to pass up.
Unfortunately, most of us go through life indulging, only to suffer from post-dessert guilt, sugar-induced sluggishness and a body we’re less than proud of.
Then there are those who choose deprivation for the sake of good health and a trim waistline. Unlike the chemical-laden, artificial sweeteners (like sucralose, aspartame, neotame, and ace-K), these natural sweeteners provide a powerful punch of sweetness, without the toxic side effects.
Because they are low glycemic, they won’t spike your blood sugar the way sugar does.
Here’s the rundown on nature’s sugar substitutes that will sweeten your life… while helping you slim down:
Erythritol: Considered the “almost sugar” by health experts and pastry chefs alike, erythritol is a “sugar alcohol” with no calories and a glycemic index of zero. It has no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels, so it won’t shift your body into fat storage mode. It can be used cup-for-cup in recipes just like sugar, and provides about 70% of the sweetness.
However, getting the ratios right can be a trick and if you don’t know how to “temper” erythritol with one simple trick, your fudge and candy can end up sandy.
Guilt Free Desserts shows you how to achieve the perfect level of sweetness and how to ensure that erythritol dissolves properly in all of your recipes.
Stevia: This super-sweet herb, native to Paraguay, is up to 300X sweeter than sugar. Stevia is best used to increase the sweetness of a sugar alcohol, like erythritol, rather than as the sole sweetener in a recipe. But beware! Stevia is potent and a little goes a long way. If you use too much, you’ll have to toss out your whole batch of goodies.
We’ll show you how to achieve the perfect ratio of stevia in your recipes and some of the stevia blends that can take the guesswork out of your sugar-free baking.
Xylitol: Like erythritol, xylitol is also a sugar alcohol. It has the same sweetness as sugar but with 40% fewer calories and a glycemic index of 11. Xylitol tends to have a minty “cooling” effect, which can be reduced by combining it with erythritol. Most xylitol is derived from corn, but Emerald Forest Erythritol is derived from birch.
Xylitol has a number of health benefits ranging from reducing cavities and Candida, to boosting bone health.
Luo Han Guo: Consider this the Asian cousin of stevia. A member of the pumpkin family, the extract of this gourd is also about 300 times sweeter than sugar and rich in antioxidants. Luo Han Guo (or just lo han) has been used medicinally in China for centuries for treating cough and sore throat.
Like stevia, use sparingly in baked goods. Look for Jarro Luo Han Sweet or Lakanto, a combination of luo han and erythritol.
Palm Sugar: Made from the evaporated sap of the coconut flower, palm sugar (also called coconut sugar) tastes very similar to brown sugar. But unlike sugar’s score of 65 on the glycemic index, coconut sugar ranks 35. A word of caution: while it’s lower on the glycemic index, palm sugar still has 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar per tablespoon.
So this should only be used sparingly to add a rounded, rich, brown-sugar taste to baked goods that are primarily sweetened with the above zero calorie options. Try Navitas Naturals Organic Palm Sugar.
Agave: Don’t Buy the Health Hype
One of the most popular “alternative” sweeteners in recent years has become agave, a sweet syrup derived from the cactus that brings us tequila. While agave nectar has a low glycemic index (around 32) and has been favored over sugar by the health-conscious crowd and raw foodists alike, agave may not be the safe sweetener it has been touted to be.
That’s because agave is high in fructose, a six carbon sugar that promotes insulin resistance and weight gain.
If you do choose to use agave, be sure to use it very sparingly. Despite the health claims that made it popular, it has, and will always have, 60 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Do you have agave recipes you love and want to make over?
In Guilt Free Desserts, we’ll show you a great agave substitute that will give you the sticky goodness you crave, with a fraction of the health-harming fructose