In this article, I am going to mention that why did I leave white refined sugar and what natural sugar alternatives are available at our convenience.
In my healthy baking endeavor, a majority of queries which people ask relate to my ingredients. And when we talk about ingredients in baking, the topic of Sugar gets the utmost attention.
In all honesty, all these questions about healthy ingredients make me uber happy as it shows the enthusiasm of people to understand the core components of healthy lifestyle. They are well conversant with the fact that healthy lifestyle begins with healthy ingredients.
As we all know, a dessert is incomplete without sugar. Hence, when I took up this challenge of healthy baking, the most difficult task for me was how to replace unhealthy refined sugar with something nutritious.
And here I am today, a completely different person altogether when it comes to ingredients in maintaining healthy lifestyle.
Healthy Lifestyle begins with Healthy Ingredients.
I have been meaning to write about Sugars from a long time; at last, I am penning my experiences and information about different types of natural Sugars I use for baking purposes.
But before I move further, let me mention few things about white Refined Sugar.
White Refined Sugar
White refined sugar, also known as sucrose or table sugar, is the most commonly used sugar. It consists of one molecule of glucose linked with one molecule of fructose (whose over consumption is the main killer). Refined sugar is usually obtained from sugar cane. These plants are harvested, processed, and refined to give you this white beauty known as table sugar.
Truth be told, this white sugar has been processed so much that its nutritional value becomes – none, zero, zilch. It does not help your body in anyway; it just gives you a short-term rush of happiness and contentment; eventually leading to cravings. Just like drugs, it makes you addictive; it raises your dopamine levels and gives you feelings of pleasure. Hence, the addiction. More and more sugar consumption alters your brain chemistry and promotes substance dependency.
I can write tons and tons of stuff about refined sugar; however, for the time being, I would like you all to remember the following:
White refined sugar has almost zero nutritional value and its over consumption has detrimental effects physically and psychologically.
But, people argue with me on the following:
- As long as I am exercising, I am okay with eating refined sugar.
- Everything is fine in moderation.
To some extent, I agree with both the points. Sugar is also a source of energy as it has glucose, and people who exercise on regular basis need glucose to maintain their energy levels. Also, it is okay to consume refined sugar in moderation; however, how do you define moderation? How many teaspoons of sugar are okay to consume in a day?
Any idea? Let’s find out.
As per American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
6 teaspoons for women
9 teaspoons for men
Are you sure you maintain the above limits? If you are, fantastic! But have you ever considered that how much hidden sugars are there in your processed foods such as cereals, bread, pastas, biscuits, ready-made snacks, beverages (juices with preservatives and sports drinks), flavored yogurt, flavored healthy drinks etc.?
My perspective about Refined Sugar
I would like to emphasize that why should we eat something which has no nutritional value at all, irrespective of exercising? Why can’t we switch to natural sugar alternatives which gives us nutrition and satisfaction at the same time? People who exercise regularly, why can’t they get their glucose requirements from healthy options?
Even if we are burning those extra calories by exercising and following the rule of moderation, why can’t we consume healthy calories instead of empty calories?
And this is what I have done.
I have completely left white refined sugar and have switched to the following natural sugar alternatives. I could not conciliate with the fact of feeding chemical-loaded, super-refined, and no-nutritional value substance to my body.
Here are some natural sugar alternatives I use in my baking:
Coconut sugar is a natural and unrefined sugar made from sap – the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is made by following two simple steps:
- A cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected in the containers.
- The liquid sap is then placed under the heat until the water has evaporated.
What’s good about it?
Coconut sugar is made using the most natural techniques, and there is no processing involved; hence, it is chemical-free. It also contains a fiber known as Insulin which may slows down glucose absorption.
White sugar supplies empty calories, but coconut sugar retains some nutrients – such as Zinc, Potassium, Calcium, some antioxidants etc. – which are found in the coconut palm.
What’s not good about it? – It is super expensive.
The price of coconut sugar is exorbitantly high – 1200 INR per kg. As per my experience, people tend to compare its price with the normal sugar which costs 40-50 INR per kg; hence, they do not prefer to switch to this natural sugar. For the time being, I consider it a luxurious ingredient, and I hope its price will come down in the future.
I absolutely love coconut sugar; I use it very often. It has a distinct flavor which lift up my spirits. Also, I have experienced that it is very sweet and in case you are substituting it in place of 1 cup of refined sugar, you just need 3/4 cup of coconut sugar. So you end up using it less.
I am a fan of coconut sugar, and it is my most preferred natural sugar alternative.
But, you have to understand that moderation is the key.
Even though coconut sugar is pure, unrefined, and natural, over-consumption is never recommended. It is sugar, after all. Your body will digest it in the same way as it treats white refined sugar. It gives you the same amount of calories as you get from table sugar, but the calories are not empty in this case.
One teaspoon of coconut sugar has 15-16 calories.
Even though I switched to coconut sugar, I still maintain the limit of 6 teaspoons in a day (Actually, I prefer just 3 teaspoons and not more than that).
Price: 1200 INR per kg
Where to buy:
Coconut sugar is not easily accessible for the time being. However, I order it online from Sattvik foods. I have been using their products from quite sometime and absolutely trust the quality. You can order it from here.
Jaggery is another natural sugar which is widely used, especially in India. Both sugar and jaggery are made from sugarcane. Although, they are both meant for providing energy to the body, their method of energy release is different.
White sugar is instantly absorbed in the blood; hence, raising the insulin levels so that the excess sugar can be controlled in the bloodstream. In other words, when you consume white sugar, there is a sudden increase in your insulin levels where its job is to filter out the excess sugar as soon as possible from your bloodstream. The insulin works so fast that you might feel hungry or empty in the next 15-20 minutes. That is why, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave for it after sometime.
Jaggery, on the other hand, is far more complex; hence, it is digested at much lower rate and releases energy slowly rather than instantly. This provides energy for a longer time. Jaggery is also good in iron, and furthermore, it acts as a cleansing agent for lungs, stomach and intestines.
Make sure you buy unrefined jaggery. It might take a while for you to understand the difference between refined and unrefined jaggery; hence, do a thorough research.
I, sometimes, use it in my brownie batch, and it tastes really nice. Once in a while, I love to add half a tea spoon of jaggery in my coffee. Trust me, it goes great with a cup of coffee 🙂
Price: I use organic jaggery (without any synthetic pesticides). It costs 150 INR per kg
Palm jaggery – another natural sugar – is a different kind of jaggery; the difference lies in the fact that it is made from palm tree extracts rather than sugarcane. Palm jaggery is quite beneficial and is a nutrient-rich variety of raw jaggery. Furthermore, it is loaded with minerals and vitamins.
It has a unique aroma, and I love its flavor. However, you might not like its appearance as it is very dark in color as shown in the image. I made a Semolina dessert with palm jaggery once, and it looked horrible. Absolutely horrible. But the taste and the aroma were amazing.
Price: 350-360 INR per kg. Make sure you buy unrefined one where the ingredients section must show – 100% Palm Jaggery.
First of all, raw sugar is not brown sugar; it is important to make this distinction. Most of the times, brown sugar is refined. However, raw unrefined sugar is made from sugarcane and contains minerals like phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium etc. all of which are thrown away in case of refined sugar. It does not contain any chemicals and is totally unrefined.
I have used it many times in baking, and it turns out very good. If my coconut sugar is out of stock, I switch to raw unrefined sugar for my baked goods.
Price: Again, I use organic sugar and it costs 182 INR per kg.
But, do not forget the most important point – MODERATION IS THE KEY
I would again like to emphasize that it is very very very important to keep a thorough check on your sugar consumption. I do not want any one of you to ignore this fact. Remember the limits of added sugar(refined or unrefined) for a day:
6 teaspoons for women
9 teaspoons for men
A healthy alternative does not give you the liberty to consume it in huge quantity. They all are sugars, after all. The over consumption will severely affect you physically and psychologically.
If I talk about myself, I do not consume sugar in any way except the desserts. I am not a dessert-loving person, and I cannot tolerate the junk in terms of sugar-rush and heavy cream. However, I love to have a flavorful small muffin or a brownie or a small piece of cake with my coffee; hence, I make all these things at home.
But I keep a regular check on my sugar consumption, and I make sure that my every muffin or brownie or a piece of cake will not have more than 1.2 teaspoons of sugar. That’s it!
My desserts are guilt-free as I use super nutritious flours :-). Read more about Healthy Baking.
Again, I would like to mention that I switched to natural sugar alternatives because I do not want to feed my body with something which has no nutritional value.
So these are the sugars I use in my everyday-baking. When are you going to make this change. Do share your thoughts with me. I would love to hear from you all.