There is a clear trend to go towards natural and in some cases organic products as more and more processed products, especially those containing additives are proven to be bad for us. From genetically modified maize to corn syrup and colourants people are starting to become weary. It makes sense as well – if you eat what the earth provides you with you will feel better than if you eat weird man made products. This together with the fact that many people suffer from being overweight, or developing diabetes, people have started turning towards healthier options when it comes to putting sweeteners in their tea, or coffee. Even hot chocolate can be made with sweeteners other than refined white sugar. Below you will find a breakdown of what is believed to be healthier options.
Raw Cane Sugar
Maybe the most usual sweetener today in coffee shops raw cane sugar is simply evaporated cane juice, so it’s somewhat refined. Unlike white sugar it has not been bleached though.
Stevia is a herb, but what you find in the shops is either a liquid, or a refined white powder. So yes, it’s refined, but a few drops can sweeten your entire cup of coffee and provide you with zero calories and zero insulin fluctuations. It’s actually been proven to potentially combat some forms of diabetes. The problem with stevia is that it doesn’t taste that great – yes it sweetens things but it comes with a chemical undertone, even though there are no chemicals in it.
Honey is as natural as natural can be. Especially if you buy non-radiated, unpasteurized honey. The problem with honey is that unless it states the farmer does not feed his, or her bees with antibiotics, it might be pumped full of those. Another problem is that honey can be dangerous if raw, due to bacteria, but this is really rare. Vegans don’t always eat honey either, as it comes from bees. An upside of honey is that it’s a natural antiseptic and antibiotic and is said to boost the immune system as well. It’s great for your skin too if you apply it and leave it on for a while as a treatment, but this is unlikely to have anything to do with your cup of Joe unless you are multi-tasking that is…
Maple syrup comes from the maple tree sap and although not unprocessed as it is boiled until it forms a creamier version than the actual sap, but no other ingredients are added. It also happens to taste divine, which may explain the hefty price tag. Sugar and maple syrup doesn’t vary much when it comes to calorie content, but according to Wikipedia: “Scientists have found that maple syrup’s natural phenols – potentially beneficial antioxidant compounds – inhibit two carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to type 2 diabetes.” It also has a few mineral and other potentially beneficial aspects to it.
Xylitol is great for diabetics and is a natural substance found in various fruits and other plants, it’s therefore processed, but a naturally occurring substance. It has 33% less calories than sugar, helps with dental care and ear infections. However, too large an intake can lead to laxative effects as well as in dogs consuming more than 100 milligrams of xylitol per kilogram of bodyweight led to low blood sugar levels, which can be fatal. Humans consuming up to 430 grams per day appear to have no problems though.
Agave nectar is derived from the agave plant and can be bought raw where it is processed by the use of enzymes, or in a non-raw form whereby it has been boiled to achieve the desired syrup form. It has a lower GI value than sugar and many raw foodist use it in their diet.
Depending on your taste buds you may prefer one kind of sugar to another. If you want to use the healthier options for diabetes prevention, or other health benefits but aren’t too keen on one particular sweetener, or simply want the health benefits of the different ones the taste you can always mix a few of them together.