Refined sugar is one of the most commonly used sweeteners and millions of people across the world will testify the same. However, its nutritional profile is void of any benefits and is often referred to as an ingredient that provides empty calories. However, there are various alternatives that could be incorporated into our diet as a replacement for sugar.
We require it to sweeten our drinks or food, be it for beverages such as tea or desserts. Sugar’s consumption in large quantities is a menace that can cause obesity and heart ailments. A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine observed that a diet high in sugar may raise the risk of heart disease, including people who are not even overweight.
In order to refine sugar, it undergoes industrialised processing and loses all its nutritional value along the way, churning out just plain sucrose as a by-product. Therefore, the following alternatives could help not just sweeten your drinks and food, but also provide health benefits:
1. Jaggery (Gur)
It is an unrefined sugar product referred to as a “non-centrifugal sugar,” as it is not spun during processing to remove the nutritious molasses. Jaggery is made mostly with sugar cane or date palm and offers a variety of benefits such as aiding in digestion, providing iron to the body, and warding off cold and cough. Due to its unrefined nature, jaggery manages to retain traces of iron, fibre and various mineral salts.
HealthShots spoke to nutritionist Deepika Dua Arora, Director of Mutation Diet Clinic, New Delhi, who said that “jaggery is preferred over sugar because sugar is chemically processed whereas jaggery is naturally sourced.” She also highlighted the importance of jaggery as a rich source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and calcium. You could use powdered jaggery when making tea, coffee, and sweet dishes such as barfi or halwa.
Honey is rich in nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. When consumed in a non-processed form, it can boost digestion and improve gut health. As per research published by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, considering that refined sugar lacks a nutritional quotient, honey is a great replacement option as it provides antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids. It could be used as a sweetener for both hot and cold beverages and added to sweet dishes as well.
3. Brown sugar
Unlike white refined sugar, brown sugar is processed in a natural way to retain sugarcane’s natural nutritional benefits. The brown colour is attributed to the presence of molasses, which provides vitamins, calcium, iron, and minerals. As per research published by the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine, molasses’s high iron, potassium, and calcium contents may benefit bone and heart health. Brown sugar can be used to sweeten various hot beverages or flavour desserts such as cakes.
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While these alternatives are a healthier option in place of refined sugar, they should be used in moderation.
So, ladies, try these replacements for refined sugar, and boost your overall health and wellbeing!