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With the increasing health awareness, there has been a huge demand for refined sugar substitutes in the market that would provide lesser or no calories and possess similar sweetening potential. There are various natural substitutes for refined sugar easily available including Honey, Coconut Sugar, Blackstrap Molasses, Maple Syrup, Apple Sauce, and Date Syrup. These natural substitutes have high nutritional value and are simultaneously rich in Glucose, Fructose, and Sucrose which possess high calories, and may obstruct a hypocaloric diet which instead of managing, may enhance health conditions of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Low-Calorie Substitutes of Refined Sugar available in India
There are a variety of artificial zero-calorie sweeteners available in the market, e.g. saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, cyclamates, etc. However, these sugar substitutes are associated with health complications, and subsequently, their restricted use is recommended. Thus, there is a continuous search for low-calorie or non-caloric sweeteners of natural origin that are safe for consumption with additional health benefits.
Here is the list of some low or Zero Calorie Substitute with their health benefits that you will easily get in healthy food stores or online:
Stevia is the most popular natural alternative to artificial sweeteners among diabetics globally as a substitute for refined sugar. In India, multiple brands have launched stevia in the form of powder, granules, and drops to target diabetic and health-conscious consumers.
Stevia contains natural compounds, especially stevioside and rebaudioside A (Reb-A). The stevia available commercially contains (Reb-A) which is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, with zero calories and no nutritional value.
However, Stevia-incorporated products possess better sweetening potential and maximum consumer acceptability, compared to other sugar substitutes.
This zero caloric sweetener is partially or fully incorporated into beverages, ice creams, chocolates, dairy, and bakery products. However, this revolution is in its early stages.
In response to increasing consumer demands globally, food and beverage industries are looking ahead and focusing to reduce calories and cut the cost of various eatables by incorporating Stevia.
The medicinal use of stevia for treating these chronic health conditions is an exciting venture and worthy of more exploration by the medical community.
2. Sugar Alcohols
If you are diabetic and have never heard of ‘Sugar Alcohols’ before. Here’s some information that you might be interested in.
Sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol. These are low digestible carbohydrates of natural origin, extracted from fruits and vegetables.
Sugar alcohols contain fewer calories (1.5 - 3 calories per gram) than sugar (4 calories per gram), and they do not cause tooth decay like refined sugar does. The sweetness of sugar alcohols varies from 25% to 100% as that of sugar. Therefore, Food industries market their items as low carb, sugar-free, and diabetes-friendly without compromising sweetness.
“Sugar-free" chewing gums brands including Happydent, Orbit, Trident, Extra, and many others use Xylitol, sorbitol, and Maltitol as a sweetener. Apart they are also used in sugar-free ice-creams, candies, chocolates, and cookies.
Xylitol is used in sugar-free toothpaste, mouthwash, candies, and even in sugar-free sauces and syrups.
Here is the list of FDA approved Sugar Alcohols4:
Most of these are available commercially in powder form and used in food industries and we might not know even. So next time you buy a sugar-free product, you might be interested in its Nutritional facts.
Since sugar alcohols have some carbohydrates, overconsumption can increase weight.
Out of all Sugar alcohols, Erythritol is the safest option and can be replaced with refined sugar.
3. Yacon Syrup
Yacon syrup is another natural sweetener extracted from the roots of the yacon plant (Smallanthus sonchifolius). It has one-third of the calories of refined sugar.
Yacon Syrup has not received very much popularity yet. Not many human trials have been reported in the literature to date. But it has full efficiency to make its way into the health and wellness community.
It tastes about half as sweet as honey and its consistency is similar to molasses.
It is composed of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), a soluble undigested fiber, inulin, and a small amount of glucose and fructose.
The recommended daily consumption of Yacon syrup with no undesirable gastrointestinal effects is 8.4 g for a 60 kg individual.10
Daily intake of Yacon syrup produces a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference, and body mass index.
It is low in calories but thick in consistency which gives the sensation of fullness even if consumed in a small amount. It is better to be consumed before a meal than with the meal for effective reduction in appetite. It also increases defecation frequency and satiety sensation. This hack is very effective for healthy weight loss.7
There has been a reported significant decrease in body weight over 120 days with consumption of Yacon Syrup.9
4. Monk Fruit sweetener (Siraitia grosvenorii)
Monk fruit sweetener is another zero-calorie natural sweetener, extracted from monk fruit or Buddha Fruit, native to Southeast Asia and now being cultivated in India also since July 2021.
Monk fruit mainly contains fructose, glucose, and Mogrosides.
Mogrosides are antioxidants that are responsible for the sweetness of monk fruit instead of fructose or glucose. It is 300 times sweeter than regular sugar with zero-calorie. 11
Various brands manufacture monk fruit sweeteners in the form of powder, liquid as an alternate for refined sugar for diabetics.
Due to its zero caloric value, it can completely replace refined sugar when mixed with other natural low caloric sweeteners.
Allulose or d-psicose is another good alternative to refined sugar, with a relative sweetness of 70% and a very low caloric value.
It is naturally found in wheat, raisins, figs, and processed sugar cane. Commercially it is extracted from corn.
Various brands manufacture Allulose sweeteners in the form of powder, liquid forms for diabetics and obese.