Refined sugar is often singled out for being devoid of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, as well as being composed entirely of carbohydrates (4 calories per gram). This is why foods that are high in sugar content are said to be "empty calories." On the other hand, combining moderate amounts of sugar with other quality products (fruit, whole wheat flour, bran, etc.) can result in both a nutritious and tasty dessert! Although some types of sugar do contain a few nutrients (honey, maple syrup), all should be consumed in moderation! It's the natural aspect of these products that makes them attractive.
Our Pride: Maple Syrup
Clearly maple syrup is a sugar, but it contains more minerals and vitamins than refined sugar or corn syrup, for example. Sixty ml (1/4 cup) of maple syrup contains 100% of the recommended nutritional intake of manganese, 37% of riboflavin (vitamin B2), 18% of zinc, 7% of magnesium, and 5% of both calcium and potassium. Furthermore, many studies in recent years have been looking at the antioxidant content of maple syrup. A welcome discovery!
Honey: Infinite Possibilities
Almost impossible to have a more natural product! Produced by bees from the nectar they collect from flowers, honey does not have to undergo any transformation. Depending on the flowers available and the time of the harvest, the colour of honey varies from light to dark and the taste from sweet to robust. Honey is the oldest known sweetener.
New: Agave Syrup
Agave syrup comes from a plant that grows in tropical countries. The syrup is more liquid and less sticky than honey. The taste is quite subtle with hints of vanilla. Agave syrup is a more potent sweeter than sugar, which means that, given the same amount of both products, agave syrup will result in a sweeter taste. In that way, it becomes attractive because you can put less in your recipes, which reduces the associated calories. As its glycemic index is lower than that of sugar, it could become an interesting alternative for diabetic people, but always in moderation!
Sweeten Without Calories: Is It Possible?
Sugar substitutes (or artificial sweeteners) result from the laboratory processing of certain chemicals. They have the "advantage" of providing little to no calories and do not raise blood sugar levels. In general, their sweetening power is much higher than sugar (up to 500 times higher) and so only very small quantities need to be added to food products. Safe? Health Canada is responsible for approving the substitutes before they are put on the market and rigorous controls are carried out to ensure product safety. But there remains much controversy within the scientific world. Artificial sweeteners must, therefore, be used with caution and moderation. Fortunately, it is quite possible to prepare healthy desserts without using sugar substitutes!
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