When it comes to eating habits, many of us have developed habits that leave us craving something sweet every meal. It is therefore not surprising that sweet tooths enjoy having a glass of refreshing red bean ice during their meal, followed by a delicious cheesecake as dessert. However, since excess sugar consumption can lead to health problems and obesity, is there a way to satisfy our sugar cravings while staying healthy at the same time? Luckily, the answer is yes thanks to natural sweeteners, which can be used as a substitute for refined sugars!
In this issue of Channel 823, we share the differences between a few refined sugars (white sugar, dark brown sugar and light brown sugar) and natural sweeteners (stevia, monk fruit sweetener and allulose) to help you decide which to choose. We also walk you through an amazing guilt-free dessert recipe for chocolate brownies made of monk fruit sweetener that you can make for White Valentine’s Day on 14 March.
Sugar is a common ingredient that is used in many dishes. While there are many types, brown, light brown and white sugar are among the most popular varieties. Typically, sugar is obtained from sugar cane plants that have undergone a refining process. Except for their colours, the differences between these different sugars are their levels of refinement and their mineral content.
White sugar is produced through a sugar refining process where the molasses and natural colour of sugar cane are completely removed, leaving only pure sucrose. Once purified, it has no special flavour beyond its inherent sweetness. White sugar is available in many forms with different crystal sizes, including coarse sugar and superfine sugar, which are ideal for cooking and baking.
Dark brown sugar
Brown sugar is the least refined sugar, with the refining process only removing impurities so it retains the most sugar cane elements and contains more minerals than the other two sugar types.
Light brown sugar
Light brown sugar, also known as demerara sugar, is more lightly processed. It retains some of the nutrition from the sugar cane, as well as its natural pigments and a bit of natural flavour. Using light brown sugar when a recipe calls for light will give your final product a darker colour.
Some registered nutritionists say that white sugar, dark brown sugar and light brown sugar are nutritionally similar and only differ slightly in terms of the calories they provide and their composition. Therefore, none of these three varieties can be considered healthier or better than the others if consumed in large quantities. As long as your consumption remains moderate, you are good to go with a sweetener of your choice.
If you're looking for a healthier refined sugar alternative to put in your diet, you should definitely consider these three natural sweeteners: stevia, monk fruit sweetener and allulose. They all taste sweet but contain nearly zero calories and have a low glycaemic index, which may help with weight loss.
Stevia is a natural origin plant extract from the leaves of the stevia plant, which originates in South America. Being 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia is not only virtually calorie free, but also helps lower both after-meal blood glucose levels and insulin levels. However, a mild bitterness is part of the stevia package. If you are not a fan of its bitter aftertaste, you can mix it with other natural sweeteners to create a better balance of sweetness.
Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from monk fruit, and is about 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar, with a bit of a fruity taste. Monk fruit sweetener is naturally low in calories. It is sold either as a liquid extract or in powdered form and can be used for cooking and baking purposes as well as in recipes for beverages. Since the production cost of monk fruit sweetener is higher than that of other natural sweeteners, it is rather expensive.
Allulose is a rare sugar that occurs only in minuscule amounts in natural foods like figs, jackfruit and wheat. Store-bought allulose is mainly produced in Japan and is primarily extracted from corn through an enzyme process, and then made into different forms such as syrup, powdered sugar and liquid for sale. Since the human body absorbs allulose but does not metabolise it into glucose, it is literally calorie free and has little effect on insulin levels. Allulose is about 70% as sweet as sugar, although it tastes similar to sugar and is more delicious and healthier than sugar substitutes.
With White Valentine’s Day approaching, here’s a perfect not-too-sweet, healthy treat to make for your special someone. Try this chocolate brownie recipe with monk fruit sweetener as a sugar substitute to give you that healthy sweetness you're looking for!
A rectangular loaf pan
10 tablespoons ghee (you may use coconut oil or grass-fed butter instead of ghee)
2 ounces dark chocolate
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
68 grams super fine almond flour
5 tablespoons raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
102 grams monk fruit sweetener
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
68 grams sugar-free chocolate chips (optional)
What are you waiting for? Try out this brownie recipe that is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and healthy to boot!
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