Alternatives for your sweet tooth

It's never easy when one, or both, of your parents are diagnosed with diabetes. The first thing their doctor will advise is to make dietary changes and give up sugar!

In reality, it is much easier said than done as they would have been consuming sugar all their lives.

The taste of sugar also releases feel-good hormones in the brain, which may explain why many people find it difficult to give it up.

The Malaysian Government is spending millions of ringgit on trying to educate the public about the dangers of sugar through campaigns and advertisements, essentially pleading with the public to reduce their sugar intake.

For patients with diabetes, sugar raises blood glucose levels, which increases the risk of complications involving the nerves, eyes, kidneys and heart.

Too much salt, fat and cholesterol in your diet can affect your heart, and now the American Heart Association (AHA) has placed added sugars on this list.

According to the AHA, a high intake of sugar is associated with poor health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and high triglyceride levels, which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

It's everywhere

It's everywhere

White granulated sugar, also known as sucrose, is the most common form of sugar.

But it is not the only kind of sugar; other forms include brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup or just fructose, maltose, gula Melaka, glucose, honey and maple syrup.

If you are like most average Malaysians, you are consuming about 19 teaspoons (76g) of added sugar daily. That means about 300 calories of your daily calorie intake is coming from sugar, which is way too high, according to health experts.

How much sugar should we be eating then?

The AHA recommends not more than six teaspoons of sugar (100 calories) for women, and nine teaspoons (150 calories) for men.

One can of orange juice or cola has about seven to eight teaspoons of sugar!

You might be surprised to find out that three-in-one beverages are also loaded with sugar. A cup of three-in-one white coffee or chocolate malt beverage can contain between three to four teaspoons of sugar.

Other common "healthy" oats and cereal beverages can contain up to four teaspoons of sugar!

Imagine drinking two to three cups of these beverages a day. You would have easily exceeded AHA's recommended daily intake of six teaspoons of sugar for women, and nine for men. And this is not even counting the sugars in foods.

The alternatives

The alternatives

The most well-known sugar substitutes are artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-k and saccharin.

Nowadays, you can find these sweeteners in everything from carbonated soft drinks and yoghurt to baked food, and even three-in-one beverages.

These products are often touted as being "sugar-free", and the artificial sweeteners as "healthy alternatives to sugar".

However, for those seeking a natural alternative to sugar, there is the stevia extract.

Also known as sweet leaf or Stevia rebaudiana, stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, but contains no calories. Stevia extract is made from the sweetest part of the stevia leaf.

Besides tasting good, stevia extract is safe and has no side effects. It has also been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive, and is considered as a dietary supplement.

As the extract has no calories and does not raise blood sugar levels, it is an ideal choice for pre-diabetics and diabetics, as well as those concerned about their health.

Although stevia does not have the same taste as sugar, it is still an excellent substitute as a sweetener.

After all, when it comes to sweetness, no other sweeteners, whether natural or artificial, can ever measure up to sugar as it is the "gold standard" our tastebuds are used to.

For our diabetic mum or dad, who might miss the simple pleasure of drinking coffee or chocolate malt beverages flavoured with sugar, the alternatives include three-in-one sugar-free coffee, chocolate malt, and even oats and cereal beverages, which are sweetened with stevia instead.

This article is courtesy of Eversweett. For more information, please call Eversweett INFOline 03-6142 6570 (Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm), email: enquiries@eversweett.com or visit www.eversweett.com.

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