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September 13, 2021 3 min read

Sweet Alternatives: Healthy Sugar Swaps

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy.  The body uses natural and refined sugar differently, which affects your overall health. Since most of us enjoy something sweet, at Honey Bee Meals, Toronto’s fresh meal delivery service in Greater Toronto, we help you enjoy healthier options to sweeten your food! 

Natural sugars are in fruit as fructose and contain essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease. These sources of sugar are digested slower than artificial or refined sources of sugar. Naturally occurring sugar in foods help with satiety, which helps keep your metabolism stable and you feel full for longer. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, which causes insulin and blood sugar levels to rise very quickly, resulting in the opposite effect: quick peaks in energy and quick crashes. 

The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks the effects of carbohydrates, which are sugars, on your blood glucose levels. The GI is calculated by comparing the speed and extent to which a food containing 50g of carbohydrate is broken down into glucose in the blood against a 50g dose of pure glucose. Although not all low GI foods are healthy, following a low GI diet which is rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole-grains has been suggested to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. 

Honey Bee Meals delivers healthy, delicious and nutritious meals right to your door across the GTA. We cater to a variety of customers including those health-conscious customers who are looking for refined sugar-free (and dairy free, nut free, gluten free and soy free) meals that are suitable for diabetic diets. We use alternatives to refined sugar such as honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Let’s take a closer look at these sources of sweetness:

Honey - Bees use the nectar they collect from flowers to create honey.  Honey is composed primarily of water and two sugars, fructose and glucose as well as trace amounts of enzymes, amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants.  Many of the antioxidants found in honey are classified as flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory properties, which may provide some health benefits.  Honey is higher in fructose than glucose so you can use a smaller amount of honey than refined sugar without sacrificing sweetness. Raw, unpasteurized honey contains trace amounts of local pollen, which may help desensitize allergic reactions. Overall, honey goes through less processing than sugar does. Honey has a glycemic index of 58 and is defined as having a "medium" index. We especially love honey, as our name implies!

Maple Syrup – Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species.  Real maple syrup has significantly more calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese than honey. Maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54.

Coconut Sugar - Also called coconut palm sugar is similar to regular table sugar, but it is less processed and contains more nutrients.  Coconut sugar is a natural sugar made with coconut palm sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree. Coconut sugar is made in a natural 2-step process. A cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected into containers. The sap is placed under heat until most of the water has evaporated. Coconut sugar has a glycemic index of between 50 and 54 and can be used as a substitute for sugar in baking in a 1:1 ratio.

The bottom line: Sugar has a glycemic index of 65 while honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar come in at 58, 54 and 50, respectively. These natural sugars are superior in nutrition than table sugar but they should still be used sparingly. As with most things in nutrition, moderation is key.

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