Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alternative Sweeteners

Here's a bit of sweet talk for you!  Confused by all the alternative sweeteners?  Check out this information on three popular alternatives.

Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green Stevia rebaudiana plant have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. The body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides from the stevia leaf or any of its processed forms - so there is no caloric intake. Stevia doesn't adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics. One cup of sugar is equal to about 1 tsp. liquid stevia. We have several recipe books that help you start baking with stevia.

Another popular new sweetener is erythritol. It is a natural sugar alcohol (a type of sugar substitute) which has been approved for use in the United States and throughout much of the world. It occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods. It is 60-70% as sweet as table sugar yet it is almost non-caloric, does not affect blood sugar, does not cause tooth decay, and is absorbed by the body, therefore unlikely to cause gastric side effects unlike other sugar alcohols. Erythritol has been certified as tooth-friendly. The sugar alcohol cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria, and so does not contribute to tooth decay. Interestingly, erythritol exhibits some, but not all, of the tendencies to "starve" harmful bacteria like xylitol does.

A final option is Luo Han Guo. It is an intensely sweet fruit native to southern China that has been used by people for centuries for both its sweet flavor and its medicinal properties. This product has a low glycemic index (about 20, whereas sugar has 70) with zero calories! Researchers at Nihon University, Japan, have identified nearly 20 compounds from Luo Han Guo with potential anti-tumor activities. Luo Han Guo works well in beverages, baked foods, diet foods or any food product that requires low to no calorie or low to no carbohydrate additive. Cooking or baking does not affect the flavor or sweetness of Luo Han Guo.

It takes a bit of experimentation, but the low calorie options for sweetening up your life are worth it.

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