Wholesome Child : Wholesome Child full
77 76 What is it? An amber-coloured liquid made from the sap of maple trees. 70% sucrose and 30% fructose. PROS Lower glycaemic index and lower in fructose than table sugar. It also contains 1/3 less sugar than table sugar. Pure maple syrup contains more antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and manganese than many other natural sweeteners, including honey. It’s our number one replacement for syrup and liquid sweeteners in recipes. CONS Contains fructose, which is hard for the liver to metabolise. Many supermarket varieties are ’maple-flavoured’ syrup and contain artificial ingredients such as GM corn syrup and caramel colour. They have a higher GI, and are lower in nutrients. Although it will cost more, check that the product is 100% pure and labeled as ’Grade A’. What is it? Flower nectar collected by bees, naturally broken down into simple sugars. PROS While sugar is 100% sucrose, honey is made up of around 35-40% glucose and 35-40% fructose (these proportions may vary depending on the source of the nectar). The remaining 20-25% is water with a trace of protein, a trace of fat and a trace of fibre. Some floral honeys have a lower GI (around 35) compared with commercial brands that usually have a GI of around 64. Raw or Manuka honey is packed with vitamins and also has antimicrobial properties. CONS Contains glucose which can cause a quick rise in blood sugar levels and fructose which is hard to metabolise. Most honey found in commercial food products has no benefits. Avoid in babies under the age of 12 months due to the risk of botulism. What is it? Agave nectar is an amber-coloured liquid extracted from the leaves of the blue agave plant. PROS It’s intensely sweet, so you don’t need as much as sugar. CONS It has an extremely high fructose content – 75- 90%, which is even more than that of high fructose corn syrup – meaning the liver cannot metabolise it well. What is it? A powder or liquid crushed or extracted from the leaves of the Stevia Rebandiana plant. PROS It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar, natural, has no carbs or calories, and doesn’t raise blood sugar (low GI), making it suitable for diabetics. CONS It can taste bitter and is often found mixed with erythritol (a sugar alcohol), which I do not recommend for young children. What is it? A byproduct of the sugar-cane refining process. PROS It’s rich in all the nutrients extracted from sugar during the refining process – iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and potassium. Thick and gooey blackstrap molasses, from the last press in the process, is particularly rich in minerals and often recommended as a great vegan source of iron. CONS High fructose levels. How to use it Can be used in place of sugar in most baked goods, raw treats and sauces – as it’s a liquid you’ll need to reduce other liquids in the recipe. Best practice: Use maple syrup in place of liquid sweeteners such as golden syrup. How to use it Add to smoothies, stir into plain unsweetened yoghurt or drizzle on porridge, and use as a syrup replacement for cookies and biscuits. To preserve the benefits of Manuka or raw honey avoid heating. How to use it It can replace sugar or honey in hot drinks, baking or other cooking, or be used as a topping for pancakes and French toast, but it’s my least favourite natural sweetener because of the high fructose content. How to use it Available as both dried leaves (good for smoothies), powders or liquids. I like the dried leaves best, but if you can’t find them look for brands that contain 100% stevia. Due to its slightly bitter after-taste, it is best to use 1/2 tsp of pure stevia in baking to replace 1/2 cup of sugar. This is the best way to reduce overall sugar content, whilst transitioning children towards enjoying homemade treats. How to use it It’s quite thick and viscous and is best used in baking. It is also sweeter than sugar and so should be used in smaller amounts. Healthy Sweeteners: The Lowdown MAPLE SYRUP (GI 54) HONEY (GI 35-64) AGAVE SYRUP (GI 30) STEVIA (GI 0) MOLASSES (GI 55-60) What isit? Dehydrated, ground dates. PROS No additives. Contains fiber and is high in antioxidants and potassium. CONS High fructose content. How to use it Its rich, sweet flavour makes it an ideal alternative to brown sugar. Unfortunately it doesn’t melt and is difficult to dissolve. Best practice: use date sugar in baking nut breads, fruit breads, muffins, fruit crumbles, or sprinkling on cinnamon scrolls before baking. Avoid using in thin cookies as burns easily. DATE SUGAR (GI 44-68) 77 What isit? The common sugar alcohols – sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates – do not contain alcohol. They are manufactured from cornstarch. Xylitol is manufactured from such sources as cornhusks, sugar cane bagasse (stalk residue remaining after sugar extraction), or birch wood waste. PROS Very few calories, don’t raise blood-sugar levels (meaning they’re good for diabetics). Xylitol, unlike sugar, can actually fight tooth decay if used properly. It’s often added to chewing gum. CONS Sugar alcohols can cause headaches, stomach upsets and have a laxative effect, especially in young children. Because they’re derived from cornstarch or cornhusks, they could contain inherent GMOs. What isit? Extracted from China’s Lo Han fruit (monk fruit). PROS Rich in antioxidants and with zero calories, the Chinese have used it for centuries to treat obesity and diabetes. CONS Creates a desire for sweets. What isit? Brown rice, which is cooked and then exposed to enzymes which breaks it down into syrup. PROS It contains no fructose. CONS High GI and not recommended for use with anyone susceptible to insulin resistance or diabetes. It’s also heavily processed and contains no nutrients and, like brown rice itself, could contain arsenic. Safe levels of arsenic are calculated per kg and children with lower weights are more susceptible to having too much arsenic in their body. For that reason I don’t recommend it for children under five. What isit? The extracted sap of the coconut palm flower. PROS One of the most nutritious and sustainable natural sugars available. Low GI, unrefined, contains vitamins and minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium, as well as inulin, antioxidants and amino acids such as glutamic acid, which is an important component in metabolism. CONS Contains only slightly less fructose, plus the same carbs and calories as table sugar. How to use it Avoid using for children and check ingredients lists to ensure there are no sugar alcohols present. How to use it Look for monk fruit extract, monk fruit sweetener or dried monk fruit which can be found at many Chinese markets. This sweetener can be substituted for sugar, however, when it comes to baked foods it’s recommended to substitute monk fruit extract for only half the sugar to ensure consistency and texture remains. You can use the dried fruit in soups. How to use it Best used in baked goods, sauces and salad dressings. How to use it A perfect substitute for brown sugar in baking, but it won’t work as a replacement for castor sugar. SUGAR ALCOHOLS (GI AVG 10) MONK FRUIT (GI 0) BROWN RICE SYRUP (GI 98) COCONUT SUGAR (GI 35) Be aware that any added sweetener – natural or otherwise – will encourage our desire for sweetness. Moderation is always key when it comes to sweet foods, so although homemade versions made with the following sweeteners are more nutritionally dense, I still don’t advise feeding children too much of them as they can displace other types of food in the diet and can ultimately have the same effect on their long-term health as refined sugar.