The UAE, according to statistics, is among the countries with the highest sugar consumption rate globally. Refined sugar has made it into most of the things you eat, fizzy drinks and sweets being high contributors.
Slashing sugar from the diet then becomes nearly impossible as sugar is in almost everything. Good news though is that the sugar can be substituted by natural sweeteners which are healthier and safer for your wellbeing.
In place of refined sugars, you can use natural sweeteners to still satisfy your sweet tooth and have a bonus of nutrients in them. Here is a list of five natural sweeteners that you can try:
Honey’s sweet flavour makes it ideal for refined sugar replacement in your diet. It comes in dark or light types, but the darker one is preferred as it is higher in vitamins and minerals. It has a low glycaemic index, hence will not cause your blood sugar to spike. Honey has many benefits including but not limited to
- Preventing acid reflux;
- Relieving colds and cough symptoms;
- Strengthens the immune system;
- Nourishes your skin
Maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese, zinc, iron and potassium. However, it needs to be taken in moderation as it has a high sugar content, which may not be good for your health. For the purpose of having these nutrients in your body, have a balanced diet and have minimal amounts of maple syrup as opposed to having too much to supplement for the minerals it contains.
Maple syrup has a high glycaemic index hence may raise blood sugar levels to slightly higher than refined sugar, so diabetics should be cautious while using it.
Maple syrup has zinc and manganese which help strengthen the immune system.
Coconut sugar is not a nutrition superfood, but contains nutrients like vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium and fatty acids, which are beneficial to the body. It has a lower glycaemic index compared to normal sugar hence does not cause a spike in blood sugar.
It is important to note that coconut sugar is high in carbohydrates and contains calories, hence should be taken in moderation if trying to lose weight.
The UAE is a key center of date production. Dates are a natural power food, packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and zinc.
Dates have several benefits:
- Dates are high fiber foods, hence lower cholesterol levels in your blood and contribute to a healthy well-being;
- Dates have high amounts of soluble fiber, which eases your bowel movements thus preventing constipation;
- Dates are an excellent choice if you are looking for a surge in energy. They have higher sugars than most fruits and are therefore easily processed by the body for energy;
- Dates are high antioxidants, which, among other benefits, lower your risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and even delay the signs of aging.
Dates are commonly eaten whole but can be incorporated in foods as pastes and syrups.
Molasses is a by-product of sugarcane processing and contains a high content of iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper. It has high antioxidant levels and like honey, comes in different varieties like light, dark and blackstrap. Due to its high sugar content, it is advisable to take it in moderation. Molasses has magnesium and calcium, which help you guard against bone-related problems. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may want to avoid molasses. It is also important to note that consuming too much of it may cause digestive problems and you may have loose stool or diarrhoea.
Substituting refined sugars for natural sweeteners is important for your general wellbeing. It is important to note however that most natural sweeteners still have sugars or fructose in them and if taken without moderation, could cause changes in your system.