HOW TO REPLACE SUGAR
By now we all know that we need to reduce the sugar intake from our diets, but how can we possibly replace it and is it really right?
IS SUGAR REALLY HARMFUL?
Sugar is a very energetic food, which provides 4 kcal/g. Limiting sugars is the first step to recovering your ideal weight, but not only. An excess in the blood leads to a condition known as hyperglycemia which can have serious repercussions on our circulatory system.
However, we need to better understand what sugar is:
Sugars are “carbohydrates”. The two terms are not exactly synonymous, although they are often used as such.
To simplify, carbohydrates are a large class of molecules with a high energy value, formed by carbon atoms and water (carbo-hydrates). Depending on their degree of complexity, lets distinguish 4 categories of carbohydrates.
- Monosaccharides: simple sugars, i.e. small molecules (in open or closed form) made up of 3-7 carbon atoms; they are crystalline substances, white in colour, generally characterized by a sweet taste, easily soluble in water and insoluble in organic solvents. For example: fructose, glucose, galactose.
- Disaccharides: formed by two monosaccharide molecules held together by covalent bonds, which can be separated by hydrolysis. They are disaccharides: sucrose (glucose-fructose), lactose (glucose-galactose).
- Oligosaccharides: they are complex carbohydrates made up of 3 to 20 monosaccharides; for example: inulin (dietary fibre).
- Polysaccharides: complex polymers of carbohydrates, composed of hundreds or thousands of monosaccharides. The most important polysaccharides are starch (vegetable kingdom) and glycogen (energy reserve for the animal kingdom).
When we refer to “sugar” we mean a particular food: table sugar. By law, the sales denomination of sugar specifically indicates sucrose. This molecule, formed by two monomeric units – glucose and fructose – belongs to the class of disaccharides. It is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beet. In both cases it undergoes a refining process to reach our tables with the crystalline and white aspect that we all know.
What makes this food so popular is its versatility. In fact, sugar is not only useful for preparing sweets, cakes and biscuits. Its use is much broader.
It is added to savoury doughs to improve leavening, in sauces to eliminate acidity, and even used to preserve food.
Simple sugars are actually essential for the proper functioning of our brain.
Glucose is the only one that can pass the blood-brain barrier and bring energy to our nerve cells, so it’s essential, but how much is needed?
About 10 g of glucose per day is more than enough to ensure normal brain function. But be warned: that doesn’t mean you have to take 2 teaspoons of refined sugar a day. We always mean 10 g of dietary glucose, i.e. ingested as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
For example, 10 g of glucose can easily be obtained from about 200 ml of lactose-free milk (lactose broken down into its components, glucose and galactose).
A balanced diet obviously takes into account the carbohydrate load of foods.
How many sugars can we consume per day?
According to LARN (energy and nutrient intake levels recommended by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition, 2014 revision), simple sugars – including sugars naturally present in fruit, vegetables, milk and derivatives, and added sugars – must not be higher than to 15% of the total energy.
Given these premises, how do we reduce it in our preparations?
HOW TO REPLACE SUGAR
To replace sugar we have several possibilities, both natural and not.
Among the natural products we find:
- Maple syrup
- whole cane sugar
- barley malt
- curculin, miraculin and also xylitol
- coconut sugar
These natural sweeteners are able to sweeten our dishes and each one has its own specifics.
HOW TO REPLACE SUGAR
We then have non-natural sweeteners as sweeteners.
Sweeteners are synthetic products, made in laboratories to replace sugar. Also called “sucrose substitutes”, they have a sweetening power many times higher, but are low in calories and do not alter blood sugar too much.
They are added to the food matrix (they are additives) to impart the sweet taste. In order to be used, however, they must have particular requirements regarding the sensory sector and beyond. The best artificial sweeteners for the food industry are: odourless, chemically stable, compatible with the food matrix, with no aftertaste.
They are recognized by the receptors of the taste buds, which send the “sweet” signal to the brain. This is because they possess a structural similarity to the sucrose molecule, as if they tricked the brain,
However, most synthetic sweeteners cannot be broken down by our body to obtain metabolic energy. Furthermore, the great sweetening power allows the use of a much lower quantity of molecule to obtain the same level of sweetness as sucrose. And those sweeteners deemed “energetic” are added in small doses, thus offering a minimum amount of calories. That’s why they’re still considered low-calorie.
ARE SWEETENERS HARMFUL?
The use of synthetic sweeteners has long been the subject of debate regarding the health and safety of consumers.
All existing commercial sweeteners, as well as new foods, must be approved by the scientific community. Only if they are deemed safe for the consumer they can continue to be sold. Otherwise, they are forbidden to trade, SO TODAY WE CAN STATE THAT:
all the sweeteners sold, to date, are safe for the consumer, in the recommended dosages. (pay attention to the dosages)
Among the sweeteners we find Aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamic acid, etc. they are therefore considered safe only by virtue of the recommended dosages but still carry many contraindications:
- have a laxative effect
- produce intestinal dysbiosis
- increase the sense of hunger
We must therefore always make a choice and above all the best thing is to be followed by a specialist to understand what is right for us and what is not.
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