Your Facebook questions answered: What’s your opinion on different sugars?

“What is your opinion on the difference between white sugar and things like honey, maple syrup and agave?” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan  Karen Jorgenson Cooper.

Karen, your question is one that many people are wondering about. Somehow granulated sugar is put into a different category as far as its nutritional rating. But the fact is that we consume too much added sugar, whether white, brown, raw or in the form of honey, maple syrup or agave.

While some forms of sweetening agents may offer more nutrients than white sugar, to make those numbers significant, you would need to consume a whole lot of that sweetener, something that goes against current nutrition recommendations.  Excess sugar intake is linked to various ills including cardiovascular disease and weight gain.

A recent study of maple syrup evaluating various nutrients including antioxidant content found that the darker syrups contained more of the beneficial compounds.  But how much maple syrup are you going to consume to get any appreciable amounts of these nutrients? If you did take in enough to affect your antioxidant status, you would be way over the top in terms of sugar.

Research on honey has shown that the phytonutrients contained depend on the kind of honey but again, it’s not as though you’re going to reap all kinds of nutritional benefits by using honey. There may be an exception, though, when it comes to the  treatment of some coughs. While it’s not a hotbed of research, some studies due back up its use in soothing coughs as well as acting as an expectorant.

But there are other considerations when you’re looking at various sweeteners. One is whether you can use less of a product to get the level of sweetness  and taste you’re looking for. For example, honey,  maple  syrup and agave all provide different flavours along with their grams of sugar, making them a better choice for some recipes.
Using less in the way of sugar, no matter its source, though, is a smart nutritional move and is a strategy to incorporate into your day to day food choices.

What’s your choice of sweetening agent and why? Please share in the comment section below.

Next up: questions on low-calorie sweeteners

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Categories: Food Trends, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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