RELATED: Honey and rice bubble slice
Derived from the nectar bees use to create honeycomb, honey is a type of unrefined sugar that is made up of 40 per cent fructose, 35 per cent glucose and two per cent sucrose. Despite popular belief, it has a similar composition to table sugar and is marginally lower on the glycaemic index (58) compared to sugar (65). It is also high in kilojoules, with three teaspoons of honey containing 268 kilojoules to sugar’s 201 kilojoules.
Still, honey does offer extra nutritional benefits such as trace amounts of zinc, selenium, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B.
When to use: honey can be a great replacement for sugar in a variety of recipes, including curries, salad dressings and sweets. However, due to its water content and more pronounced flavour, the quantities may need adjusting.
2. Agave nectar
Agave nectar comes from a juice that’s extracted from blue agave – a native Mexican plant that is also used to make tequila. It is highly processed, contains up to 90 per cent of fructose and is high in kilojoules, at 251 per three teaspoons. That said, it has a lower GI rating than honey (19) and in comparison to regular sugar, won’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
When to use: as agave syrup dissolves quickly, it is a good sweetener to use in cold drinks like iced tea and cocktails. It also works well as a sugar substitute in hot drinks, baking and cooking.
RELATED: Sugar and spice apple pie
3. Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar – also known as coconut palm sugar and coconut nectar- comes from the sap of the coconut tree and has a similar taste and texture as brown sugar. It is rich in iron, zinc and potassium as well as inulin - a fibre that acts as a prebiotic and helps slow the sugar’s absorption into the bloodstream. Coconut sugar has a low glycaemic index (around 35) and contains around 188 kilojoules per three teaspoons.
When to use: coconut sugar is an easy replacement for caster sugar in baked goods, such as brownies, cakes and muffins.
4. Maple syrup
Maple syrup is derived from the sap of certain types of maple trees. It is rich in magnesium and zinc, relatively high in sucrose and has a glycaemic index of 54. It is also lower in kilojoules than honey, at about 218 per three teaspoons.
When to use: maple syrup can be consumed on its own (e.g. drizzled on pancakes) or added to sauces and desserts. It also works well mixed with butter to roast vegetables.
Stevia comes from the leaves of a South American herb known as stevia rebaudiana. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar and, as it contains no kilojoules, it doesn’t have an effect on blood sugar. This is especially helpful for those with hypertension.
When to use: stevia is best used as a substitute to sugar in beverages (e.g. tea) or sauces. It can have quite a bitter after taste though, so moderation is advised.
RELATED: Coconut ice