In the last post, we went over many types of natural sweeteners. The sweeteners that we discussed all had many health benefits, in addition to their sweetening powers. This week we are continuing in that vein. Some of these sweeteners are available in Kuwait and some aren’t yet available, but if enough people ask their local supermarkets or natural food stores to supply certain items, I’m sure they will be very happy to accommodate. After all, they are in business to make money and keep their customers happy and satisfied, aren’t they?
This natural sweetener has gotten a lot of press lately. It is derived from a plant found in South America. It has actually been used as a natural sweetener for ages, but has only recently become popular as a non-caloric sweetener. Stevia is much sweeter than table sugar, in fact in its natural form from 10 to 15 times sweeter than table sugar, and the isolated “sweet” constituent of stevia is actually up to 300 times sweeter! Stevia is widely used as an alternative sweetener in many countries now, Japan being one of the largest stevia growers and consumers in the world. In Japan, stevia is used in many different products. It is also used in other countries such as Korea, China, and more. It is becoming more and more common in Western countries as well. While people have been using stevia for a very long time, there have been studies that indicate some questions with regard to the safety of its use (although Japan, for example, has been using it for over 30 years, with no adverse effects at all), and thus it has been banned in several countries. There are warnings put on it in other countries. This is interesting, because it seems that the bans and warnings the “officials” have put on stevia are a direct influence of the “powers that be” in the sugar and artificial sweetener industry. Not so sweet! Stevia is great for diabetics, as it has been shown to actually help to balance the blood sugar. It also helps to stop the growth of the bacteria that lead to tooth decay. It is said to be good for the digestion, and also to help heal skin wounds, and even to fight dangerous forms of bacteria often occurring in the throat. Some people say that stevia has a “taste”, but others don’t notice anything, so it’s your call. But, I think it’s a good option to try, particularly in small quantities.
Rice Malt/ Barley Malt
These two sweeteners are made from sprouted grain. These are both made from the fermentation process of rice or barley, as the case may be. These both contain a fair amount of vitamins and nutrients, including protein, enzymes, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and folic acid, and both have an interesting flavor when used in sweetening. We spoke of brown rice sweetener last week, and these are both very similar in quality and use. Barley malt is generally darker and stronger in flavor, while rice malt is generally lighter and less invasive. These are both sometimes mixed together into one sweetener, and sometimes other grains are added in as well. Both forms are slightly slower to metabolize than ordinary table sugar, but still have an impact on the blood sugar levels, which can be detrimental to diabetics or people on low carbohydrate diets. These are caloric choices, so be aware and plan accordingly.
Fruit Concentrate/ Fruit Juice as Sweetener
Nowadays in the supermarket you will find fruit or fruit juices used as sweeteners in many ready made products out there. Sometimes sweeter juices will be added to ones that aren’t as sweet. An example of this is with cranberry juice. Also, in foods and food products fruit juices and fruit concentrates will be used to sweeten various items. The problem is that they are the same as using fructose, and sometimes are even more concentrated. Thus, they are not really appropriate for those who are suffering from diabetes or who are on a low carbohydrate diet. Remember that such sweeteners are very caloric, high in carbohydrate, and are also high on the glycemic index normally. The good thing is that this type of sweetener is natural and safe. It is also not table sugar. It is sweet though, and a better idea would certainly be to simply choose something less sweet.
We have now completed our journey into the land of sweeteners, and are now wise and jaded when it comes to which sweeteners we will choose. Think before you choose, and make certain that your choices are informed, safe, and healthy. Every individual is different and your body is not going to be like anyone else’s, so you must make your own decisions based on your own personal level of health and your own personal needs and tastes. Keep these articles on hand so you can refer back to them from time to time. If you didn’t get the chance to read one or the other of the series, just contact me by email and I will send you the rest, or you can always read them online.
(To be continued)…