Rapidura, coconut sugar, rice malt syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses. Honey, raw sugar, white sugar and brown sugar. Some say eat this one, it’s healthier, others say it’s poison.
Confused about sugar? Want to know which sugar you should use?
The answer is, none of them.
The internet is rife with recipes for cakes, biscuits and slices published by health gurus as ‘healthy’ and ‘guilt-free’ simply because they replace white sugar with agave nectar or rice malt syrup, for example. But these recipes are no healthier than other more traditional recipes.
Making a chocolate cake with rapidura sugar instead of white sugar, doesn’t automatically make it healthy. It’s still a cake using sugar, just a different type.
Some of these new fancy sugars are less refined, contain minerals, and (may) have a lower GI. However many recipes using these different sugars still contain a ton of butter or coconut oil, and a truck load of chocolate. Not to mention the huge amount kilojoules in the overall dish?
Sugar is sugar and still contains 17 kilojoules per gram, or approximately 85 kilojoules per teaspoon.
- Even if it’s less refined.
- Even if it’s has a lower GI score (raises your blood sugars more slowly).
- Even if it’s low in fructose (like rice malt syrup).
Despite whether it is organic, less refined, from a far off jungle on a different continent, or in a fancy-pants package costing 10 times the price – if sugar is eaten above the kilojoule requirements for your body, it will lead to weight gain.
The World Health Organisation recommends that adults limit their sugar intake to a maximum of 6 teaspoons per day (This does not include the sugar from whole fruit and dairy products).
RICE MALT SYRUP
Rice malt syrup is still a sugar, regardless of the fact that it is low in fructose. It is promoted by those who aren’t so clued up on biochemistry, as a healthier option due to the fact that it doesn’t get taken to the liver to be metabolised. However it doesn’t magically avoid being stored as fat and the calories it contains don’t miraculously disappear into thin air. In fact, rice malt syrup is highly processed and has a high GI score, meaning it raises blood sugars very quickly and will cause a large slump in blood sugars shortly after eating. it .
Still a sugar. Clever marketing on the packets claim that it contains minerals because it is less processed, but the levels of minerals in the coconut sugar are microscopic! Saying that coconut sugar is healthy because it contains minerals is like saying we should eat Bic Mac hamburgers because they contain lettuce.
It’s also been called a healthy sugar because it has a low GI, however the GI has never officially been tested. The origin of the low GI claims have been traced back to the manufacturer in the Phillipines which make the claim dubious. Given the chemical compostition of coconut sugar, it is likely that it doesn’t have a low GI.
We love the flavour of coconut sugar, and enjoy using this in our baking.
Take home message: Sugar is sugar and we should always try to eat less of it.
Tara is a university-qualified nutritionist, renowned for her no-nonsense approach to nutrition and health. She helps people learn how to live a healthy life without the need for fad diets or expensive crazy ingredients.