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For the most part, we have come to expect something sweet at the end of a meal. The problem is-whether diabetic, hyperactive, or just health-conscious-a large amount of sugar is not good for anyone. WebMD says sugar may raise cholesterol and is a leading factor in obesity. Other studies claim sugar causes immune system suppression, increases Candida growth and PMS symptoms, increases loss of calcium through the urine, and causes hyperactivity, anxiety, irritability, and chronic fatigue.
So how do you make something sweet without sugar? There are many sugar alternatives, and the ones you decide to use will depend on your reasons for wanting sugar-free.
Equal, NutraSweet and Splenda are low-calorie artificial sweeteners that are typically recommended for diabetics or people trying to lose weight. They have been approved by the FDA, but their use still causes controversy. The chemical sweeteners are likely culprits of multiple side effects, including headaches, depression, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal disorders, and cancer.
A few natural sugar alternatives are honey, maple syrup, molasses, date sugar, and Stevia. Honey works well in baking, but you will need to reduce the liquid ingredients. Stevia has recently become the most popular alternative. It is derived from an herb, is low in calories, and is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar so less can be used. Stevia’s website lists multiple recipes.
Another sugar alternative is natural fruit spread. This comes in a variety of flavors like strawberry, blueberry, and apricot and is sweetened with fruit juice – usually grape juice from concentrate. When using fruit spreads in baked goods, take out the sugar and most of the fat (typically oil or butter). When you want sweetness without a change of flavor, try the apricot fruit spread. Examples of baked goods for this would be peanut butter cookies or pumpkin muffins. Try the strawberry or blueberry fruit spreads in berry-flavored baked goods, such as muffins or cupcakes.
You can also drastically reduce the sugar instead of completely taking it out. Since the dessert will not taste nearly as sweet, you will want to increase the flavor in other ways. Chopped raisins, raisins, dates currants, or other dried fruit add a nice punch of flavor. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger can be delicious additions as well. To avoid sugary frostings, top cakes or cupcakes with fresh fruit slices like strawberries, kiwis, or peaches.
Whichever alternative sweetener you choose, keep in mind that they should still be used in moderation. Many may have the same effects as sugar when too much is consumed.
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