Friday, 21 October 2016

Sugar Substitutes: "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" Fighting the good fight for dieters and diabetics alike!

Good afternoon Star-shine, the world says hello!

Yesterday I promised to take on a subject that is becoming ever more relevant in this day and age of childhood obesity, increasing diagnoses of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes as well as soaring dental bills.

Sugar.  Oh you sweet devil you.  We've all been there, that 3 o'clock sugar plunge when we are losing the will to work; that 8 o'clock evening munch in front of the tele; and girls, yeah we don't need an excuse or ever have to explain our need to eat sugar.....

Yes, everyone needs some kind of sugar to live but not necessarily the unrefined (usually white granulated) stuff that we pour into our tea, our coffee, our baking every day.

Our fizzy drinks are just laden with the stuff but most of us just don't care.  But we should because it really isn't good for us in the quantities that we are gorging ourselves with daily.

No, I'm not going to preach.  It's your life and if you're reading this the chances are you're big enough to make your own decisions, however I am merely here as a portal of hope.  An island of potential calm in a stormy sugar-coma sea.

Today I'm going to talk you through the basics of baking with sugar substitutes.  Now there are actually quite a few out there but I am going to explain "The Good" but just give a quick list of the "The Bad and The Ugly".  This means you just know which ones to avoid and which ones to try.

Firstly it is important to know why you use sugar in your baking.  Now I hear you thinking "because it makes it taste sweet!"  (Duh!).  Yes but apart from that, why do you need sugar in your baking.  The sugar content in your baking is part of a complex chemical reaction which help define the colour, rise and texture of your culinary creations and it is not something that is simply replicated by another, possibly artificial, ingredient.

I will tell you here and now, if you substitute your normal caster/granulated sugar in baking with any of these alternatives, yes it will taste slightly different, yes the rise will not be the same, yes the texture will be slightly different and yes there may even be a slight aftertaste depending on the substitute you use.  BUT, and it's a big rounded glorious but, you will save calories and reduce your carb intake meaning that you can at least be slightly smug, feel less guilty and more virtuous.

Dieters and diabetics unite, I write this blog for you.

Here are the substitutes I do not recommend:

  • Aspartame, low volume, poor rise, compact texture, biscuit flavour, doesn't brown (Bad)
  • Saccharin, dense, firm and rubbery, strong nasty aftertaste (Bad)
  • Sucralose, doesn't rise, doesn't brown, tastes brown and gummy with a strong metallic taste (Bad)
  • Sucralose Sugar Blend, Half sugar, half Sucralose - dense, barely browns, tight texture (Ugly)

So that's "The Bad and The Ugly", what about "The Good".

Stevia (generic name) or Truvia (UK brand name).

I would like to firstly state that I am not in any way endorsed by any companies.  I am merely sharing this information based upon my own experience!

We use Stevia in our house for tea, coffee etc and it is the only artificial sweetener my husband will actually tolerate (I say tolerate because "like" for him is a strong word).  It actually smells of burned caramel rather than the usual chemical smell I associate with artificial sweeteners.  It also tastes like caramel.

This is great for your baking because it means it doesn't have the same yucky metallic smell or aftertaste, because it's a natural plant extract and not man made.  The above conversion chart is freely available on the Truvia website and gives you exact amounts to use when replacing your regular sugar.  However, what the site will not tell you is how to get over the lack of bulking agent that you will need in a recipe to make sure your bake turns out okay.  When you replace the sugar in your baking, you are removing important bulk from your mixture and that has to be replaced somehow.

Good bulking agents are: egg whites (calorie free), yoghurt (greek or vegan) or pureed banana/apple.  Yes I know that you trying to reduce the sugar content in your baking which is the whole point of using a substitute so why am I tell you to use fruit puree to bulk it out?  Well, a cup of fruit puree is still less calories and better for you than a cup of sugar!


Xylitol is an all-natural alternative to sugar. The substance derives from the fibres of plants and can be extracted from a variety of vegetation including berries, mushrooms, birch bark and corn husks. It's also produced in our body naturally. Its flavour is as sweet as conventional sucrose sugar, but it has only two thirds the calorie-count. Pure Xylitol comes in white crystals and looks and tastes like ordinary granulated sugar. It has been traditionally used in chewing gums, toothpastes and mouthwash as it has a strong sweetening effect but no aftertaste.

From the late 2000's there has been a push to consume it instead of sugar, and its white granular form means it can be used sprinkled or in place of traditional sugar in cooking and baking in the exact same quantity.  Xylitol is produced all year round and is available in health food shops and most large supermarkets in or around the sugar section.  Xylitol can be used in place of sugar in any recipe that doesn't require the sugar to break down into liquid form - it is impossible for xylitol to caramelise even at an extremely high temperature and cooked at length. It is particularly good in cakes and bakes, sprinkled on cereal or used in tea or coffee.  Apparently this doesn't need a bulking agent, but I'm not convinced, a small amount will make all the difference.

Advise to Dog Lovers:  Xylitol is toxic to dogs, even in small doses.  Please take consider this before feeding your beloved pooch some homemade cake made with Xylitol!

A really good article can be found by clicking here, this article runs through ten common natural substitutes including honey, agave syrup and maple syrup or molasses. Using these natural liquid replacements will add bulk, sweetness and improve texture but it's a matter of personal taste and not all sugars will work well in all recipes.

As with any allergy or intolerance; a dietary restriction of any kind is a matter of trial and error and personal taste.  Personally I like Stevia, but others may disagree.

Whatever your choice and whatever your favourite, I hope this guide at least gives you some insight into what you can do to enable you or your loved ones to continue to enjoy cake.  And that is a very good thing indeed!

Until the next time my lovelies, hugs,



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