From agave to stevia, which sweetener is which?
is actually higher in kilojoules than table sugar (88kJ vs 67kJ per teaspoon), but because it is at least 30 times sweeter than table sugar, you won’t need as much. Agave syrup is produced by crushing the leaves of agave plants to extract the sap. The sap is then filtered, heated and treated with enzymes to convert fructans (longer chain carbohydrates) into sweet, short chain fructose and glucose. As a result of its high fructose load, some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be sensitive to agave syrup. It’s also one of the most expensive options on the market.
Rice malt syrup
is often used as a vegan alternative to honey. Although it has the same number of kilojoules per teaspoon as sugar, it is 70 times sweeter, so you don’t need to use as much. Rice malt syrup has a very high glycaemic index (GI) of 98 compared to sugar’s 58 so although it’s a great choice for replenishing during endurance sports, such as a marathon, those with diabetes need to ensure that they only consume it in small doses.
is equal in sweetness and kilojoules to table sugar so, spoon for spoon, will result in equal amounts of weight gain. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut blossom, not from the coconut fruit as believed by many. It may contain small amounts of micronutrients.
Contrary to popular belief, brown sugar is not a less refined version of white sugar, but is actually made by adding molasses to white sugar. Brown sugar has the same sweetness and kilojoules as white sugar, but may be slightly healthier as it contains tiny amounts of micronutrients such as calcium and iron.
is a natural herbal sweetener that is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. In contrast to the other sweeteners discussed above, it is what is termed a “non-nutritive” sweetener, meaning that it doesn’t contain any carbohydrates or kilojoules. Stevia is often combined with anti-caking or bulking agents to provide texture as such minute amounts are required for sweetness. It can sometimes leave a bitter aftertaste and can have a laxative effect if you consume too much.