From agave to ste­via, which sweet­ener is which?

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - FILM MAKER -

Agave syrup

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.

Co­conut su­gar

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.

Brown su­gar

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.

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