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Q/ I’m try­ing to cut back on sugar but am un­sure about which sweet­ener to use in­stead.

A/ Any type of sugar that’s con­sumed in ex­cess can con­trib­ute to in­flam­ma­tion, which in­creases your risk of weight gain, in­sulin re­sis­tance, type 2 di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and Alzheimer’s dis­ease. For­tu­nately, there are nat­u­ral sugar sub­sti­tutes that taste even bet­ter than white sugar, can be en­joyed in mod­er­a­tion and con­tain ben­e­fi­cial vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and an­tiox­i­dants. Date sugar has a but­ter-scotch­like fla­vor and can be used in place of brown sugar when bak­ing. It won’t dis­solve in hot liq­uids, so it’s not a good choice to sweeten your cof­fee or tea. Co­conut sugar (aka co­conut palm sugar) and ya­con syrup con­tain in­ulin, a type of fiber that hu­mans can­not di­gest but that bac­te­ria in the colon love to eat. The bac­te­ria pro­duce short-chain fatty acids from the fiber, which nour­ish the cells in the colon and may help lower the hunger hor­mone ghre­lin, thus re­duc­ing ap­petite. Raw honey has an­tibac­te­rial and an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties and has long been used for its anti-in­flam­ma­tory com­pounds. Xyl­i­tol looks and tastes like sugar but has just half the calo­ries and will not raise blood sugar lev­els. All of these sugar al­ter­na­tives can be used in bak­ing, but you may have to ad­just the amount and pos­si­bly the cook­ing time and tem­per­a­ture.

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