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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.