In times of healthy hedonism and clean eating, more and more experts are recommending avoiding refined sugar. For those with a sweet tooth who don't want to give up sweets but want to save calories or simply reduce sugar in their everyday lives, there are now many alternatives to classic sugar. But are sugar alternatives really healthier for us humans? What do you have to pay attention to when buying? And which alternative is best for whom? In an interview with health economist and physician Prof. Dr. Braun explains to Lotao the most important consumer questions about sugar alternatives .
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming a maximum of 50 grams of sugar per day, which is around 12 teaspoons. Can you support this statement?
Prof. Dr. Dagmar Braun: In my opinion, that's even too much, but unfortunately it's quickly reached. Foods such as sweets, soft drinks and convenience foods are full of sugar. If you avoid these things, reduce them or replace table sugar, you will be well below the recommended 50 grams.
Both the media and science warn about the health risks of table sugar. It is bad for your health, increases the risk of cancer, etc. What exactly is so unhealthy about table sugar?
Prof. Dr. Brown: Table sugar consists of glucose and fructose, the latter of which is metabolized by the liver. When excess sugar is consumed, the liver converts the fructose into fat, which, if stored, can lead to fatty organs. The glucose, on the other hand, goes into the blood and is used with the help of the hormone insulin. If our sugar and insulin levels get out of control, overweight and obesity can occur. This in turn can lead to secondary diseases such as diabetes, heart and vascular diseases or cancer. However, in addition to sugar consumption, other factors such as diet and exercise habits also play a role. So I would say: the dose makes the poison. A little snacking is of course allowed, but in view of the possible consequences, excessive consumption should be avoided.
There are now many alternatives to refined sugar. What do you have to pay attention to when buying sugar alternatives?
Prof. Dr. Braun: When buying, I would always pay attention to what purpose the sugar is being used for. Whether as a flavor component, to avoid intolerances or to reduce sugar consumption, every sugar alternative offers a corresponding solution. Rice sugar (e.g. Rice Kiss from Lotao) is the low-allergenic variant of conventional household sugar. It is naturally gluten- and lactose-free as well as vegan and contains no fructose, making it ideal for people with food intolerances. Agave sugar, on the other hand, consists largely of fructose and glucose, so it is not suitable for people with fructose intolerance. Due to its low glycemic index despite its high sweetness, consumption of agave sugar has little effect on blood sugar levels, making it a good alternative for diabetics in the right dosage.
Coconut blossom sugar is currently THE trendy sweetener among nutrition-conscious foodies and popular for clean eating. Can coconut blossom sugar be classified as a recommended sweetener? What makes sugar so special and popular?
Prof. Dr. Brown: I can highly recommend coconut blossom sugar. Contrary to what I expected, it hardly tastes like coconut, but instead has a fine, spicy caramel aroma. Sugar is particularly popular because of its diverse uses. It is not only ideal for baking or sweetening coffee and tea, but can also be used to season fine sauces or soups. Even when frying fish and meat, coconut blossom sugar naturally enhances the flavor of the dish and rounds off every meal aromatically.
Compared to many other providers, the Lotao brand offers powdered sugar alternatives made from agave or rice. In addition to the easier dosage, are there any other advantages over sugar syrups and thick juices?
Prof. Dr. Braun: Durability is a crucial point. Dry products can be stored longer. In addition, the powders differ structurally from the liquid sugar alternatives and therefore offer the possibility of being used according to the recipe and dosage instructions. In my experience, using liquid sweetener for baking has a different effect on the consistency of the cake batter than powdered sweetener. Powdered sugar alternatives help create enough “body” for the dough.
Are sugar alternatives generally suitable for baking? Can you replace refined sugar 1:1 with sugar alternatives in a recipe?
Prof. Dr. Brown: Absolutely, they even give the pastries a characteristic taste. If you use powdered sugar alternatives, the table sugar can be replaced 1:1. If the sweetness is higher, you can use less quantity. Here, ground agave sugar is suitable for sweetening baked goods.
Which sugar alternatives are best for small children?
Prof. Dr. Braun: In general, I advocate limiting sugar consumption among small children. Unfortunately, foods and drinks for infants and young children often contain a lot of sugar. Families who want to replace traditional household sugar are best off using alternatives such as coconut blossom, agave or rice sugar. Due to its high sweetness, a child's sugar consumption can even be significantly reduced with agave sugar.
Table sugar provides a lot of energy (calories), but few important nutrients. Do sugar alternatives also contain so-called “empty” calories?
Prof. Dr. Brown: Some sugar alternatives contain important minerals and nutrients compared to table sugar. Agave sugar, for example, has a high content of minerals and phytochemicals such as beta-carotene. It also contains trace elements such as zinc, iron, manganese, copper and selenium. Coconut blossom sugar also contains many minerals, vitamins and amino acids. The content of potassium, phosphorus and zinc is particularly worth mentioning here. The vitamins of group B and vitamin C, which are essential for us humans, as well as valuable amino acids such as glutamine can also be found in coconut blossom sugar.
It can happen that the body gets used to the sweet taste and develops a real addiction. Can sugar alternatives help here?
Prof. Dr. Braun: If you are actually addicted to sugar and want to fight your addiction in the long term, you should also avoid sugar alternatives. These also give a sweet feeling and this only circumvents the problem. Of course, sugar alternatives are still better than sugar. In an emergency, you should therefore resort to sugar alternatives such as coconut blossom sugar and rice sweetener, which cause blood sugar to rise more slowly. In this way, the sweet cravings can slowly diminish.
Vita of the Lotao expert Prof. Dr. Dagmar Braun
Prof. Dr. Dagmar Braun is managing director of the Braun Group, one of the large medium-sized companies in Western Pomerania, which includes the Lotao brand, among others. The qualified medical doctor has been teaching health economics at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences since 2014.
About LPP Lotao Pack- und Produktions GmbH
LPP Lotao Pack- und Produktions GmbH, based in Berlin, was founded as Lotao GmbH in 2011 by Stefan Fak. The company is dedicated to exquisite Asian specialties, primarily in organic quality, and sells them on the European delicatessen and organic market. In addition to the “Lotao Deli” rice line, the extraordinary range also includes products made from coconut or sugar. With the jackfruit-based “Lotao Green” product range, Lotao is also conquering the market for meat substitute products. Further information at www.lotao.com
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