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A beginner's guide to sugars and natural sweetenersv

Feb 20th 2014 at 8:31 PM

A sweet tooth is a common affliction, and for better or for worse, sugar is a reliable cure. "Carbohydrates, both simple and complex, are actually a main energy source for our body," says Lucia Weiler, a Toronto-based nutritionist. "In fact, 50 per cent of our caloric intake comes from carbohydrates."

But it's not all sweetness and light. "The concern lies with added sugar and food or drinks with a high sugar content," Weiler explains. As a leading contributor to our ever-expanding waistlines

, sugar has a bad rap. What's more, since consumers are becoming increasingly weary of calorie-free chemical sweeteners, more people are seeking healthier alternatives to get that same great taste. So, does sugar by any other name still taste as sweet? Read on for the truth about seven sugars and alternatives.

What type of sugar or sweetener do you use? Share you answer with fellow readers in our comment section on the next page.

1. Cane sugar
As the name suggests, it's derived from the tropical sugarcane plant and is used to make refined white and brown table sugar. (Brown sugar is white sugar dyed with molasses to give it its unique colour and taste, making it slightly higher in calories at 51 cal/tbsp.) Refined, it is the most commonly used sugar for baking, preserving and prepackaged foods, and for giving most things that much-loved sweet taste. Contrary to popular belief, pure sucrose is naturally white, so there are no added dyes or chemicals in the making of table sugar (45 cal/tbsp). Raw sugar is a product of the early refining stages, before the molasses has been extracted, which is why its large, chunky crystals have a brownish tinge.

2. Beet sugar
While the end product is nearly identical to the different varieties of cane sugar, the processing is quite different. Thriving in colder climates, the sugar beat is grown in Canada, but subsequently has a shorter growing season.

3. Molasses
A byproduct from the sugar-refining process, this dark, viscous, sweet substance is most often used for baking cookies and making sauces. It's calorically similar to refined sugar (47 cal/tbsp) and contains nominal amounts of beneficial nutrients such as iron and calcium, though due to its physical appearance, it can’t be as easily incorporated into everyday meals.

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