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Discover the truth behind 7 new food ingredients

Feb 19th 2014 at 10:52 PM

Food science is big business. New ingredients are constantly being developed to enrich our nutrient intake and aid in disease prevention. Although some of these new names on ingredient listings are more hype than hope, others can truly make a difference in your overall health.

To add sweetness:
Agave syrup
What is it? A natural sweetener extracted from the Mexican agave plant. Agave syrup is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar. According to Doug Cook, a Toronto-based registered dietitian: "Agave is 90 per cent fructose and 10 per cent glucose. It is the darling sweetener of vegans and of those pursuing a raw food diet."

Where you'll find it: Bottled, as a substitute for maple syrup or honey, and added to some health food store versions of salad dressings, ketchup and sauces.

Nutritional benefits: Since agave is sweeter than sugar, you need less of it to get a sweet taste, which may help cut down on calories.

Good to know: Cook says that the fructose in agave is the same simple sugar that's found in high fructose corn syrup. "If agave is used as a primary sweetener, you could get too much fructose, which may have an impact on triglycerides [a type of fat found in the blood] in some people."

What is it? A naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is extracted from sources such as birch trees, corn cobs and oat hulls. Xylitol is as sweet as sugar but has fewer calories.

Where you'll find it: Added to chewing gum, mints and toothpaste.

Nutritional benefits: Studies confirm that xylitol is antibacterial and can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Xylitol is only partly absorbed by the body, so it has a low impact on blood sugar levels and is suitable for people with diabetes.

Good to know: Too much xylitol may have a laxative effect. It's difficult to know precisely how much you can tolerate as there is a wide variation in sensitivity between individuals, but experts say it's best to not exceed 10 grams per day.

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