Summertime brings the memories of state fairs, Fourth of July celebrations, kids home for the summer, and a time of fun and relaxation. State fairs are filled with carnival rides and cotton candy, caramel apples, baked goods, and pie-eating contests. However, not everyone can safely eat sweets due to the inability to properly digest sucrose, or white table sugar. People with sucrose intolerance, also known as congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID), lack the enzyme necessary to break down sucrose and have symptoms that include bloating, gas, and diarrhea when sucrose is consumed. But not all sweets are made with refined, white sugar or sucrose. Some are made with natural sugars that contain little or no sucrose and are just as sweet.
Stevia is a plant, an herb actually, that is native to Brazil and Paraguay. This highly processed sweetener, as it is used in the United States, contains zero calories and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. So less is needed when you use it in baking and even in sweetening your coffee. Stevia is also safer and healthier than the chemical sugar substitutes since it is a plant-based, sugar substitute. Zollipops candy are made with stevia and are sugar-free, vegan, and dairy-free.
Honey is the second most popular sweetener, second to white table sugar. But honey is an all-natural sweetener subject to minimal processing. Although honey contains sucrose, the bees add their own enzyme which breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose making it easier to digest. Honey also has a lower glycemic index (GI). The lower the GI rating, the slower the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream and the more gradual the digestion process. Honey also contains minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Heavenly Organics makes Double Dark Chocolate Honey Patties that contain just two ingredients, honey and dark chocolate.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut blossoms from the coconut tree. Although coconut sugar is a natural sweetener, it does contain the same calorie count per teaspoon as white table sugar. The benefits are many, however. Coconut sugar does offer a low GI, as compared to regular table sugar. It also contains inulin, a fiber that aids in lowering the absorption of glucose. Inulin also aids in gut health by stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria. Eating Evolved’s Coconut Butter Cups are made with organic coconut sugar.
Sucunat is a natural cane sugar made from extracting the juice from sugar cane and beating it to form crystals. Sucunat requires far less processing than sucrose and uses no chemicals. The name is derived from the French “sucre de canne naturel.” Sucunat is more flavorful and sweeter than regular white table sugar, so a little goes a long way. Sucunat is also not 100 percent sucrose, so the flavor profile is a bit different. It has a rich, molasses-like flavor. Organic Gummy Bears from Nuts.com are sweetened with fruit juice and organic cane sugar.
With so many sugar substitutes, it should be easy for all to enjoy candy safely and without fear of gut-related discomfort. Enjoy the summer trying new versions of old favorites.