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There’s been a lot of talk recently about sugar and its advantages and disadvantages for our health. As with most of the foods we eat, sugar or sucrose is not bad if we consume it in moderation, not in excess, as recommended by the Spanish of Basic Applied Nutrition (SENBA), which add the importance of following a balanced diet and practising physical exercise.

Remember that sugar, in addition to boosting the taste of our foods, provides our organism with energy, needed for the proper functioning of both our bran and our muscles and tissue. However, overindulging in sucrose could have adverse effects on the body, as its intake lowers the wish to eat nutritious foods, thus incurring in dietary deficiencies. On the other hand, some of the most problematic conditions of the XXI Century are associated with high sugar consumption, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer or alzheimer’s, among others. That is why we must be cautious and, most of all, be aware of the pros and cons of this delicious additive.

Along this line, and thinking of those people who choose substitutes for natural sugar which are less harmful to the organism, here are a few replacements. We begin with stevia, a plant that has leaves which are sweeter than sugar, it is native to South America and is low-calorie. It has an active ingredient called estevioside which works like a hypoglycaemic and has a hypotensive effect.

Another interesting product which provides the sweet taste we like so much is honey, the oldest natural sweetener, composed of a mixture of glucose and fructose, as well as small quantities of vitamins, minerals, free amino acids and protein. It is a very caloric food, yet is a splendid source of energy, which is why so many people include it in their breakfasts, to start the day with a boost. Apple concentrate is another alternative, made by slow-cooking the juice provided by this fruit.

Other options are malt or barley syrups, half as sweet as white sugar; agave syrup, obtained from the root of a typically American cactus and used by the Incas and Aztecs from time immemorial; whole rice syrup, which tastes similar to caramel and provides nutrients for our organism; or even the infamous maple syrup which so many American pour over their hot cakes and ice cream, it comes from a natural tree native to Canada and the Nordics and is a delicious sweetener containing important proteins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium.

Some people prefer whole sugar, obtained from the sugar cane juice, or even coconut sugar, very present in Asian dishes. The latter contains a very low glycemic index and high levels of minerals and vitamins, in fact, the World Bank’s Committee on Food and Agriculture (FAO) considers it one of the most sustainable sweeteners on the planet, as it comes from a tree which is beneficial for the natural ecosystem.

Although there are natural substitutes as those previously mentioned, sugar is currently consumed in over one hundred countries around the world, reaching 120 million tons, a number which doesn’t stop increasing, which is why there is greater awareness-raising on behalf of international organisms, who are trying to prevent the pandemics of this century from winning the battle.

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