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Superfood Sweeteners

By on January 25, 2016
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While you may have long abandoned high sugar soda drinks for healthier options, you must still be cautious when navigating your daily sugar consumption.

There are many healthy superfood alternatives such as yacon root nectar, coconut palm sugar, lucuma and stevia to consider next time you choose a sweetener.

Yacon nectar is a liquid sweetener made from the yacon root, a tuber indigenous to the Andes of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.  Yacon has a delicate caramel, honey taste that is not overwhelming and can be added to everything from teas to coffee, cacao drinks, smoothies, yogurt and cereal. It is a low glycemic sweetener with the added benefit of containing prebiotics.  A relative of the Jerusalem artichoke, yacon contains FOS or fructo-oligosaccharides, a class of compounds that are able to support gut health by being a source of food for the beneficial bacteria in the colon.  We all know of the benefits of taking probiotics, but prebiotics are equally important for influencing the balance and composition of the microflora.  

Yacon nectar may be difficult to find due to the fact that it is relatively new in the North American marketplace.  The superfood company Organic Traditions offers a yacon nectar, which is produced through a proprietary cold mechanical method whereby no heat, solvents or chemical inputs are used at any stage of the process.  Having tasted a few yacon nectars, it is evident there is something unique about this process as many yacon nectars have a dark molasses-like taste. Organic Traditions’ nectar has a delicious, subtle honey, caramel flavour and a light, amber colour. 

Coconut palm sugar has had thousands of years of traditional use in Asia.  It comes from the nectar collected from the blossoms of the coconut palm tree. The sap is evaporated at low temperatures to remove excess moisture.  The result is a delicious nectar with a perfect note of sweetness.  The nectar is dried and crystallized into fine sugar like granules. Coconut palm sugar contains B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and amino acids.  It has a glycemic index of 35, which is much lower than sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave. While many may think it tastes like coconut, the taste is actually very similar to brown sugar with a caramel and butterscotch note.  It can be used  as a replacement for both white and brown sugar. 

Another novel food that can be used as a healthy sweetener is the low glycemic South American super fruit known as lucuma.  This fruit has a wonderful taste profile with flavour notes of custard, melon, vanilla, citrus and maple syrup.  It is truly delightful and has the added benefit of containing both fibre and potassium. The powder form can be easily added to drinks, smoothies, yogurt, salad dressings and desserts.  

While all of these are healthier options, one must still be vigilant of the amount used at any one serving.  Unless of course, one is using a whole leaf green stevia powder, stevia extract where you are guaranteed a zero glycemic index.  Incorporating a superfood sweetener into your daily diet will add the sweetness you crave with many additional nutritional side benefits.t

Renita Rietz is a health and nutrition writer and speaker who educates on the phytotherapeutic potential of indigenous foods and plants for prevention and regeneration. www.yourorganicsources.com

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