There is no doubt that we Indian’s love our food. Equally important to many is their daily intake of chai. For many people, there may be numerous cups of chai throughout the day. There are many common beliefs people hold about the healthiest way to sweeten their tea. As many Indians are at risk or are already living with diabetes, it’s good to know the effects of daily sweeteners on our body’s blood sugar levels.
Brown sugar VS White sugar
Nutritionally speaking, there is NO DIFFERENCE between brown and white sugar. White sugar is usually taken one step further to be processed however the body processes this much the same.
There may be some preference to use brown sugar in some cooking methods which require a more coarse texture.
Pros: Brown sugar is slightly less processed than white sugar
Cons: Same effect on blood sugar levels as white sugar. May also be expensive and harder to find.
Jaggery VS Sugar
Jaggery or Gur is simply made by filtering and boiling the juices from the sugarcane in iron pans. The processing is much less compared to sugar. Despite common beliefs, the speed at which the sugar rises in one’s body AFTER consuming jaggery is also almost the same as sugar.
Pros: Contains extra nutrients such as iron, potassium and manganese.
Cons: Effect on blood sugar levels is almost the same as white sugar.
Honey VS Sugar
Honey is considerably less processed compared to sugar and jaggery. It also contains some water within the liquid. The sweetness of the honey comes mainly from the fructose that is present, along with the other half being glucose. This means that the effect of 1 teaspoon of honey VS 1 teaspoon of sugar may be slightly less on blood sugar levels. However, if you use more honey than you would sugar then these benefits would decrease quite quickly.
Pros: Less processed, less glucose and slightly slower effect on blood sugar levels. Contains small amounts of minerals.
Cons: Still affects blood sugar levels, slightly slower than sugar.
So, what should I go for?
If you are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle for whatever reason – my overall recommendation would be to try and reduce your intake of any sweetener. Taste buds can adapt within 3-6 weeks and will adjust to having less sweetness in your food or drinks. It also depends on how often and how much you use daily. Especially for those living with diabetes, it would be recommended to try and avoid any of the above. For sweetening desserts, you may consider using alternatives such as stevia, agave syrup or maple syrup which bring up the sugar levels at a much slower rate when compared to sugar.
Please note this advice is all of a specific nature and if you have any concerns or queries you can get tailored advice from an accredited practising dietitian.
Deevya Gupta is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian in Melbourne | W: www.abcofnutrition.com.au
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