Bake Off – sugar alternatives and sugar free

Watching the Great British Bake Off is making us seriously hungry every Wednesday. This week’s episode is no different, with a ‘free from’ challenge – the bakers were tasked to make sugar free and dairy free treats which is something we know a little bit about.

Although the sugar free challenge wasn’t without criticism (using agave syrup doesn’t mean it’s sugar free, it actually means it’s free from processed sugar, so consider this when you cook for diabetics) the contestants created some lovely bakes using all sorts of alternatives.

So, what are the alternatives to processed sugar? And why?

Refined processed white sugar is quickly becoming headline news, with many studies indicating a range of health problems attributed to or worsened by the sweet stuff. Those wishing to find alternatives can find them in our sugars and syrups category, but what are the more unknown ones you may not recognise?

Sugar alternatives

Unrefined sugar – with unrefined raw cane, muscovado and caster sugar available, this is the easiest processed sugar alternative to get hold of and many brands produce them these days. We carry several excellent Fairtrade and organic versions.
Traidcraft Fairtrade Unrefined Raw Cane Sugar
Traidcraft Fairtrade Unrefined Muscovado Sugar
Equal Exchange Fairtrade & Organic Raw Cane Sugar
Suma Organic Raw Cane Sugar
Meridian Organic Blackstrap Molasses

Less processing of the sugar means less energy used, and with fewer waste products and chemicals – raw sugar is a more environmentally friendly option, although nutritionally speaking this is still sugar and still has the calories and blood sugar spike. Because of the presence of molasses in raw sugar, it has a distinct flavour that’s missing in white sugar. Pure molasses has an even richer, darker flavour that is required in rich cakes and gingerbreads. The stronger flavours also require you to use less in a recipe to achieve the taste you want.

Agave syrup – agave ranks fairly low on the glycemic index, but it is still a type of sugar. As a less processed alternative to white sugar, and with a pleasant and extremely sweet taste this has proved a popular alternative in baking recipes and smoothies.
Suma Organic Agave Syrup
Biona Organic Maple Agave Syrup

Honey – we have a wide selection of honey, which is fantastic in recipes, on toast, and in drinks. Although honey has more calories, it’s even sweeter than sugar so you will need to use less to achieve your results, and it has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) rating which means it’s digested more slowly, resulting a less rapid ‘spike’ of blood sugar. Honey also has beneficial vitamins, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which aren’t found in table sugar. Highly sought after Manuka Honey is also praised as a health remedy, with even more benefits outside of the kitchen.
Equal Exchange Orange Blossom Fairtrade Clear Honey
Traidcraft Fairtrade Sweet Justice Honey
(Please note that if you’re baking for vegans, you can’t use honey as they don’t eat it)

Maple syrup – It contains magnesium, potassium, calcium and even zinc which aren’t found in processed sugar. Although maple syrup still contains sugars, it’s a more sustainable and natural version with way more taste. Maple trees are tapped and the sap is taken directly without cutting down any trees. Concentrated down without any additional processing, pure maple syrup is sought after and incomparable in taste. Don’t be fooled by ‘maple flavour syrups’ – they’re not the same, and are cheaper more processed syrups without any of maple’s famously delicious taste.
Meridian Organic Maple Syrup

Coconut palm sugar and coconut nectar – derived from the coconut palm tree and touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar, they have a delicious flavour (no, they don’t taste of coconut). Coconut sugar is made in a natural 2-step process: A cut is made on the flower of the palm and the liquid sap is collected. The sap is gently heated until most of the water has evaporated.

Although detailed studies are hard to come by, coconut sugar and nectar does contain small amounts of several nutrients including iron, calcium, zinc and potassium along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits. It contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.
Biona Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
Big Tree Farms Organic Coconut Sugar
Big Tree Farms Organic Vanilla Coconut Sugar
Biona Organic Coconut Blossom Nectar
Raw Chocolate Company Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
Big Tree Farms Organic Coconut Nectar – Amber
Big Tree Farms Organic Coconut Nectar – Blonde
Cocofina Organic Coconut Flower Nectar

Stay tuned for exciting new sugar free products we’ll be adding to the range very soon… 🙂

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