Neither white sugar, brown sugar nor stevia is intrinsically more or less healthy than the other. They're different things that happen to share the quality of sweetness.
Indra Balaratnam Nutrition consultant dietitian Indra Balaratnam (pix) explained that they are made from different sources.
“Sugar or sucrose is extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets that have been mostly grown in tropical climates. Most plants contain sugar in their tissues, but only sugar beets and sugar cane contain enough to be efficiently extracted and turned into white crystalline table sugar.”
Brown sugar is often produced by adding sugarcane molasses to completely refined white sugar crystals to more carefully control the ratio of molasses to sugar crystals and to reduce manufacturing costs.
In contrast, stevia is extracted from stevia rebaudiana, a member of the chrysanthemum family and a wild herb native to Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves of the stevia plant contain substances called glycosides that give it its sweet flavour. Comparatively, stevia is 30 times sweeter than sugar in its whole leaf form and almost 300 times sweeter once it has been refined.
Is one better than the other?
“At the end of the day, it is back to fundamentals – still about a taste perception. Stevia is marketed as an alternative which lets you enjoy the sugar without using sugar. But it is still one step further to that.”
“Food industries assume that consumers would know how to regulate themselves. Nevertheless, looking at peoples' eating habits, we know that the masses are unable to regulate themselves. So, at the end of the day, it is about understanding why a person likes that taste and finding a new favourite that it doesn’t feel like it dominates your food palette all the time.”
“It’s learning to enjoy other healthier options, rather than just think about the cheese or carrot cake. With healthy eating, people always assume that they have to give up a lot of things. They focus on the giving up of foods, rather than things that they can enjoy.”
“When you get back to real foods, whole foods and are willing to open up your palette again, then you would find that there are a lot of foods that you could actually eat which has natural sweetness in them."
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