We thought it might be helpful to share some of the research we’ve used in our quest to address the sugar issue.
As mentioned in the Part 1 blog, we’re really keen on using more honey. It has been around for aeons, tastes lovely, works well in baked goods and has health benefits (antiseptic action & high in antioxidants).
However honey won’t be suitable in all our recipes due to its (sometimes) dominant flavour and the slightly sticky texture. There are other concerns including:
Honey’s reasonably high GI ranking. It’s also partly fructose based which can be more difficult for the body to metabolise than glucose based sweeteners. Any honey based products would be off menu for strict vegans too.
So here are three other sweeteners we’ve had a look at and chosen not to run with. This is not to say they are ‘bad’ it’s just that for us they’re not as suitable to bake with as honey or the new date based sweeteners.
This leaf based sweetener has just recently become big in the UK but has, like honey, been used for centuries and hails from South America.
With zero calories it was worth a trial in the test kitchen. Stevia lacks bulk and our recipes just didn’t work. To add the required bulk we had to drastically alter the original recipe. We also detected a bitter aftertaste. With Stevia also being highly toxic to dogs we just didn’t feel it was right.
Going back to the zero calories point: the jury is still out on exactly why obesity is so rampant despite our increasing use of artifical/zero calorie sweeteners. There is evidence to suggest once we get a taste for the sweet stuff with no calories attached, we crave and eat more of them, taking longer to feel satisfied.
We concluded that, as a sweetener, Stevia has its place but in the volumes we would need to bake with, it’s not a goer.
We were initially really excited by this apparently all natural, cactus plant derived, low GI product. Unlike the powdered Stevia, we could imagine the syrup-like consistency working well in a good number of our recipes.
Even just a couple of years ago there was huge focus in the UK on low GI levels. As more research has been done it now transpires that more critical to well being than GI is the presence of fructose.
Fructose is broken down differently in the body to glucose, with strain being placed on the liver. Honey is approximately 50% glucose & 50% fructose whereas Agave is 85% fructose.
Also, unlike honey which is used in its natural state, Agave is highly processed. In the same way that Stevia is originally derived from a green leaf, Agave was once in nectar form but is then processed in much the same way as corn syrups. So again, Agave is not for us.
In a nutshell, we got this one wrong and are in the process of putting it right-.. We were rather taken with the wholesome image if rice syrup, so often touted as a ‘less refined’ version of sugar with valuable minerals and vitamins stored therein. Being glucose based was a definite plus – with glucose being more easily metabolized than fructose as aforementioned.
We trialled it in one of our cookies and the taste, texture and moisture levels were excellent.
Having thought we’d cracked it came the news of its extremely high GI ranking (98 according to Sydney University’s GI database). Although fructose is arguably the foremost cause for concern, high GI levels are not good news either. They result in high spikes in blood sugar and further sugar cravings.
So we were guilty of being duped by a wholesome image. We are therefore in the process of replacing the Rice Syrup with Honey in our Triple Chocolate Tinker.
We’ve learnt that nutrition and in this case sugars are a dynamic, constantly evolving issue. Pros and cons are multiple and often counter intuitive, eg. the zero calorie sweeteners potentially actually causing weight gain.
Honeybuns need to research, trial and inform our customers as and when we make changes. We are learning all the time and are motivated simply to create delicious treats, which are never going to be out and out ‘health foods’ but which are going to be thoughtfully put together and honestly marketed. We do not think there is a perfect sweetening solution and we won’t try to tell you otherwise.
Our responsibility is to be transparent and explain the choices we’ve made and invite you, the consumer to make yours.
As always, your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.