Yacon Syrup: Antioxidant Rich, Diabetic Friendly, Superfood Sweetener
Immune Boosting Sweetener For Those With Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer or Candida Issues
Two years ago, due to extreme health issues, I started what is commonly referred to as the anti-Candida diet. The major tenet of this diet is to give up all sugars, refined or otherwise. That meant: no white sugar, no "raw" sugar, no honey, no Rapadura, no molasses, no brown rice syrup and no agave. Yes, no agave. I was also to steer clear of all artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Nutrasweet. The only thing left to sweeten my Pau d'Arco herbal tea was stevia. Stevia is very sweet but it does have a bitter, licorice like aftertaste.
I accepted my sweet deprived existence and began to think finding a low-glycemic, healthy, whole foods sweetener was something akin to believing in the Easter Bunny; until a woman on an online Candida forum introduced me to Yacon syrup.
What Is Yacon? What are the Health Benefits?
Yacon syrup is derived from the yacon plant, a tuber found in the Andean region of South America. Yacon is a distant relative of the sunflower and the Peruvian locals use it cut up in salads or in sweets. Because yacon syrup is plant based it is also vegan and a good alternative for vegetarians who want to avoid the high sugar content of maple syrup or honey. The roots contain potassium and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.
Yacon syrup is glucose free and contains at least 30% fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS is a common prebiotic that aids digestion and helps to stimulate the colon. FOS cannot be absorbed by the body which makes it naturally low in calories and low glycemic (some proponents of the syrup go so far as to say that yacon is non glycemic). Those sugars remaining in the plant that are not FOS are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream.
There are many benefits to FOS supplementation, including better absorption of calcium and magnesium and it helps increase bone density. For this reason seniors with osteoporosis often take FOS supplements.
Yacon syrup is also proving to be an effective diet aid. An abstract found in the Aprl 2009 European health journal Clinical Nutrition finds:
Daily intake of yacon syrup produced a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index. Additionally, decrease in fasting serum insulin and Homeostasis Model Assessment index was observed. The consumption of yacon syrup increased defecation frequency and satiety sensation. Fasting glucose and serum lipids were not affected by syrup treatment and the only positive effect was found in serum LDL-cholesterol levels.
Not only did daily supplementation with yacon syrup help decrease body weight, but it had a positive effect on LDL-cholesterol levels and helped those who consumed it to feel satisfied after eating. Yacon syrup is a sweet that is actually good for you.
Better than Agave and Xylitol?
Like agave nectar, yacon syrup is derived from a plant source. The net carbs of yacon syrup are much lower than the net carbs of agave syrup because most of the sugars in yacon syrup are not absorbed. This also means a lower glycemic index than agave and makes it a viable alternative for those avoiding agave nectar.
Sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol can be good substitutions for baking, and like yacon they are also not absorbed by the intestine, but they can also cause extreme gastrointestinal distress for those that are sensitive them. Possibly this is because both xylitol and erythritol are heavily processed products and are, usually, not organically sourced.
Anecdotally speaking, I have used almost all of the "health" sweeteners and I find I have the best reaction to yacon. Sugar alcohols almost always have a negative effect on my colon.
How Does It Taste? How Do I Cook With It?
Yacon syrup has a treacly, caramel-like, molasses flavor. It is very thick, sticky and dark and can add moisture to baking much like agave syrup can. But, unlike agave, yacon syrup is not always the best sugar substitute for all recipes. Its taste is quite distinctive. It tastes the best, in my opinion, when used in raw food desserts and in raw fruit smoothies. I like it as a substitute for molasses and brown sugar in baking.
It is very sweet, like honey, so use it the same way you would honey in a recipe. A good rule of thumb: 1 teaspoon for mildly sweet flavor. Increase the amount as you would agave or honey in a recipe. The following is a recipe for a Yacon brown sugar substitute. I often use this substitute when baking cookies and gingerbread:
Yacon Brown Sugar Substitute
1 Cup Xylitol
2 Tbs. Yacon syrup
With a mixer combine Xylitol and Yacon syrup until it resembles brown sugar. Use in recipes like brown sugar.
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