Health Trend Alert: Rice Malt Syrup
In the past week I've been sent/tagged in 5 "healthy" recipes that substitute rice malt syrup for various other sweeteners and I'm not gunna lie, I'm getting an eye twitch! Don't get me wrong, I'm all about sharing and receiving new recipes and tweaking old favourites to give them a healthier twist. The thing that really grinds my gears is when a single food item is touted as a "health food" and when added to recipes transforms them from "unhealthy" to "superfood".
Here's the skinny on rice malt syrup and how it differs from other sugars including table sugar, honey & maple syrup. Rice malt Syrup rose to fame during the I Quit Sugar phase of the health food industry. It is one of the few sweeteners allowed on the diet due to the fact it does not contain fructose. And all this means absolutely nothing unless we dive a little deeper into saccharides. Fructose and glucose are monosaccharides. Glucose is essential for the body, so much so it can manufacture it if needed. Everything you eat, whether it be fat, protein or carbs are transformed into glucose for the body to utilise. Fructose is like the bad boy brother of glucose. It has no purpose in the human body and metabolising large quantities of it (hello standard Western diet of processed junk foods and endless amount of soda) can actually reek havoc internally leading to things like fatty liver disease, insulin resistance (precursor to diabetes) and oxidative stress.
But honestly guys, it's not that simple as most sugars you ingest are disaccharides or polysaccharides meaning they're made up of 2 or more different types of "sugars". For example: sucrose (more commonly known as table sugar or sweet poison for those with a flair for drama) is an equal split of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Honey and maple syrup are about the same. Rice Malt syrup however is basically 100% glucose. And given everything you've just read you can see why rice malt syrup is "the healthiest" option and when substituted for the other sweeteners in recipes instantly morphs the regular old banana bread to the ultimate ultra healthy banana bread that will transform your waistline and your life!!
But here's the thing. All of the science is referring to how your body reacts and metabolises to the single macro or micronutrient. If you're adding it to a recipe which is generally how I eat most of my nutrients (good luck just extracting selenium out of a Brazil nut!) it changes the way your body is required to metabolise it. When you add fats, proteins and even more complex carbohydrates (oh hey fibre) it actually changes the glycemic index of the sweeteners (and all carbs for that fact) It is why fruit juice is probably not so great for you but why eating a whole piece of fruit changes the game completely! It's packed with fibre, a little protein and maybe even some fats and that takes it from possible fatty liver to perfect little package of energy, nutrients and antioxidants.
The last little fact I'll leave you with about rice malt syrup is that it contains the same amount of energy (same caloric load) and the same simple carbohydrates as honey, maple syrup and white table sugar! So don't expect to substituting it for its other sweet counterparts to decrease your waist line or fit your macros any better! Moderation is everything. Even if it's a GF, refined sugar free, dairy free chocolate cake, it's still a CHOCOLATE CAKE!
Disclaimer: Dont hate! I use rice malt syrup, honey and maple syrup and stevia for a low calorie substitute that doesn't spike your blood sugar!