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Yacon syrup is derived from the root of the yacon plant. This member of the sunflower family is found in South America, and Peruvian people use the root chopped in sweet dishes. The syrup has a distinctive flavor, not unlike molasses or caramel.
What makes yacon a healthier alternative to sugar is its low glycemic nature and the fact that it is a whole food, easily accommodated by individuals wishing to eat a more natural diet. It is free of glucose, and 30% of its sugars are fructooligosaccharides, or FOS. FOS are not absorbed by the body, so they pass through the digestive system without getting metabolized. Because of this, yacon syrup has half the calories of another common liquid sweetener, honey, and can be used by diabetics.
* Potential health benefits
FOS are prebiotics – that is, they set the stage for healthy intestinal flora to flourish. Thus, yacon’s cleansing effect on the colon will not create an imbalance of “good” bacteria.
An abstract recently published in a European nutrition journal suggests that yacon may aid in weight loss. When taken daily, it apparently creates a feeling of fullness and may actually decrease body fat, subsequently promoting loss of weight.
Cholesterol and blood pressure
Yacon may also lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. And preliminary studies suggest that yacon may act as a blood thinner, decreasing the chance of clot formation and lowering blood pressure.
Safe for diabetics and those on an anti-candida diet
Diabetics often have a hard time finding a whole food, natural sweetener; but yacon is safe for people with diabetes due to it being so low on the glycemic index. Individuals on an anti-candida diet – that is, a sugar-free diet to eradicate systemic yeast overgrowth – are able to partake of yacon without exacerbating their problem.
* How to use yacon syrup
Yacon makes a good substitute for honey, maple syrup, or molasses in recipes. It can also be eaten over fruit or plain yogurt. To make a brown sugar substitute, mix 1 cup of Xylitol (a sugar substitute derived from birch trees) with 2 tablespoons of yacon syrup; shake until the mixture is uniformly brown.
* Acceptable for vegans
Vegans often avoid white sugar and honey due to the involvement of animals or animal products in the manufacture of these sweeteners. But yacon syrup’s source is the yacon plant only, and no animals or animal products are involved in the harvest or manufacture of it.
This relative newcomer to the sweetener scene offers a lot of potential, not only as a substitute for sugar but as a health food in its own right.
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