The lowdown on rice malt syrup and stevia

By Marie-Antoinette Issa |

I Quit Sugar - The lowdown on rice malt syrup and stevia

Although our name is I Quit Sugar, what we’re really interested in ditching is fructose!

That’s why, when we do add a little sweetness to our recipes, we opt for fructose-free alternatives. Our top two recommendations? Rice malt syrup and stevia. Here’s why these two sweeties come IQS-approved…

What is rice malt syrup?

Rice malt syrup is made from fermented cooked rice and is a blend of complex carbohydrates, glucose and maltose. It’s 100 per cent fructose-free.

What is stevia?

Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than sugar and also 100 per cent fructose-free. It’s completely natural (yep, it comes from a leaf) and, after a bit of hype, scientific studies have given it the okay.

Awesome! No-fructose sweeteners! So can we use these with abandon?

Afraid not. While fructose-free sweeteners such as stevia and rice malt syrup don’t have the same effect on the liver as fructose, ultimately we encourage a savoury state of mind.

That’s because consuming sweet flavours of any kind encourages your “sweet tooth”, making it more difficult to stay off the hard stuff. Plus ALL sweeteners – fructose-free or not – can raise insulin somewhat and cause a metabolic response (albeit some in a much more manageable way). 

But aren’t these still processed? I thought I Quit Sugar was all about JERF?

We absolutely are! That’s why our first preference is to flavour food with naturally sweet veggies and low-fructose fruits (check out these sweet potato-based Power Balls – yum!).

But we get that’s not always practical. And occasionally it doesn’t suit the recipe. That’s when rice malt syrup and stevia step in. We don’t actually use them often though, only for sweet treats and special occasions. You’ll see too that we always let you know exactly how much we’ve used in each recipe (aiming for no more than half a teaspoon of RMS per serve), and we also suggest you experiment with reducing the sweetness even further by taking them out.

What about stevia? The brand I use has a few other ingredients listed.

Most granulated stevia is mixed with other sweeteners such as erythritol. If you’re after pure stevia, opt for liquid varieties. Just use them sparingly as they’re super sweet and you only need a drop or two!

Help! I can’t find rice malt syrup where I live.

While rice malt syrup is usually easily identifiable in Australia, it sometimes goes by other names elsewhere. In the U.S. and the UK, for example, it can be known as brown rice syrup or simply rice syrup. Just be sure to read the label carefully – barley malt syrup is fructose-rich and definitely not the same thing!

Are there any other sweeteners I can use?

We definitely get asked about other “natural” sweeteners all the time, including things like dates, agave, maple syrup and honey. Unfortunately however, all these options are super high in fructose so we advise against using them. We get that it can be really confusing though so check out this blog post where we reveal the many (many!) different names for sugar.

We originally published this post in December 2015. We updated it in July 2017.


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