Trehalose is a natural sugar that can be found in trace amounts in plants, and invertebrates – and that’s where trehalose becomes easily one of my favourite alternative sugars. You know how, in humans and pretty much all vertebrate life, our principal blood sugar is glucose? Well, that’s what trehalose is for insects. Which makes it…
INSECT BLOOD SUGAR.
…and how can you not want to point that out when you’re feeding trehalose brownies to your parents? In fact, I managed to convince my mom & sister (both vegetarians) that trehalose was produced in intensive insect farms, where the blood sugar was milked from trillions of tiny invertebrates. Apparently I lost credibility when I started to describe the ‘tiny cannulas inserted into their tiny little insect wrists’. But have no fear! Although Trehalose has previously been difficult and costly to produce in bulk, a Japanese company made a breakthrough in developing trehalose in bulk from starch, so it’s very unlikely that any grasshoppers were harmed in its production.
Chemically, trehalose is a sugar – a disaccharide that is nutritionally equivalent to glucose in the human body. It comprises two glucose chains bonded and ‘looped’ – as such, this does mean that trehalose is a non-reducing sugar, (as reducing sugars need one end to be ‘free’ that isn’t part of a glycosidic bond), so it will not brown via the Maillard reaction. it is soluble in water at room temperature (approximately 20° celsius).
Trehalose has a virtually identical mouth-feel to table sugar – it is naturally produced as the same kind of granular crystals. The major difference is that it is only about 45% as sweet, so if you want to achieve the same level of sweetness you will need to add an intense sweetener such as stevia.
|Sweetness Where table sugar has a sweetness of 100%||45%||100%|
|Glycemic Index Where glucose has a G.I. of 100||70||65|
|Calories per teaspoon Where a teaspoon is, on average, 4g||16||16|
Although trehalose has no fructose component, it is still a sugar. It has a slightly higher glycemic index than regular table sugar, and the same caloric value. It will have the same harmful effect on your teeth as regular table sugar.
However, despite having a high glycemic index, it may actually have beneficial effects for pre-diabetics or those with diabetes, as it has been shown not to cause huge blood-sugar spikes. There have also been recent studies conducted, due to its unique chemical properties, with regard to the benefits of trehalose in people living with Alzheimer’s, Huntingdon’s Disease and Muscular Dystrophy (source).