Best Natural Sweeteners

Madeline: Posted 17/12/2014

How to Choose the Best Sweeteners for Your Kitchen

Everyone loves a sweet treat, but just because you are making something sweet, doesn’t mean that you should be using unhealthy sweeteners. Refined white sugar and other types of highly processed sugars are very unhealthy, and they cause problems with your blood sugar levels and many other functions within your body.

Some people want to make a healthier choice, so they reach for artificial sweeteners instead. The problem is that these sweeteners are even WORSE than sugar because they are chemically produced and have been linked with numerous health problems, like cancer and brain damage. With that being said, stay far away from artificial sweeteners!

If you want to use sweeteners in your kitchen consider these options instead:

° Organic Stevia: As an herbal based sweetener, stevia is a wonderful alternative to sugar. One of the biggest advantages to using stevia is the fact that it doesn’t add a lot of calories to your food and it doesn’t impact your blood sugar levels. If you are using a stevia extractto in your coffee, tea, or baked goods, be careful and use a small amount at a time because it is extremely sweet.  A little bit goes a long way! It can be 200 times sweeter than sugar. When shopping for this type of sweetener, make sure you look for an organic stevia, because if you don’t, you have no way of knowing whether or not the stevia is derived from GMO or non-GMO stevia leaves. Also, watch out for sneaky, chemically driven ingredients, like maltodextrin, dextrose, and erythritol when choosing a stevia brand. Unfortunately, even some organic brands have some questionable ingredients, so always read the label. Both dextrose and maltodextrin are carbohydrates similar to sugar, which come from corn. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that will not impact your sugar level; however, it is most likely derived, like the other two, from GMO-corn.  An ingredient I have seen on some organic brands is organic agave inulin. It’s a highly processed fiber that some people, like those with IBS, have a hard time digesting. My recommendation for the cleanest stevia  is this: Buy pure dried leaves that you can either grind up to make your own stevia powder or use the dried leaves and put them directly into your tea or drink. The leaves are less sweeter than the extract, so you may have to play around with the amount of leaves to use.

° Organic Coconut Sugar: I love baking with coconut sugarbecause it has a low glycemic impact, it is unprocessed, and it is very tasty. It is produced from the sap of the coconut palm flower buds, and it is sometimes called coco cap sugar, coconut palm sugar, or coco sugar. Coconut sugar retains quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. Most notable of these are the minerals Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits. It also contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and can explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. You can easily replace your brown or white sugar with coconut sugar. One cup of coconut sugar is equal to 1 cup of white or brown sugar.

° Molasses: Look for organic, blackstrap molasses, which is the thickest type of molasses and very rich in minerals. Molasses contains iron, magnesium phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, cooper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and choline. Many sugars have been removed from the syrup because of several rounds of heating, and the remaining sugars are caramelized. Make sure that you are buying unsulfured molasses because conventional molasses uses sulfur dioxide during the processing. Blackstrap molasses contains antioxidant compounds, which may help prevent cell damage from free radicals. It can be used to sweeten beverages and to add flavor and color to cooked foods.

° Maple Syrup: No… I don’t mean the pancake “syrup” in most grocery stores. Conventional pancake syrup is usually produced with high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and a host of other dangerous ingredients. Instead, look for real maple syrup from your local health food store. Always make sure your maple syrup is pure “maple” syrup. The good, pure stuff comes from maple trees, whose starch is converted to sugar between winter and spring, resulting in sweet, runny sap. That sap is boiled down to make syrup — and it’s boiled down far more than you may imagine. The US has divided maple syrup into two grades: Grade A & Grade B. So, which is best? Grade A is considered the premiere type that’s meant for eating. I would use this grade for my pancakes or waffles. Grade B is so dark that it’s generally only used for cooking or baking.

° Raw Honey: Most of the bottles of honey from the grocery store have been highly processed, which means that they are missing the healthy benefits that can be found in raw honey. Buy local honey whenever possible, and make sure that it is raw and unfiltered. A beneficial type of honey is raw Manuka honey, which is produced in New Zealand. This honey is made by bees that pollinate the Manuka bushes, and it contains powerful healing properties and can be used for antiseptic and antibacterial purposes.  Keep in mind that the bee population is in decline, so it is best to limit the amount of honey that you use. I prefer to use honey on an as-needed basis for medicinal purposes, and other sweeteners when I am cooking.

As you can see, there are many sweeteners to choose from, so there is no reason for you to be eating, baking or cooking with refined sugar. Skip the sugar, and use these sweeteners instead, and you can enjoy sweet treats in your home without harming the health of your family. You can look for recipes that incorporate these ingredients, or learn how to make substitutions with the ingredients in some of your favorite recipes.



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