Guest Author - Gretchen Goel
Are you still using refined white sugar because you've heard it’s “healthier” than Splenda or other artificial sweeteners? It’s time to open your eyes to less refined sweeteners that don’t spike your blood sugar, cause addiction or toxins, or drain nutrients from your body. From Agave Nectar to Sucanat, you can find a more wholesome replacement for refined sugar when baking, sweetening beverages, making sauces or marinades, and more!
Agave Nectar is a relatively new sweetener made from the Agave plant of Mexico. It has a delicious, mild flavor that tastes like a less sweet version of maple syrup. It pours slightly thicker than maple syrup and has a long shelf life. It has a low Glycemic Index, so it doesn’t cause a rise in blood sugar. This is an excellent sweetener for Diabetics! Because it’s a liquid it dissolves easily in water, so it could be used to make lemonade or sweeten tea. It can be used in place of maple syrup for topping whole grain waffles or pancakes.
Brown Rice Syrup of good quality is made from Organic brown rice and filtered water. The syrup is made by fermenting brown rice with barley malt until the startch content of the grains is broken down. The remaining fermented liquid is strained and it is cooked until the syrup consistency is reached. Because the end product contains glucose, which is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, Diabetics should use it sparingly.
Date Sugar is simply made from ground dried dates and therefore contains fiber and nutrients like iron. This sugar has more flavor to it and works great in recipes for baking, but since it doesn’t dissolve well you wouldn’t use it to sweeten liquids. It has a high Glycemic Index, so it should be used sparingly, especially by Diabetics.
Stevia Sweet Leaf is made from a naturally sweet plant found in Paraguay. Due to its strong flavor it doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste buds. And because it’s 250-400 times sweeter than sugar, it’s tricky to substitute in recipes, but works well in sweetening desserts and beverages with the right ratios. You will need to experiment or consult a cookbook like the one by Rita DePuydt called “Stevia: naturally sweet recipes for desserts, drinks and more!" Stevia contains no calories and scores “0” on the Glycemic Index.
Sucanat is free flowing brown sugar made from dehydrated sugar cane juice. It has a flavor similar to molasses and can be used in making BBQ sauces, marinades, flavoring stir fry’s or Thai food dishes, or substituted for sugar in baking at a 1 to 1 ratio. It contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and chromium.
All of these sweeteners are suitable for Vegan diets and most can be found in your local chain health food stores like Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Akin’s, or Trader Joe’s. Enjoy experimenting with these wholesome sweeteners and tell us about your favorites in the BellaOnline Holistic Health Forum.