Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Natural Sweeteners

All sweeteners are forms of sugar, supplying little or no nutrients to the body. Our goal should be to seek out sweeteners in their natural state, with minimal refining or processing involved. If we choose to do this, we will have fewer health problems, because we are eating a food that GOD created for us to enjoy, unprocessed and unrefined by people. Some of the following information is taken from a sweetener handout put out by Country Life Natural Foods, and the online Wikipedia.

Most of these can be substituted for sugar at a ratio of 3/4 cup of liquid natural sweetener replaces 1 cup of sugar, but then also reduce the other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup:

HONEY: contains relatively the same amount of sweetness (97%) as common processed sugar, but contains more calories per spoonful compared to sugar because of the denseness it has. It is 17% water, but also contains some minerals, and B complex vitamins.

MAPLE SYRUP: needs to be 100% pure maple syrup, otherwise you have fallen into the consumer trap processors are hoping for with their high fructose corn syrup and chemical maple flavoring. 100% pure maple syrup comes out of a treat a ratio of 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup...yikes....no wonder it's cheaper to buy corn syrup! Gade C maple syrup is HIGH in minerals, but low in sweetness, while Grade A maple syrup is high in sweetness, but it doesn't have many minerals left in it. We're very excited that our new Co-Op Azure Standard is Grade B, while most grocery stores only carry Grade A. We buy a gallon a month/2 months and do most of our baking with this, along with a "topper" for pancakes mornings.
Maple Syrup contains 50 calories per Tablespoon, but also contains small amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and sodium, Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, Nicotinic acid and Pantothenic Acid(B5)...all nutrients needed by the body to function properly. Sugar has none of these, and is highly processed!

MOLASSES: is the by-product from the processing of sugar beet or sugar cane into sugar. The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet, and the darkness of it is directly relational to it's sweetness. Unfortunately, the best one for you (BLACK STRAP) is also the least sweetest. Black strap Molasses contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, copper and chromium.

DATE SUGAR: made from grinding dried dates, but less sweet than sugar. It contains trace elements of potassium, iron, phosphorus and fiber. Substitution--1cup to 1 cup.

STEVIA POWDER: extracted from the herb, and is much sweeter than sugar. substitution: 1/4 tsp of stevia to one cup sugar. when using in cooking, mix the stevia powder in the liquid from the recipe before adding the other dry ingredients.

SUCANAT: Unrefined brown sugar, powdered cane juice. Contains some vitamins, minerals and molasses. Substitute: 1 cup-1 cup

BROWN RICE SYRUP: made from brown rice and filtered water.

AGAVE NECTAR: a honey-like substance extracted from a cactus. Although there is slower absorption of it into the bloodstream than corn syrup and sugar, it's similarly processed/extracted from the plant as corn syrup, so I have decreased in my use of the substance.

CANE JUICE CRYSTALS: crystallized raw sugar from sugar cane juice. Can be substituted equally with sugar. In my opinion, just as processed as sugar, so just as harmful on your body as sugar.

Obviously some of these natural sweeteners will be better for your body than others. The less a sweetener is processed, the more vitamins and minerals you will get out of it for your body to utilize and balance your blood sugar levels with.

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted from discussing all this sugar business the last few BLOGS.....I'm ready for something new! I will be saving my "50 ways Sugar can Ruin Your Health" BLOG (from the book: Lick the Sugar Habit) for another time, and will BLOG something of a different topic next time around. Until then, stay sweet!