List of Natural Sweeteners

Since I wrote about the dangers of artificial sweeteners last week, I thought I'd follow up with a list of what is okay to use. Keep in mind that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy". Natural means that they are taken from nature and ideally are minimally refined. Remember that at the end of the day, every sweetener should be used in moderation.

1. Raw Honey Raw honey is probably the least processed of all sweeteners. Raw honey is made by bees and is full of nutrients. Honey that is not raw has been pasteurized, and most of the nutrients are removed. Try to find local, raw honey for the greatest benefit and defense against seasonal allergies!

2. Maple Syrup Make sure to find 100% pure maple syrup. It contains some minerals and can be used in baking.

3. Coconut Sugar This is my favorite to use in baking, because sometimes the consistency is just not right when honey is substituted. Coconut Sugar (also called Coconut Palm Sugar) has a low glycemic index, which means you're less likely to have the sugar crash you have with other sugars. In addition, it actually contains B vitamins, vitamin C, and other minerals.

4. Sucanat Sucanat is simply evaporated cane juice. It is dark brown in color because the natural molasses has not been stripped from it. It is a good substitute for white sugar and brown sugar! Too much sucanat will, however, cause that sugar crash, so once again use in moderation - no more than 3 tablespoons a day is recommended, which is still rather generous!

A Few More Notes

Several people have asked me about Stevia. Stevia the plant is natural. If you want to make your own extract using Stevia leaves and alcohol, that would be okay. The white powdered Stevia from the store is very highly processed and I do not recommend it.

Others have also said that using coconut sugar is irresponsible, because the harvesting of coconut sugar means that the actual nuts cannot be produced. This is false. A responsible farmer will be able to harvest both with careful management. Coconut trees in general are among the most environmentally responsible crops on earth! They produce at least 50% more per acre than cane sugar and require fewer pesticides. For more information, I recommend this website: http://coconutsugar.org/makingofcocosugar.php.

Finally, you may be wondering about powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is what makes buttercreams and other desserts so light and fluffy! Powdered sugar is just sugar that has been blended to make the grains very fine and soft. The stuff from the store is usually made from processed cane sugar. If you want powdered sugar, I suggest making it at home using sucanat or even coconut sugar. Just put some in a blender or food processor and blend it until it breaks up and becomes very fine.

9 comments:

  1. Don't forget about turbinado sugar! I've started using that lately and it seems like it's better for you than normal refined sugar. I haven't baked with it yet, but I haven't noticed a difference in the few things I've used it in.

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  2. Angela, I bake with turbinado sugar and everything tastes better and, my blood sugar doesn't go crazy like it does with refine sugar :)

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  3. What about xylitol?

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  4. If your looking for the real deal, buy Rapunzel Organic Cane Sugar. It is the closest option to real, live sugar cane. Other sugars, such as turbinado are no doubt a step in the right direction, but they still lack the nutrients that the Rapunzel brand preserves (the whole process is spelled out with a diagram on the back label). Check it out next time your at Whole Foods! It has a dark brown color, large grain size, and smoky flavor (because it still retains molasses). It does change the flavor and color of your recipe, so experiment! I love the depth of flavor it adds to my pumpkin muffins and mint tea.

    Side note: Raw, local honey has changed my life. I can now breathe during the cold half of the year! ...Is it wrong to eat it by the spoonful out of the jar? At least it's better than eating processed sugar by the spoonfuls!

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  5. We love using maple syrup as a sweetener! Please feel free to swing by and link up with my Tuesday Greens linky for green living and gardening posts.www.craftygardenmama.com Have a great week!

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  6. Thanks for linking up! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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  7. This is such a great post, coming at a great time! I'm trying to transition to eating more real foods and I've wondered about sweeteners. I'll be checking out and trying some of these suggestions. I also love the idea of raw honey for allergies! I'm allergy free but my husband suffers a lot...especially spring time. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. as few as three grams of xylitol will kill a small dog. i won't risk having it in the house.

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  9. What about blackstrap molasses? I hear it has the highest nutrient content

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