Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Natural Sweeteners

I haven't bought sugar -- white, brown, powdered -- for some time (with the occasional exception of dark dark chocolate for my purse). I don't want to go into the woes of refined sugar in this post... another time perhaps. I'd just like to share some tasty and immensely healthier alternatives. We have become quite skillful at reconstructing all things sweet with natural sweeteners, and I'm doubly happy for the nutritional benefits they offer without skimping on deliciousness!

RAW HONEY: so many benefits to using honey. It's a good source of antioxidants, trace vitamins and minerals, and also includes amylase, an enzyme that helps digests carbs (the more help the better!). But be careful not to heat too much -- those helpful little enzymes die at temperatures above 117ยบ F.
  • Some companies include additives or contaminants in their honey, so be sure to get yours from a source you trust. Local is best. I recently read an article that made me so glad I know where my honey comes from.

RAPADURA (also known as SUCANAT): this is the real thing. UN-refined cane sugar, meaning: this sugar retains the full molasses content of the original food, including all the nutrients the refiners would otherwise eradicate. We use this in most of our baked desserts and do not miss its worthless white counterpart in the slightest.

MAPLE SYRUP: one of my favorites, also loaded with trace minerals. We drizzle it on favorite breakfasts, but have also used it to make ice cream, icings, smoothies, etc. It is, by definition, cooked, so don't look for it raw. Unfortunately, it's expensive, so buy in bulk or with coupons! By the way, there's not a quality or a nutritional difference between Grade A and B. Grade B is produced later in the season when the sap has a reduced sugar content, so it must be boiled longer, therefore appearing darker (both grades are equally dense).
  • Some maple syrup farmers have used formaldehyde pellets (eek!) in the tree-tapping process, allowing the holes to stay open longer for more sap drainage. It's illegal now, both in Canada and Vermont, where most maple syrup is produced, but some sneaks still try to get away with it. So just to be safe, buy organic.

DATE SUGAR: a lovely recent discovery for me. It's exactly what the title might imply: dehydrated, ground dates. A whole food! High in fiber! And nutrients! Does it get better than that? It's our new favorite on hot cereal.

STEVIA: I've used this a few times, mainly in whipped cream. It works well as a sugar sub if you don't need the bulk of sugar in your recipe. It's 300x as sweet as white sugar, however, so use very sparingly!

SORGHUM SYRUP: another new discovery. Popular in the South, Sorghum is much like molasses (but sweeter) and simliar to maple syrup (but less than half the price!). Learning that it's high in iron was enough to sell me on it, but it also includes other essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. We'll keep this one around a while.

**Be wary of using AGAVE NECTAR. It may be as dangerous as the spiny desert plant looks, containing more concentrated amounts of fructose than the accursed high fructose corn syrup. Though low on the GI because of its low glucose levels, consuming large amounts of refined fructose can cause a host of unmentionables in your body! I caution against using it.
When you have a variety of wonderful natural sweeteners, cutting out refined sugars doesn't seem so hard, or extreme for that matter. We couldn't be more satisfied. :)

You might find many of these at a health food store, or even a regular store, but here's another great resource if you live in the right place!


  1. I am loving your new blog, guys! You're amazing:) And Nonie, I loved to read that you buy the occasional chocolate bar for your purse too! I'm the same way; "No sugar shall pass the threshhold of this house!, except maybe this chocolate bar that snuck into my purse..."

  2. Great post Nonie! We're still kind of learning how to cook/bake around our house (when we do it is with healthy organic or raw products!), but once we start making sweet things we'll definitely try these tricks. It would help me to know some examples of how you substitute some of these for sugar ... what quantity of rapadura you use in place of it; what if anything you have to do to compensate for the liquid aspect of syrups, etc. Thanks so much for the tips!

  3. My sisters are so hot. How did I get such hot sisters?? I'm so glad this blog is here because I trust you guys more than the dummies on the internet, and you have done all my research for me! Best ever.

  4. I love the idea of using natural sweeteners. I made some really good strawberry freezer jam sweetened only with fruit juice and honey, it was delicious! I am a little concerned though about how I would still get my occasional homemade chocolate chip cookie :) Do you have a recipe for cookies using natural sweeteners or do you just not make them? I don't know if I have that much discipline :)

  5. I'm making about one batch of chocolate chip cookies a week, that's what my discipline looks like... :) I just use the Tollhouse recipe from online, cutting out sugar and subbing in an equal amount of sucanat/rapadura instead. Rapadura/sucanat work great for every baked good I've ever tried them in, and there is no conversion necessary. To be honest, I personally think it tastes better. These cookies also taste great when you use coconut oil in place of butter. I may need to go make some right now...

  6. Also, I tried the sorghum syrup this past weekend, it is so yummy!! I had it on atop a soaked flour waffle, with some butter and plain yogurt. Delicious! Thanks for the idea Nonie!