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 117º 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. :)