Healthy + Natural Sweeteners for the Win
There are a lot of healthy options for sweetening your delicious baked goods, treats, smoothies, coffee and teas. Refined sugar and artificial sweetener can finally be a thing of the past. There is no need to relay on these toxic substances when there is such an abundance of alternatives. These healthy choices are fabulous and work just as good. Below I’ll go over the basic and what they compare to in the standard sugar world.
Coconut sugar, also known as palm sugar is made from the sap of the flowers on a coconut palm. The Glycemic Index of coconut sugar is 35 and is classified as a low-glycemic index food. It can be used in place of both brown and white sugar. I love using it for baking, smoothies, oatmeal and teas. It also has some health benefits! It contains many vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus and boron. This makes it a really appealing option!
Dates are an amazing natural sweetener that our bodies recognize as food and easily digest. The Glycemic Index of Dates is 42; still relatively low considering glucose is 100 and table sugar are around 70. Dates can be used in place of sugar in recipes, but do best in smoothies and raw food desserts. For every cup of sugar, use 10 dates. You can also find powdered date sugar in some health food stores or make a paste by blending the pitted dates with water. Dates also have some great health benefits! They have been known to help with constipation, intestinal disorders, and anemia. They’re full of fiber, minerals and vitamins. They are commonly used by people on a raw food diet.
Maple syrup is syrup usually made from the xylem sap maple trees. Maple syrup can also be found in a powdered form and gives a really rich caramel flavor too foods. Maple syrup comes in different grades, based on color, in the US we use grade A and grade B, grade B is darker and has a higher mineral content, including calcium magnesium and potassium. The glycemic load is higher on maple syrup, coming in at a 54. This syrup can be used for baked goods, smoothies, coffee teas and anything else you want! When using in baked goods, make sure to adjust the liquid.
Honey is a great choice for sweetening liquid recipes such as smoothies, puddings and ice creams; it doesn’t bake very well, but can be used if the liquid in the recipe is adjusted properly. Honey should be used raw to get the nutritional benefits. Please be aware of the kind of honey you are purchasing. Often bees are overworked and many are killed. If you’re choosing to eat honey (a non vegan food) check the brand and make sure they give their bees a good healthy rest! Raw honey has a glycemic index of 30 and is a natural anti bacterial!
Agave is considered a lower glycemic sweetener (GI is 15), although in the past few years, has seen a lot of controversy. I personally do not use agave regularly and when I do, I make sure it is a clear organic raw agave. It was once thought that diabetics could eat agave because of its low GI but that is no longer recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Agave can be used in place of sugar in baking and in liquids. Again, just adjust the liquid in your baked goods.
Stevia is my personal favorite; it used to have a metal aftertaste but in recent years has become a lot easier to work with. It’s derived from the sweetleaf plan and is an herb. Stevia’s Glycemic Index is lower than 1 and it sweetness is 300 times that of table sugar! In some studies, stevia has been shown to lower blood pressure. It can be used to replace sugar in all recipes. It comes in a liquid and powdered form, I prefer using the powder for baking and the liquid for sweetening smoothies and other drinks. If your looking for a great brand, Omica is my go to.
Xylitol aka birch sugar is often used in gums and toothpaste! It’s a sweetener that is actually good for your teeth! Xylitol is naturally found in many fruits and veggies. There is some controversy surrounding this sweetener although it has no known side effects in humans (it is said to gives dogs short term stomach issues, if over consumed). In my opinion it is a much better choice than sugar and cancer causing artificial sweeteners such as Splenda. It has a low glycemic index and has been known to decrease appetite, promote weight loss and aid in bone mineralization. Xylitol is an awesome sweetener for baking, it can be used just like sugar in most recipes.
feature photo from Cereal Magazine