Healthy Sugar Alternatives, Are They Worth It?

Sugar alternatives, blackstrap mollasses, honey and stevia

Sugar alternatives I already use.

 

Healthy sugar alternatives, are they worth the effort and the considerable higher cost in some cases over just using plain old white sugar like most of us have always done? White sugar can be compared to white bread as white sugar has been stripped of all nutrients except for the considerable calories.  With white bread our loving government at least forces the food companies to enrich white flour by artificially adding back some of the nutrients that they intentionally stripped out of it during the manufacturing process.  In the case of white sugar, I guess our government feels that it is such a lost cause that adding anything would be a waste of time and effort.  Do I think the government should just ban white sugar?  No, I think the general public should educate themselves about white sugar and them voluntarily quit eating it as I have, for the most part.  It is something you just can’t totally avoid.   Should the government educate us about it?  No, they have botched it in so many ways in trying to educate us about food.  You can believe about as much about healthy eating coming from the government as you can believe of what the average politician says.

When I first started preparing to write about healthy sugar alternatives I felt that some of the alternatives may be better for us.  With some of these alternatives costing many times more than white sugar, could the benefits be worth the tremendous cost differential?  Then, I felt that limiting the amount of sugar we use and using the best of the affordable and commonly available sugars would work best for most people.  I still think that whatever sugar alternative we use we should also limit all our sugar intake and for some they must severely limit it or suffer dire health consequences.   For me price is almost always a factor in what I buy but for the relatively small amount of sugar I buy, I believe the benefits of some of these healthy sugar alternatives do justify the cost compared to white sugar.  Next I will give you my opinion as to the best choices.

Raw honey is something that anyone who likes something sweet should have in their kitchen, there are so many benefits.  It contains vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, enzymes, phytonutrients and it is even anti-bacterial.  Raw unfiltered honey also contains pollen which has been shown to help desensitize us to those pollens.  Remember to not give babies honey until they are at least a year old.  Some honey contains botulism spores and the babies undeveloped immune systems may not be able to handle it.

Blackstrap molasses is another item I feel is good to have although it has limited uses.  It contains most of the nutrients from the cane juice and it adds a pleasing taste to some things and is not expensive.  I love to use it in breads instead of sugar, I even prefer it to honey for bread,  You lose a lot of the nutrients in honey when you heat it.  Honey is good if you just want the honey flavor.

Stevia can be used for other things but I prefer it for sweetening tea or other drinks.  It is good to sweeten oatmeal or other cereals.  I have never used it to cook with myself.  My friend has used it in muffins and to replace a portion of the brown sugar in recipes.  Recipes that require sugar for texture would not work with stevia.

Dates are good to chop up or process and use to sweeten baked goods such as cookies, muffins, health bars or to sweeten cereal.  Dates not only add sweetness but you get the fiber and all the other nutrients that you don’t get from just sugar.

Coconut palm sugar is probably my number one choice of all natural sugar alternatives for white sugar. Although it is about one third higher cost wise than my next choice whole cane sugar, I believe coconut palm sugar is worth the extra cost.  In fact I know it is worth the extra cost for those who suffer with diabetes.  It has a glycemic index ration of 35 and will not spike our blood sugar levels like most sweeteners do.  It is a one to one swap for both white and brown sugar, works great in baked goods and most people like the taste.  It is also rich in potassium and iron.  Go here for coconut palm sugar.

Whole Cane sugar such as Sucanat, rapadura and planeta which is made by slowly heating sugar cane juice to remove the water content.  It is one of the least refined sugars made from sugar cane and retains most of the nutrients from the sugar cane juice. The following; evaporated cane juice, unrefined brown sugar and organic sugar are made from the same raw cane juice but are considered more highly refined and contain less of the original nutrients from the cane juice.

Maple syrup is the perfect compliment to pancakes and waffles and great to use as a flavoring in other foods. It is 60% as sweet as sugar and has a lower giycemic index number at 54, verses 80 for white sugar. Maple syrup is available in three grades with grade C being the most flavorful and containing the most nutrients but it is not readily available.  Grade B is usually the one we see recommended but if you like a more delicate flavor then get grade A.  It is great to use in moderation if you like the flavor.  You can also get maple sugar but neither is the best replacement for white sugar for general use.

Agave syrup is lower on the glycemic index, has more nutrients than white sugar, is 1.4 to 1.6 times as sweet as sugar and dissolves easily.  It is also composed of up to 90% fructose and due to the unanswered questions about the long term affects of consuming high fructose containing sweeteners I can not see it as a good alternative replacement for white sugar.

Whatever you choose to use, read the label and be sure you are getting what you think you are getting.  A syrup you find in your local grocery with a label  that says maple pancake syrup, may just be high-fructose corn syrup with a fake maple flavoring.  There is certainly no need to try to eat healthy and end up with an inferior product.  In addition, please limit how much of any of these sweeteners you use, there are few of us that do not eat too many sweets and that is the core cause of many of our chronic ills.

If you like or benefit from anything you read here please share it with your friends and family, I would sincerely appreciate it as I appreciate you, my readers.

Thanks for visiting, you are always welcome here. May you and yours have a healthy and happy day.       David Johnson

 

 

Natural Healthier Sugar Substitutes

Natural healthier sugar substitutes can make something that most view as unhealthy, a lot less unhealthy, if eaten in moderation.  When I first started thinking about writing this post I wondered if there truly was a healthy substitute for white and high fructose corn syrup.  As for the high fructose corn syrup, avoidance is the key word, none, nada.  As for as white sugar there are many choices, some are a simple one to one trade, others are lesser or more sweet than white sugar. My list of natural healthier sugar substitutes listed below are listed starting with the ones I feel have the most merit to be included in a healthy diet.

White Sugar, the traditional sweetener.

White Sugar, the traditional choice.

Raw Honey – Honey is first on the list because it 100% natural.  It is the only natural sweetener that does not come directly from plants although bees make it from plant products.  Honey contains anti-oxidants,enzymes, has many minerals we need and even prevents bacterial growth, I love it. Honey is indeed a natural healthier sugar substitute and first on my list.  If you have a local source, buy local if not, Buy raw honey here.
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Stevia - Stevia is about as natural as you can get if you read the label and get a product that only contains stevia.  The powdered stevia in the little packets have added sugars, the liquid steva has only a carrier fluid, either alcohol or glycerin.  You can also get a stevia plant and grow your own, I did earlier this spring. You could just use the leaves, they are very sweet to the taste. Stevia is said to be 300 times as sweet as sugar. Next to honey this is about the most natural healthier sugar substitute that you could use.  It is also calorie free. Buy stevia here.

Blackstrap Molasses – Blackstrap molasses contains all the concentrated minerals and nutrients that were in the cane juice except for the enzymes and phytonutrients that are destroyed by the refining process.  It has a distinct flavor and may not be a suitable substitute for some uses.  It is only 65% as sweet as white sugar and not a direct one to one replacement. Is blackstrap molasses a natural healthier sugar substitute?  Not 100% natural but has it’s merits. I use it myself, especially in making bread. Buy blackstrap molasses here.

Sucanat – is the more natural sugar substitute I see mentioned on food blogs  most often.  Sucanat and Rapadura are brand names.  You can get Rapunzel Organic Whole Cane Sugar here or for a less expensive version of what appears to be the same thing, go here.This is refined in such a way to retain the nutrients from the natural cane juice.  It is a one to one replacement for white sugar but has a brown sugar like color and a distinct taste when used in some ways.  Is this a more natural healthier sugar substitute?  It is one of the most naturally produced of the sugar alternatives.

Coconut Palm Sugar - Coconut palm sugar is made from the nectar of the coconut palm flower, is sustainably grown and environmentally friendly.  It looks somewhat like brown sugar and is a one to one replacement for both white and brown sugar and can be used in any way they would be used.. The reviews I have read report that it works very well for baking, for texture as well as taste.  It is very low on the glycemic scale at 35 and does not spike our blood sugar like most sugars do. It is rich in potassium and iron. Buy it here.

Dates – Dates while not really a sugar are and can be used to sweeten and in that sense is a natural healthier sugar substitute.  These  can be processed in a food processor and used to sweeten cookies, muffins, food bars and other baked goods.  They can be used to sweeten oatmeal and other cereals.  I have used them myself and they work very well.  There is also a sugar made from dates but it is rather pricey.  This is definitely a natural healthier sugar substitute.

Maple Syrup – Maple syrup and also maple sugar contain manganese and calcium and are less processed than white sugar which has no nutrients left.  It would qualify as a more natural healthier sugar substitute. Get grade B here.

Agave Syrup - Agave syrup is said by some to be overly processed but to me the process seems along the same lines with some of the other sweeteners. You can get it in a light amber color, amber and a darker amber, the later being less filtered and having more nutrients. You can also get raw agave which has been processed under 118 degrees and qualifies as a raw food. Agave syrup is 1.4 to 1.6 times as sweet as sugar and has a lower glycemic number.  I would say it is a more natural healthier sugar substitute.

Unrefined Brown Sugar - Unrefined brown sugars such as what you find in most regular grocery stores include demerara, muscovado and turbinado.  While these are more refined than those higher on the list, they are certainly better than white sugar but are much higher in cost than white sugar and you get more bang for your buck elsewhere.  These are a more natural healthier sugar substitute if you overlook the natural part.

Evaporated Cane Juice – Evaporated cane juice is claimed to be less refined.  Anything less refined would be better than white sugar.

Organic Sugar - Organic sugar is organically grown but is much like brown sugar, better than white. At least you know it is not GMO.

In my next post I will give you my conclusion as to what I feel is the best alternative to replace white sugar.  I believe that we need to find a natural healthier substitute for white sugar, our health depends on it.  If you like or benefit from anything you read here please share it with your friends and family, I would sincerely appreciate it as I appreciate you, my readers.

Thanks for visiting, you are always welcome here. May you and yours have a healthy and happy day.       David Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

Soup Time Again

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This is my butter bean, butternut squash and kale soup.  You can also see some of my sourdough bread.

A cold front came through here last night and the temperature is about twenty degrees less than it was yesterday and it got me thinking about soup.  When it is cooler I usually make a big pot of soup at least once a week but it has been a month or so since I made any.  I guess I was too busy with the start of spring, trying to get my garden going, setting out four new blueberry plants and getting them mulched, mowing the grass for the first time.   I have a lot to mow so I mowed it over two different days; usually do it all in one day but not this time.  The yard around the house which I mowed first is ready for another trim around the ears; on my schedule for Monday, maybe.  I also found some asparagus plants at Lowe’s and there must be at least 50 to 75 plants and I am Working on a bed for them.  I had some asparagus about thirty years ago and ate so much of it that I didn’t want any for years; maybe I can restrain myself this time so that doesn’t happen again.  My daughters and some of the grandkids like it so I guess it wouldn’t go to waste.

The soup I am going to talk about is one of the last ones I made before it started warming up.  I do not go through all the steps with photos of each step as some food bloggers do but instead give you a general idea of how I did it and the ingredients I used.  Cooking is individual and personal;  we use what we like and season it as we like it.  Suggestions help but in the end it is your baby and it certainly won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t do it exactly like I did it.

I have my own garden and I usually raise what I call butter peas or small lima beans and sometimes there will be beans that are a little to dry to use as fresh beans so I keep them to use as dry beans.  These were what I started with; soaked them overnight in water, drained and covered with chicken broth added half a medium onion, a couple pressed garlic cloves and cooked at a very slow boil until almost done.  I took a medium sized butternut squash, peeled, removed seed, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces and added to beans.  Then I chopped some kale up and added to the pot.  In both cases I added until it looked like about the right proportion  to the other ingredients.  I added salt and black pepper and sriracha sauce to my taste and then simmered until the butternut and kale were done. If you want the kale just wilted wait a while before you put it in.  I personally like mine cooked a little more.  Over time you will get the feel of when to put the various ingredients in.  Feel free to use whatever seasoning combo that works for you.  Italian seasoning would work, maybe cajun or try turmeric.

Thanks for visiting, you are always welcome here. May you and yours have a healthy and happy day.       David Johnson

 

More Healthy Eating Tips

Yesterday morning the sun came out so beautifully but there was a biting wind. Did I curse the wind? No, I was too busy being grateful for the sun. A much too short a time later; the sun was gone, the clouds had claimed the day. Was I sad? I did regret that the sun was gone but because it was entirely beyond my control; I accepted it as it was.

Do any of you have problems from foods with added MSG? If so you might want to go read this here. I can not say whether this is all true or not but I do feel that there is enough good information there to be beneficial to anyone who doesn’t desire to eat food with this additive. Certainly if it is a known health risk to you, please check it out.

Also here is something that you might want to bring to the attention of your elected officials. It is an article that tells of several food additives that are banned in other countries but are allowed here by our own government. Here is the link.

We have all been told about the health consequences of eating a lot of fried foods. There is the fact that fried food absorbs a lot of oil and too much fat in our diets can and for most of us will make us fat. I personally believe that the major health factor is probably the kind of fat being used and maybe where you get the food. We as a society have become a society that prefers to eat out; whether at a fast-food place or a more formal restaurant. The frying method is basically the same wherever you go. We usually have no way of knowing what kind of cooking fat they use; even if they tell us, we just have to trust them. Even when they advertise that they use no trans-fat, we may have no clue as to what kind of oil they actually use. There is considerable differences in the properties of the different oils that are available. Even if they do use the more healthy oil, how many times do they use it before they change it. A worn out healthy oil could actually be worse for our health than a fresh one with trans-fat. The key here in both cases is how much is it costing them, how it affects their bottom line. There is no law that tells them when to change their fryer fat.

I just read something that can give all of us who like fried foods hope though. An eleven year study of 41,000 people in Spain, varying in age from 29 to 69 has found that when using olive oil or sunflower oil to fry foods; it did not point to an increase in heart disease or to premature death. This was true of even those who ate fried food the most, in the study. We have to be aware though that in Spain both people at home and also restaurants use mostly olive oil and sunflower oils for cooking; which is not true here.

What I conclude here is that at least in a home setting where you can control the quality of the oil you use; frying may only add fat calories but otherwise not be a health hazard. The control we have when we prepare our own food is the major factor in our eating healthy, in my opinion.

Thanks for visiting, you are always welcome here. May you and yours have a healthy and happy day.       David Johnson