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