Last week we dug deep into one of the most commonplace dangers in our modern diet, sugar. So, let’s help you out of the woods. These natural wonders not only offer more variety of flavor and texture to play with in the kitchen than white refined sugar but are also much healthier and may even offer health benefits.
Brown Rice or Spelt Syrup
A thick, scotch-colored sweetener made by cooking sprouted brown rice or spelt in water that is then evaporated. Completely fructose free, it has a very low glycemic index of only 25 and is safe to use in everything from baking to tea. Always buy organic to avoid arsenic traces found in some brands.
Whole dates ground down (including date sugar which is then dried into a powder), retains the fruit’s natural antioxidant properties and delivers phytonutrients and fiber as well. It’s great for baking and is highly absorbent, but doesn´t work well as a tea/coffee sweetener because of its fiber content. It still contains fructose, so go easy!
Unpasteurized or filtered honeys increase calcium absorption and hemoglobin count, soothes respiratory tract irritations, has a low glycemic index and acts as an anti-viral. The darker the honey, the higher the content of antioxidants. It’s still high in fructose though, so use sparingly
The byproduct of extracting sugar from raw sugar cane, molasses provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, porassium and zinc and is alkalizing to the body; this is where all the nutrition from natural sugar cane goes! It can benefit arthritis, ulcers, skin conditions, high blood pressure, constipation, varicose veins, anemia, bladder issues and gallstones and is used as a blood building tonic as it´s high in iron. It does, however, have a very strong and unique taste that´s difficult to disguise.
300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia is a natural sweetener with no fructose that comes from the leaf of a plant. It can be bought as a leaf, or is refined into powder or liquid. It has a strange aftertaste that takes time to get used to, but is great for baking as a tiny bit goes a long way. It’s low GI, contains zero calories and will last forever.
Real fruit & veg
Once you’ve given sugar the flick, real fruit will seem like the sweetest thing on earth. Use whole mashed bananas, reduced berries or steamed sweet potato to sweeten up your baking. Coconut products like coconut cream (the solid stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk), coconut oil and dried coconut flakes are all wonderfully nutritious in more ways than one, and are naturally rich, creamy and sweet.
Agave. A popular sweetener which, although low GI and completely natural, is 75% fructose and is therefore bad news for sugar-avoiders
Fruit juice concentrate. All fructose (and toxins if it’s not organic) are concentrated down, meaning the sugar content skyrockets. Potential nutrients are also lost in the process of heating and freezing.
Artificial sweeteners (like asparteme). Produced synthetically, growing research shows they are highly volatile and carcinogenic. Avoid these at all costs.
Brown Sugar. It might look like the healthier option, but it’s really a semi-fired version of the white stuff and (with the exception of muscovado) it’s really just a ‘painted’ white sugar with some molasses added back in to make it brown.
Maple syrup. Extracted from the tree and heated at high temperatures to produce a syrup, it´s very high in fructose and is nutritionally rather deficient.
Coconut sugar. While a sustainable sugar with a low GI, it is extremely high in fructose and should therefore be avoided.