Everyone knows that sugar is not good for our bodies. But we have a sweet taste that must be satisfied so what can we use instead?
Here are some natural sweeteners that God provided for us that can be used in sweet recipes....
SUCANAT - Sucanat is a natural cane sugar that is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules. Sucanat is far more flavorful than regular white sugar, which means that a small amount goes a long way in providing sweetness and flavor to a wide variety of recipes. And since they retain much of their natural molasses, Sucanat granules are a tan-brown color, with a deep, molasses-y flavor. (When heated, it turns caramel-like between 250 and 270 degrees.)
HONEY – Honey is sweeter than sugar. Depending on the plant source, honey can have a range of flavors, from dark and strongly flavored, to light and mildly flavored. Raw honey contains amounts of enzymes, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins, so it’s important to look for raw on the label because the pasteurization process with kill most of the good stuff in it. Using honey is better for diabetics and can help lower blood pressure. It’s also said that consuming local honey can help build up your immunity to common allergens in your area by introducing your body to the bee pollen from local bees. Try to find honey that comes from within 20 miles of where you live. This will really help with seasonal allergies. If you can’t find local that’s ok, just look for raw.
BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES - Organic molasses is one of the most nutritious sweeteners derived from sugar cane or sugar beet and is made by a process of clarifying and blending the extracted juices. The longer the juice is boiled, the less sweet, more nutritious, and darker the product is. Molasses imparts a very distinct flavor to food. Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Make sure you buy organic.
REAL MAPLE SYRUP - Maple syrup is made from boiled-down maple tree sap and is a great source of manganese and zinc. Approximately 40 gallons of sap are needed to make one gallon of maple syrup. Maple syrup has a much lower fructose content than agave. It adds a pleasant flavor to foods and is great for baking. Be sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup and not maple-flavored corn syrup. Buy the ones marked Grade B or “formally Grade B” - these have the most minerals.
COCONUT SUGAR - Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar or coco sap sugar, or coconut crystals is made from the sweet nectar of flower buds of the coconut palm. The coconut nectar is heated until the water evaporates and then the caramelized nectar is dried and ground into granules. Coconut sugar is a good source of potassium, iron, and vitamins. Although it provides the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar, it has a lower glycemic index, providing a more stable release of glucose into the blood.
SUGAR SUBSTITUTES -
STEVIA - is a natural sweetener that's extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub known scientifically as Stevia rebaudiana.
It contains zero calories and has no known links to weight gain.
In fact, human studies have shown that stevia is not associated with any adverse health effects.
Stevia is 100% natural, contains zero calories, and has no known adverse health effects. It has been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
However, it can be tricky to bake with and sometimes has a bitter aftertaste.
XYLITOL - Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar. It's extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables.
Xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram, which is 40% fewer calories than sugar.
Also, it does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels (16).
Most of the harmful effects associated with regular sugar are due to its high fructose content. However, xylitol contains zero fructose and thus has none of the harmful effects associated with sugar.
On the contrary, xylitol is associated with multiple health benefits.
Several studies show that it can improve dental health by reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Xylitol increases your body's absorption of calcium. This is not only good for your teeth but also your bone density, which can help protect against osteoporosis. Xylitol is generally well tolerated, but eating too much of it can cause digestive side effects like gas, bloating and diarrhea.
It's also important to note that xylitol is highly toxic to dogs in any amount. If you own a dog, you may want to keep xylitol out of reach or avoid having it in the house altogether.
ERYTHRITOL - Like xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, but it contains even fewer calories.
At only 0.24 calories per gram, erythritol contains 6% of the calories of regular sugar.
It also tastes almost exactly like sugar, making it an easy switch.
Your body does not have the enzymes to break down erythritol, so most of it is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and excreted in your urine unchanged.
Therefore, it does not seem to have the harmful effects that regular sugar does.
Moreover, erythritol does not raise blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
It's considered safe for human consumption and is very well tolerated.
Human studies show no side effects of erythritol when consumed daily at one gram per pound of body weight, though higher doses may lead to minor digestive issues in some people.
MONK FRUIT - Monk fruit sweeteners, also known as lo han guo, come from a small round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. Monk fruit sweeteners are extracted by removing the seeds and skin, crushing the fruit and collecting the juice. This sweet but zero-calorie juice is often used in food and beverages to help reduce calories without sacrificing sweetness.Monk fruit is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way.
PLEASE NOTE – all of these can usually be substituted for each other, but it will take different amounts. Google a chart for substitution. There are plenty out there.
AVOID THESE SWEETENERS ALTOGETHER -
Agave nectar - Produced by the agave plant, it's often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar, but it's probably one of the unhealthiest sweeteners on the market. It is heavily processed with chemicals. It consists of 85% fructose, which is much higher than regular sugar.
As previously mentioned, high amounts of fructose are strongly associated with obesity and other serious diseases.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup - (HFCS) is a sweetener made from corn syrup. It's commonly used to sweeten processed foods and soft drinks. As its name implies, it's very high in fructose.
It can increase your risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes and other serious diseases like cancer.
The manufactured fructose molecule is slightly different than natural fructose and your body can't do anything with it so it stores it as fat. It is worse than sugar and should be avoided at all costs.
While you won't typically use HFCS as an individual ingredient in your recipes at home, it's commonly found in sauces, salad dressings and other condiments that you may be cooking with.
RECIPES USING ALTERNATIVE SWEETENERS
The following websites or Pinterest boards have a lot of recipes using natural or substitute sweeteners.
The Elliott Homestead for recipes with Sucanat and honey
The Prairie Homestead for recipes with maple syrup and honey
Trim Healthy Mama for low-glycemic sweeteners
MY FAVORITE COOKIE RECIPE -
GINGER COOKIES from Jovial Foods
300 grams all-purpose einkorn flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
138 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
173 grams coconut sugar
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a second bowl, stir together the coconut sugar, molasses, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the egg and whisk together until well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix with a spatula until the dry ingredients are no longer visible. Add the butter and mix completely. Let stand for 15 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the wet ingredients.
Put about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll small balls of dough between your hands and roll them in the sugar to dust completely. I use a small scoop to do this.
Place the balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13 minutes until the cookies have spread and are barely firm to the touch.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. They are wonderful just out of the oven!
VANILLA PANNA COTTA
4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon gelatin
¼ to ½ cup maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Sprinkle the gelatin into a few tablespoons of water and set aside. Put the cream, sweetener, and vanilla extract into a pot and set on stove and cook on high until it starts to bubble around the edges. Whisk in the dissolved gelatin and pour into ramekins or small bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2-3 hours. Top with berries, sliced or puréed fruit, jam, or whatever your heart desires. Yum!
COCONUT TRUFFLES from Trim Healthy Mama
3 ounces cream cheese
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoon coconut flour
2 - 3 tablespoons THM Super Sweet Blend or use double amounts THM Gentle Sweet
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
1 dash vanilla extract
1 pinch mineral salt
Unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients except the coconut. Roll the mixture into little balls, then roll the balls in the coconut. Place the truffles on a nonstick surface, store in the freezer until serving, then allow to sit out for 10 minutes or so for the best texture.
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH MAPLE SYRUP
1 pound Brussels Sprouts, halved or quartered
1 small red onion, chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place Brussels sprouts and red onion on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat. Season with salt and black pepper.
Roast in oven until Brussels sprouts are caramelized, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
APPLE CROSTATA WITH SUCANAT
3 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup Sucanat
pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 pie crust
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the flour, Sucanat, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl. Add the orange zest and sprinkle evenly on the apples.
Roll out the pie crust onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Cover the crust with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
WHAT I BUY:
Maple syrup – Coombs Family Farms Organic Maple Syrup, formerly Grade B
Honey – raw from the farmers market or Raw Wild Canadian Honey from
Tropical Traditions online
Coconut Sugar – Madhava Organic
Molasses – Plantation Organic
Maple sugar – Frost Ridge Maple Farm Grade A