You might be one of those people who loves to bake, maybe all year and not just around the holidays. If you are then this information is for you AND for all you consumers of those baked goods.
Sugar has become such a part of our lives that we are not even aware of how much we consume and how much it is hidden in the products we buy. Whether we add it to our tea or coffee, or we are unaware of how much it is found in our favorite packaged foods, sugar is hard to remove from our diet all together. With obesity levels shooting up, and greater understanding of just how sugar can wreak havoc on our health, the hunt is on for alternatives.
But there’s a problem. Many sugar substitutes are synthetics that are no better for us than real sugar. What’s more, some of these synthetics – aspartame and acesulfame-K to name just two – have been linked to cancer.
Sugar itself has been linked with numerous health problems ranging from obesity to tooth decay. Americans consume, on average, 22 teaspoon of sugar a day – double the recommended daily amount. Most sugar comes from the sugar cane plant, a highly water intensive crop grown mainly under monoculture conditions across the tropics. Because of the large areas required for sugar cane production, much of which takes place in ecologically important areas, sugar cane has been accused of being responsible for a greater loss of biodiversity than any other crop.
6 Healthy Sugar Alternatives
A herb native to South American, stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has been used as a sweetener for centuries in South America, and in Japan, makes up 41 per cent of the sweetener market.
The herb recently ran into trouble in the US with the Food and Drug Administration over the label ‘sweetener’ but has rebounded to become the second most popular sugar alternative in the US under the term ‘dietary supplement’. Stevia has no calories and no glycemic impact making it suitable for diabetics as well as weight watchers and eco warriors. It can be grown at home, although turning it from herb into a granular product isn’t an easy DIY project.
2. Coconut Palm Sugar *This is my new favourite for use in baking and in tea!*
Sap from the coconut palm is heated to evaporate its water content and reduce it to usable granules. Coconut sugar is nutritious and has a low score on the glycemic index, which means you don’t get a buzz followed by a crash. It tastes similar to brown sugar but is slightly richer. You can substitute coconut sugar for traditional sugar pretty much wherever you use the latter. Once tapped for sap, the trees can go on producing for 20 years and produce more sugar per hectare than sugar cane and benefit the local soil.
3. Raw Honey
Raw honey is used by many cultures as a remedy for many health ailments including ulcers, digestion problems, and even seasonal allergies. Studies have shown raw honey to have antibiotic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. Many people use honey topically on cuts and scrapes to help fight infection.
With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, raw, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many alternative health care practitioners and a remedy for many health ailments. Choose your honey wisely. There is nothing beneficial about processed honey.
These are by-products of the sugar production process. Although producing sugar from sugar cane has a negative environmental impact, not using all the products only compounds it. Because of the way traditional tabletop sugar is produced (heating the top layer which forms the crystals you have in your bowl), many of the nutritional benefits are left in the molasses. Blackstrap molasses is perhaps the most beneficial and is a good source of iron and calcium. It’s quite thick and viscous and is best used in baking. It is also sweeter than sugar so you’ll need less.
These last two are new to me and I don’t yet know too much about them, but the research seems to be there showing them as safe and beneficial alternatives.
5. Artichoke Syrup
Artichoke syrup is rich in inulin, a type of fiber that feeds the friendly flora of the intestinal tract. It has an exceptional sweet taste and a very low glycemic index, making it a great sweetener for people with candida-conscious diets and diabetic blood sugar awareness. Research indicates that the inulin found in artichoke syrup may improve gastrointestinal health and calcium absorption.
6. Lucuma Powder
Lucuma has a uniquely sweet, fragrant and subtly maple-like taste that will bring your desserts to life without making your blood sugar levels skyrocket. Lucuma is an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It boasts of plentiful concentrations of beta-carotene, which makes lucuma a powerful immune system booster, and it is rich in iron, B2 and B1.
Its low sugar content makes it a healthy alternative to sugar for people who have diabetes and it is a great sweetener for women who are breastfeeding.
As with all sweeteners, use in moderation. Any sweetening agent that gets overused can overwhelm the liver and get turned into bad fat. Syrups like maple syrup and agave syrup (agave is becoming overly processed and not as pure as it used to be) have some plus sides, but they are both wrought with controversy in the health community and there are better options available.
By no means do natural sweeteners give us license to spoil a sweet tooth rotten, but they’re an improvement over sugar. So use the profiles above as guide to get you off of the nasty, toxic sugars, not as a licence to binge on somethings else.
With the holidays in mind though, I bring you my kind of baking:
Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies 🙂
1/2 C Butter (Organic and/or Goat Butter)
2 C Coconut Palm Sugar
1/2 C Milk (I’ll be using Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk)
4 Tbsp Cocoa (I use Cocoa Camino’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa)
1/2 C Peanut Butter (Natural and Organic please)
3 1/2 C Quick cooking Oats (Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Oats are great)
2 tsp. Vanilla (Organic and not artificial)
Add the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 1 minute. Stir in the next 3 ingredients and drop onto wax/foil paper. Let cool until set.