All sweeteners are not created equal

Baking with sugar alternatives

Honey and molasses make excellent substitutes for corn syrup.

Honey and molasses make excellent substitutes for corn syrup.

I've almost...become sucessful at replacing sugar in my diet.  Aside from the health risks associated with the 'white stuff' (another post, coming soon) I've decided that I just don't need it.  White Table sugar goes against  my health habits.  It's processed with minimal, if any, nutritional value.  Some say it's addictive, and quite frankly, that's not what I need.  It may provide some energy, but I think that can be better accomplished with a few more natural alternatives.

Agave

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While it is a processed food, my belief is that it's a few steps above your traditional sugar and corn syrup.  It ends up being one of those -ose components, and doesn't offer much nutritionally.  I find that it makes your baked goods brown a bit faster, so experiment with lowering your oven temp a few degrees, reducing the baking time or lowering your oven rack a notch. 

Honey

Can we say, POWERHOUSE?  Being mindful and sharing with the bees, I am so thankful for my raw honey.  I choose raw over filtered or heat treated as it is a whole food, chock full of vitamins, beneficial enzymes and minerals which become compromised once honey is exposed to heat over 140 degrees.  Honey becomes an -ose at that point.  Raw honey never spoils, and it is said that honey has been found in the tombs of Egypt...ready to use after all those years!!  That's my kind of food!  I use it for eating, baking, cooking and for medicinal purposes.  As with agave (or any liquid sweetener) it takes a bit of tweaking with your recipe. I'll also use filtered in baked goods...once it goes above 104 degrees it's no longer raw and it's nutritional benefits are compromised.  So, save your $$ here.   Most times, I just reduce my baking time by 5 minutes or so. And just to say it, use local!

Stevia

Coming in as being 64 times sweeter than sugar, with a 0 hit on your glycemic index and 0 calories, Stevia is another winner of a sweetener.  As natural as the basil in your garden, stevia is an herb that is easily grown.  Just pick a leaf and pop it in your tea or coffee.  Dried, it stores very well.  If you prefer, Stevia is redly available at your local healthy food store either as a liquid, which we prefer for adding to coffee, tea and other warmed foods or as a powder.  Note that becasue of it's condensed sweetening ability, it may be mixed with a filler or flowing agent which may add a bitterness.  Keep experimenting and find one that you like!  

Stevia takes the most patience in adapting to a conventional recipe.  You must compensate for the loss of bulk that the white stuff takes up.  So adding a bit more flour or grain is usally needed.  

Molasses

What is a gingersnap without molasses?  This dark, thick, rich sweetener from sugarcane or sugar beets is a packed with minerals and iron! All things aside, it's not all that sweet.  It's best applications are baking and warm, comfort foods like oatmeal IMHO.  And I'll tell you a secret.  Many of the local Amish girls add molasses to their diet to boost iron and they'll add it to their switchels to help replace minerals lost through perspiration.  Try adding 1T molasses, 1T raw ACV, 1T lemon juice to a glass and fill it up with cold water.  It's a really refreshing replacement for sugar heavy electrolyte drinks.  In baking, again, you must adjust your dry ingredients and keep an eye on browning.  

Maple Syrup

Another winner in my book of sweeteners.  Having lived in New Hampshire for many years, using this flavorful syrup from the sap of those gorgeous Sugar Maples is 2nd nature.  With so many grades to choose from and light to dark picks, you'll need to experiment with the subtle flavor variances of each.  For general stuff, I keep Grade B Amber on hand.  My favorite application is the Indian Pudding recipe of Jen's friend, Melissa.  Again, you have to adjust your dry if replacing the sugar with any syrup.  

Xylitol

We use xylitol quite a bit, as it's a low hit on your glycemic index, which is great for Mom. It can be exchanged one to one for sugar in most all recipes.  We even use it to make jams and jellies.  My only concern is that you try and get xylitol that's made form birch sap. As a by product of the corn industry which is largely genetically modified (yuck),  be aware.  While it is a sugar alcohol, some allowances can be made using xylitol when fighting Candida.  Again...controversial.   ***PLEASE NOTE*** Xylitol is TOXIC to dogs.  Please be aware that this sweetener is used in food applications as well as gum, toothpastes, candy and mouthwash!!!

 

So, that's my 2 cents.  Everything has a purpose.  What is your favorite sweetener and why?  Leave a comment!  I love hearing from you.  Many thanks and as always, Be Kind & Be Well.