To continue from part 1, Sugars – the good, the bad & the disgusting, I’m going to add a best to worst list of sweeteners here. If you think I missed something, let me know and I’ll add it or modify this list…
These are in order from best choices to the worst choices:
- No sugar is best, and only small amounts of natural sugars. (Hopefully someday I’ll get there!)
- Stevia, rapadura, sucanat, maple syrup, maple sugar, raw local honey, coconut or palm or coconut sugar, molasses, dates – these are all the least refined, the most natural, and contain the most nutrients – scroll down at that link for a comparison chart of the nutrient content in sugars. (Also, more info below about some of these natural sweeteners.)
- Turbinado, organic regular sugar (this one is a little better because organic has no GMOs from the sugar beets), evaporated cane juice.
- Avoid if at all possible: Regular refined white table sugar or brown sugar (see above about GMOs) – refined sugars have no nutrients left in them at all…
- Avoid for sure: high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, xylitol, erythritol, artificial sugars (Splenda/Aspartame, Nutrasweet, etc. – it’s better to use small amounts of real sweeteners above than to use these fake sugars!)
What I’ve learned:
- I haven’t had much luck with Stevia, so I’m afraid to experiment more. Please comment and tell us what you like it in.
- Rapadura or sucanat is great for some things, like cinnamon toast or to sweeten a sauce, but I have found it to give baked goods too strong a taste. However, I just tried Ann Marie’s sucanat and hers tastes milder than my rapadura, and she has good luck with it in baked goods, so maybe it’s just a brand difference! Be sure to experiment to find what you like.
- Ann Marie also just had me try her organic evaporated palm or coconut sugar and it’s so good! I could use that to replace 100% of the refined sugar in cookies and it would taste exactly the same! I’m so excited about this, because I’ve still used some refined sweeteners in my recipes if I couldn’t get them to taste good otherwise, but this may get me totally away from refined sweeteners! UPDATE: It’s over a year later now and I DO love using palm or coconut sugar in baking, it’s my favorite replacement sugar nowadays and baked goods taste perfectly wonderful! (I just replace it with a 1:1 ratio, but often will decrease the sugar in recipes, at least a little, just because I can and no one ever notices.)
- Molasses is a sweetener with a strong taste, I use a little in the nut bar recipe that I’m posting soon – what have you had good luck with it in?
- As I said last time, this chocolate mousse is a great recipe using dates as the sweetener. You process them up really small and they give a good flavor.
- Maple syrup (or maple sugar) is great for the ooey gooey layer in the bottom of the pan of cinnamon rolls, in homemade ice cream, to give smoothies a little sweet taste, and in homemade applesauce! (Read Is Maple Syrup a Safe Sweetener for Diabetics?)
- I like raw honey in my homemade bread, in a homemade hot fudge sauce or chocolate fudge, and to substitute part of the sugar in cookie recipes, but if I substitute it for all the sugar, the honey taste takes over.
- I don’t worry so much about the tiny amounts of xylitol in gum or toothpaste, but maybe I should…any thoughts?
- Often you can drastically cut the amount of sugar in a recipe without anyone noticing. It’s easy to do in chocolate chip cookies, for example, because there’s also chocolate chips for sweetness!
Other information on sweeteners:
- More info on these natural sweeteners:
- Blackstrap Molasses is approximately 65 percent as sweet as sugar and can be used in both cooking and baking. Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese and copper, and also contains iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin B6.
- Maple syrup is most widely known as a topping for pancakes and waffles, but it’s also a natural sweetener that can be used in baking and is a good source of magnesium and zinc. Maple syrup is about 60 percent as sweet as sugar. Maple syrup can cause blood sugar levels to rise, so those with diabetes should use it sparingly. Read more about Maple syrup.
- Raw Honeyis a natural sweetener that has powerful disease-protecting antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Honey is 25 to 50 percent sweeter than sugar and can be used in cooking, baking, and beverages. As with maple syrup, honey can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and should be used sparingly by those with diabetes. (Note: Do not give honey to children under one year of age as it may put younger children at risk for botulism.)
- Muscovado – I haven’t used this but heard it is wonderful.
- Where you can buy healthy sweeteners online - this is the kind I use the most, but also good is local maple syrup or raw honey. :)