The Sweetener Situation…Let’s Talk About Sugar!

There is so much controversy over which sweeteners are best. Some people are calorie counting, others are watching their glycemic index, but what about those of us that just want to make the healthiest choice we can while still enjoying a treat now and then? My choices come down to 3 criteria…

1. Is it real food?
2. Does it contain nutrients to help my body use it?
3. How refined is it?

Since I have no desire for my family to be unpaid guinea pigs, we choose not to use any chemical or artificial sweeteners. There are several other “natural” sweeteners that we simply do not have enough information about and fall into the highly refined category, so we avoid those as well.
It may seem old fashioned, but if a farmer can’t tell me how my sugar was made, I probably don’t want it.
So what do we use?

Raw Honey
  – Raw Honey from local bees. ( I prefer wildflower honey because it has less chance of pesticide contamination compared to orange blossom, clover, and avocado honey) I like the beneficial bacteria and enzyme boost that raw honey contains.

Pure Maple Syrup – I like the calcium an mineral content in pure maple syrup. We use it sparingly because it is concentrated.

Evaporated Cane Juice – Also known as Sucanat or Rapadura, cane sugar often gets a bad rap. I lived in Hawaii around lots of sugar cane. It is a plant. It is really just the refining process that renders it nutritionally worthless. Any sugar is harmful when devoid of nutrients. Friends introduced me to sucanat. It looks like dirt but is sweet with a mild molasses taste. As the name suggests, it is made from the sugar cane being crushed, juice extracted and then the water is evaporated using low heat. The minerals and nutrients remain. I use this for baking.

Coconut Sugar – Coconut sugar has many positives. Pleasant taste, low glycemic index, and is interchangeable in recipes calling for cane sugar. There are some questions on sustainability. Since we rely on coconut milk and oil, which only come from mature trees and it seems that the sugar is being harvested from young palms which destroys them, I’m limiting my use until I know more about this new industry.

I don’t believe in feeling guilty about what I eat, but we all know sugar can wreak havoc in our bodies, so I try to always pair it with nutrient dense foods. Also, I’ve worked to eliminate as much hidden refined sugar (think condiments, fruit or nut spreads, snack foods, drinks) as much as possible, so a special treat doesn’t have to be a health compromising event.

What is your favorite real food sweetener? How are you currently using it in your daily diet?
Leave your comment below…

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A great resource for you to get even more information about all the various types of sweeteners, sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners, glycemic index scores and more is the Sugar and Sweetener Guide.

Disclaimer: For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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