Editor’s Note: Halloween is right around the corner and that means sweets! In today’s guest post, Sarah Danielson, blogs about sweetners and lists a few natural alternatives you can use in baking and cooking (so you can enjoy a little seasonal candy, guilt-free).
You may have realized that some popular sugar substitutes (like the ubiquitous blue and pink packets found in restaurants across America) actually contain warning labels that say something like this:
Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Common offenders may contain any number of sweetening agents such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, neotame and cyclamate. Sadly, even Splenda, which claims to be “made from real sugar”, is actually nothing but chemically processed sugar.
This is like saying that Goldie Hawn’s lips are natural because they contain all-natural restylane (a synthetic hydraulic acid gel that resembles acid found in the body).
The problem with each and every one of them (besides the fact that they may be known carcinogens) is that they are all ARTIFICIAL sweeteners. Frankly, you might be better off risking a few extra pounds by eating real sugar (as long as it isn’t processed).
But if you wish to ward off the pounds even as you enjoy the sweet treats you love, there are plenty of natural sweeteners that can be used as a substitute.
- Honey. This all-natural sweetener is made by the bees with nectar harvested from flowers. While its taste is distinctive from sugar, it is actually quite a bit sweeter, so if you decide to use it in recipes that call for sugar, you’ll only want to use about 2/3 of the called-for amount. As a flavor enhancer for drinks, 1-2 teaspoons will generally suffice.
- Agave nectar. This syrupy sweetener is made from the sap of the same succulents used to produce tequila. But don’t worry; it’s not alcoholic. Instead, the mildly sweet flavor makes it great for those who want a sugar substitute that doesn’t have the sickening sweetness that permeates most alternatives. It is slightly sweeter than sugar, so while it unfortunately has about the same amount of calories for an equal serving, you definitely won’t need as much to get the same taste.
- Maple syrup. While this is great on pancakes, it can be difficult to use in other ways (cooking, for example). However, this sweet treat made from the sap of maple trees can also be purchased in granules (known as maple sugar) to swap in for granulated sugar. And it is often produced organically.
- Blackstrap molasses. When sugar cane is boiled and cooled, crystals of sugar form and are collected to make what becomes raw, granulated, brown sugar. But what happens to the leftovers? Often they are boiled several more times to create different kinds of molasses, but the third boiling is called blackstrap molasses. While there is still a lot of sugar in molasses (even after the removal of crystals), it has a number of healthy nutrients that can’t be found in refined products, such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium, just to name a few. Although it has a strong flavor, it can be substituted in many recipes to good effect.
- Stevia. This is the latest natural sugar substitute to become widely available to the public and it seems to be practically miraculous. The plant itself is a member of the aster family and leaves can be purchased whole, broken, powdered, or even in a liquid extract form, making it the ideal choice for everything from baking to soda to your morning cup of coffee. It has no calories, is actually sweeter than sugar, and is suitable for diabetics.
About the Author
Sarah Danielson writes for Wine Glass Racks where you can find a wine rack to fit your individual needs, taste, and style.