HEALTHY SWEETENERS FOR YOUR SWEET TOOTH

FRESH FROM THE FIELDS - #46

It’s time to completely swap out the white sugar, corn syrup and agave - yes, even agave. We’ve done some research on natural sweeteners to give you a guide on some of the best options out there.

EVERYONE KNOWS that sugar is unhealthy and most health conscious people try to avoid it. Not surprisingly, all sorts of other sweeteners have become popular, both natural and artificial. When agave is processed into syrup, the manufacturers break the fructans (a polymer of fructose molecules) down into fructose by exposing the sugary fluid to heat and/or enzymes. This process destroys all of the health promoting properties of the Agave plant, but instead produces the concentrated syrup available on store shelves that is falsely claimed to be healthy. Nutritionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup. Depending on processing, it can contain anywhere from 55 to 97 per cent fructose- a sweetener that is linked to obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides (blood fats), metabolic syndrome and fatty liver. Here are five of our favourite sweeteners that are safe to include in your pantry.

COCONUT NECTAR: Considered to be one of the most sustainable sweeteners in the world! By tapping a coconut tree, you can easily collects it’s natural sap which is very low on the glycemic index and contains 17 amino acids, vitamin C, many minerals, broad spectrum B vitamins and a nearly neutral pH. It’s naturally sweet with a mild nutty flavour. No strong taste of coconut, making it easy to substitute in any recipe from smoothies to bake goods.

MAPLE SYRUP: Not only is in Canadian but this healthy sweetener is 100% natural, pure and free of any colouring or additives. Boiled down directly from tree sap, which is harvested from the maple tree towards the end of winter, pure maple syrup is an unprocessed, authentic product of nature. This natural sweetener is an excellent source of manganese, which plays an important role in energy production and antioxidant defences, and is necessary for normal brain and nerve function. A ¼ cup of maple syrup contains 100% of the Daily Value of manganese. There are 2 grades of Maple Syrup, A and B, ranging from light to amber to dark. The sap tapped at the beginning of the harvest season is generally clearer and lighter in taste. As the season advances, maple syrup becomes darker and more caramelized in flavour. Grade A Light works well in salad vinaigrettes, whereas Grade A Medium and Dark taste delicious on pancakes but really, it’s all to taste and preference.

HONEY: We are always buzzing about this liquid gold! This kitchen staple loaded with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that have been used since the early days of Egyptian tombs. The healthy natural sweetener offers many nutritional benefits depending on its variety. We recommend consuming local (raw) honey, as you would get a homeopathic dose of pollens from your area that helps immunize against allergies. The least amount of heat you expose the honey to, the more healing properties you will receive in every teaspoon.

LUCUMA: The sweet gold of the Incas! This powder is derived from a whole Peruvian lucuma fruit that has been dried at low temperatures and finely milled. This low-glycemic sweetener contains many nutrients including antioxidants, dietary fiber, healthy carbohydrates, and vitamins including beta-carotene, niacin and minerals including zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.  Yellow lucuma powder has a unique, maple-like taste that’s a delight in a variety of recipes from smoothies to yogurt to baked goods.

MOLASSES: In the blackstrap form, is a dense, viscous by-product obtained from raw cane sugar production and canned sugar refining. It is also known as final molasses in cane mills and refinery molasses in a refinery setting. The nutritional content and quality of molasses depends on the method involved in its refining process, the ripeness of the plant from which it is extracted and the quantity of sugar that is extracted. However, in general, Molasses contains a number of essential minerals, vitamins, is a good source of energy and carbohydrates. Molasses is also very low in both fat content and fiber. IF you can handle the strong earthy taste then spread some on your next slice of toast. But if it’s a little too much, hide in some baked goods. There are a large number of health benefits this dark, viscous sweetener can do for us- we would need a whole separate blog to go through it. But if you’re curious, let us know and we’ll do the research!