Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sugar of Choice

It's Friday- 4 days after Halloween.
Yet tonight, tons of children and teens are parading the town in their costumes in exchange for some free candy.


Because Halloween was cancelled.

Or, postponed, I should say. A snow storm on Saturday brought down trees that weren't ready for this heavy snow fall and hadn't lost their leaves yet. Trees brought down electrical wires. We had three snow days this week. Some people in my school still don't have power, despite it already being a week past the storm. And it's only the beginning of November...

But I digress. Sure, a snowstorm in October is sad. It's also sad that an uncountable number of children are going to get high off of sugar after this beloved holiday.
It's one thing to indulge on occasion. But does it have to be on processed, refined candy that isn't fair trade? Made from milk from factory farms and cocoa from unsustainable farming practices that exploit its workers?

The answer is NO!
I've surely proven that you can enjoy sugar, Sugar, SUGAR from natural sweeteners! (Of course, only on occasion should we do this!)

Here's a list of all different sweeteners. They all have their own perks, and all are a big step up from the typical refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup that we see too often in the supermarkets!

Agave Nectar: Agave is less viscous than honey, and falls low on the glycemic index. It's 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so only 75% is needed when substituting. Temperatures should be lowered when using for baked goods by about 10 degrees F, since agave browns at lower temperatures than sugar does.
There are 3 grades of agave: light, medium, and amber. Light is sweet with a neutral flavor. The flavor intensifies as the color darkens, and the 'blue agave' is the most unrefined and natural.

Barley Malt: dark, sticky, and with a bold flavor. It's not as sweet as agave or as "assertive" as blackstrap molasses. It falls low on the glycemic index, and goes well with Autumnal recipes and breads.

Date Sugar: Date sugar is ground from dehydrated dates. It has a high fiber content and a variety of nutrients. It can be used in place of refined sugar in a one to one ratio.

Dried Fruit: A healthy choice for sweetening things, dried fruit, especially dates, work well for blended things, on top salads or other main dishes to give a sweetness to them, or just by itself for dessert or snack!

Fruit Juice Concentrate: As the name implies, it is made from fruit juice, which is slow cooked. It is different from many commercial concentrates, which often strip the juice of its nutrition and flavor.

Fructose: It is derived from fruit and has a close resemblance to granulated sugar, but it is more concentrated. It has a lesser effect on blood sugar than does sucrose, but it has little nutritional value. When substituting, use half of the amount called for.

Honey: The debate over whether honey is vegan or not is ongoing, but I decided to include it anyway. Although not a part of my diet, honey is a natural source of sugar that has nutritional value along with healing properties. It is said to be the world's oldest medicine. It's thicker than maple syrup and has a distinct flavor. Whenever buying honey, it is VERY important to buy from a local beekeeper who takes care of the bees!

Maple Syrup: My absolute favorite sweetener, maple syrup is boiled down from the sap of maple trees. It has two times the amount of calcium than milk. It's important to buy pure, organic maple syrup to avoid formaldehyde. Also be sure to check if the company uses animal fat in the maple syrup.
Grade B maple syrup has more intense of a flavor than grade A, which has only a subtle maple flavor.

Maple Sugar: This is remains when all the liquid has been cooked out of maple syrup. It has a maple, earthy flavor. It's two times as sweet as refined sugar.

Molasses: Made from the juice of sun-ripened cane. Sulphured-molasses is a by-product of refined sugar, so unsulphured is preferable.Blackstrap molasses is the of the cane syrup after the sugar crystals have been isolated. It is high in nutrients.

Natural, Fair Trade, and Organic Sugars: such as Florida Crystals, are minimally processed cane sugar, usually vegan. The liquid syrup is dehydrated and then milled into a powder.

Rice Syrup: Brown rice syrup is made from rice starch that is converted into maltose. It has the mildest flavor of the liquid sweeteners, but has an almost candy-sweet taste.

Stevia: It is a very sweet pale green powder. It's 200x sweeter than white sugar, so a little goes a long way. Stevia is derives from an herb native to Paraguay.

Sucanat: A product from Wholesome Foods, Sucanat is made from evaporated cane juice, then milled into granules. It retains more nutrients than sugar cane does, and has a mild flavor that has a hint of molasses. Use it in a 1 to 1 ratio for sugar.

And, of course, we cannot forget fresh fruit. The best of the best- you just can't beat it!

So what's you favorite sweetener? ☺


  1. I had no idea about the calcium in maple syrup :)

    I use rapadura a lot, which I think is similar to Sucanat. Dates are another favourite of mine too.

  2. Once I stopped consuming dairy and gluten, my appetite for sugar has decreased (which greatly surprised me!) I have just learned about date sugar recently and am thinking I wanna try it. Have you?

  3. This is a very informative one! And most people know only about sugar...
    My most favorite is the honey (yes, I know it's not vegan) and the dates paste, but I use non-dehydrates dates :)

    P.S. There is no url / name comment option, which is a problem for some people, me included...

    Nadia @natureinsider

  4. Hmm.. I'm not sure about the url thing. Maybe it has to do with blogspot?
    I hope to be able to move to a better site eventually! Sorry about it!