Raise your hand if you ever feel overwhelmed and confused about which sweeteners/sugars are the best to use in your treats?
Uh-huh…me too. There are dozens of different sweeteners out there and all kinds of arguments trying to convince you to eat one over the other.
While I’m certainly no sweetener expert (although I do consider myself an expert taste tester of all things sweet and sweeter), I will share with you what I’ve learned through the past few years of researching.
Better Sweeteners (in no particular order)
Sucanat/Rapadura – “Dehydrated Cane Sugar Juice”
This is by far my favorite sugar to bake with. It is processed in the traditional way that people of India have used for thousands of years and leaves most of the minerals intact. It substitutes one for one in recipes that call for sugar and has a delicious, rich flavor.
Rapadura is a brand name for Sucanat, so in general I find that Sucanat costs a bit less. Be very careful to buy Organic Sucanat however, as some ‘regular sucanat’ brands I’ve seen are NOT dehydrated cane sugar juice…but some form of processed sugar with molasses added back in making it MUCH less nutritious.
If you can find raw honey from a local bee keeper, go for it! Raw honey (honey that has not been heated over 117° to kill healthy bacteria) contains many nutrients and digestive enzymes.
Raw honey is a wonderful addition to buttered toast or granola. Honey is also wonderful to bake with (although then of course, it won’t be raw anymore). If a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, I usually substitute 1/2-2/3 cup of honey.
Real Maple Syrup, Grade B
Mmm…I love maple syrup! I never bake with it, but find it works wonderfully in liquid recipes like Strawberry Milkshakes, Smoothies, Warm Vanilla Soother, Creamy Orange Cooler, etc. Oh, and it’s great on Pancakes and Waffles too!
Because real maple syrup is kinda pricey, I am the designated syrup pourer on pancakes…otherwise we’d have a lot of this “Liquid Gold” wasted all over our pancake plates.
Organic Grade B Maple Syrup is better than Grade A as more nutrients are present. Plus, non-organic maple syrups may contain formaldehyde or other synthetic defoamers.
“Mom, can I please have some more formaldehyde on my pancake?” I don’t think so.
Molasses is the “waste product” that comes from the production of refined sugar. It is rich in many minerals. I don’t use molasses much for baking, except in recipes such as Molasses Cookies. Mmm!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of “healthy sugars”…these are simply my favorites and the sugars I’m most familiar with. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section if you have researched and know of a great sugar to try!
Sweeteners to Avoid
Unfortunately even many organic sugars (turbinado, raw, natural) are quite refined and contain very few nutrients. I use these occasionally because AT LEAST they are (unbleached, organic, a little less refined) and better than…
This sugar is so refined that there are no nutrients left in it whatsoever. It is also usually bleached to make it prettier. Because it is not sugar in its whole form…it has a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels in the body. I can actually feel the effect white sugar has on my body (can you?!).
But, if you have a choice between the two, choose regular sugar over…
High Fructose Corn Syrup
While I used to believe that Agave Nectar was a healthy substitute for sugar, it seems I should have done my homework more thoroughly. Agave Nectar should usually be avoided as apparently, it is almost worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup.
By the way, I think I’ve changed any recipes I have here on my site that included agave nectar as an ingredient…but in case you find it anywhere, please let me know so I can edit it!
Ooh, I can’t say enough about fake sugar!!! Please don’t make the mistake of believing that you are eating/drinking healthier if you avoid sugar but use aspertame, splenda, or whatever the latest “fake sugar” is out there. They are worse than good ol’ refined sugar and can cause so many long term health problems. I have reasons to be passionate about this subject…so if you want to picture me down on the floor grabbing your feet begging you to avoid these…that truly is what I’m doing right now. You can read more information about aspertame here. I believe these testimonials may say more than I ever could.
I’d love for you to share your experiences, thoughts on this subject, and favorite sugar choices with us!