Last week I posted an article by Joy Bauer titled Is Stevia a Healthy Sugar Substitute? to the EBF Facebook page. It started a little conversation about natural sweeteners in the comment section so I thought I would share some additional information in a post.
Overall, the article does a good job at explaining that stevia is the most natural zero-calorie sugar substitute but you have to remember that most of the “stevia packets” seen in stores (like Truvia) are processed and often times mixed with other products like sugar alcohols. Joy also mentions that all sugar substitutes, whether they’re natural or not, may increase our desire for other sweet foods. I’ve definitely found this to be true, particularly when I was in college and using Splenda regularly. Once I stopped using Splenda I noticed that naturally sweet fruits and vegetables (like apples and sweet potatoes) tasted so much sweeter on my palate. Raisins, dates and bananas are nature’s candy!
Nowadays I completely avoid artificial sweeteners and use only pure liquid stevia (I’m currently using Nu Naturals) to sweeten things like coffee or plain Greek yogurt (I can’t do it plain – especially the 0% fat variety). I occasionlly use stevia in dessert recipes as well (i.e. the protein coconut macaroons) but I don’t go overboard.
Whenever I’m cooking or baking things that need a sweetener, I almost always sub out white sugar and use a natural alternative like honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or natural whole cane sugar (sucanat), which can be found in natural food stores. Having a couple of different natural sweeteners in your kitchen will ensure that you have one for every need. I’ve read that coconut sugar is wonderful in tea because it tastes great and dissolves easily, but I haven’t used it. Brown rice syrup works well in cookies or granola bars.
My favorite natural sweeteners: Sucanat, Molasses, Grade B Maple Syrup, Liquid Stevia, Local Raw Honey
Benefits of Natural Sweeteners
Most natural sweeteners have some added benefits. Honey, maple syrup/sugar and date sugar contain nutrients that white sugar does not; at the same time they are still simple sugars that enter the bloodstream fairly quickly, causing a burst of energy then a drop off. I would recommend using these occasionally. Barley malt, brown rice syrup and coconut sugar are slower to enter the bloodstream, so are more suitable for those with blood sugar issues. Stevia, does not affect the bloodstream.
I’ve left agave nectar off this list because there is a lot of controversy over this sweetener. I still use it/eat it occasionally if it’s in something someone made but after reading a few articles (like this one by Dr.Mercola) I stopped buying it. I would rather use one of the other sweeteners I mentioned above.
Natural sweeteners can be used to replace sugar in any recipe. Here is a guide to substituting these products for sugar. The amount indicated is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar, and the third column details what it is best to use for. I’ve also found that sweet fruits and veggies are great for sweetening up recipes. Bananas are awesome in baked goods!
|Sweetener||Amount = 1 cup Sugar||Use|
|maple syrup||1/2-3/4 cup||baking, desserts, sauces|
|maple sugar||1/2-1/3 cup||baking, candies|
|sucanat||1 cup||baking, sauces|
|brown rice syrup||1-1 1/3 cups||baking, cakes, sauces|
|date sugar||2/3 cup||breads, baking, candies|
|coconut sugar||1 cup||all-purpose|
|blackstrap molasses||1 to 1 1/3 cups||all-purpose|
|stevia||see manufacturer’s label for quantity and usage. I use this stevia conversion chart often.|
A Little Reminder
At the end of the day, even natural sugars are still sugar and you should eat them in moderation! I’ve found that adding naturally sweet foods to my diet help to satisfy my sweet tooth. Lately I have been hooked on having apple slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon for an after dinner snack. And, if you haven’t seen the blog post on sugar from Tosca Reno (where she refers to sugar as “legal cocaine”) I would highly recommend it.
Hopefully this post helps to answer some of your questions about sugar. Have a sweet day.