Recently, we have seen a lot of articles and posts on different types of sweeteners, but it can all get a little overwhelming … or at the very least, confusing. I personally believe that the more natural (meaning less processed) the sweetener is, the better it is. The term “processed” tends to create some controversy. So let me explain: Some people believe that if the food isn’t found in nature, and isn’t untouched or derived by humans, it is processed. Others believe if the product has been slightly cooked, it isn’t completely raw and as a result, it is processed. Others believe that a small amount of processing to create the food is okay. Personally, I believe the less processed the food is, the better, but I am also realistic that a lot of the foods we eat, to some degree, have been processed (E.g., frozen berries are picked, flash frozen and then packaged, ultimately, being lightly processed).
When it comes to sweeteners, I prefer to stay clear of anything that is chemically derived in a lab. (E.g., aspartame, Splenda, saccharin, etc.) I avoid using table sugar when possible and avoid any foods containing high fructose corn syrup. I get most of my sugar from whole fruit and milk products. Although I indulge in organic dark chocolate to curb my sweet tooth cravings, I tend not to have a lot of sugar in my diet. That said, we are human, and sweet foods do make up part of our life. As a result, I’ve put together a brief list of some natural sweeteners to consider as substitutes for plain old sugar.
The agave (uh-gah-vay) plant comes from Mexico. Its fleshy leaves cover the pineapple-shaped heart of the plant, which contains a sweet sticky juice called Agave Nectar.
Benefits: It has a low glycemic level and is a safe alternative to table sugar. Unlike the crystalline form of fructose, which is refined primarily from corn, agave syrup is fructose in its natural form. This nectar does not contain processing chemicals. Even better, because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed in your recipes. It can be most useful for people who are diabetic, have insulin resistance (Syndrome X), or are simply watching their carbohydrate intake.
A natural low-glycemic sugar that’s found in fruit. You can also find it in granulated form at health-food stores. Fructose is sweeter than regular table sugar, so you need less.
Concerns: Research indicates that ingesting lots of fructose, especially in processed form (sodas and beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup), can elevate the lipids that increase heart disease. As a result, consume fructose in moderation and in its most natural form (fruit) whenever possible.
Sweet syrupy fluid made by bees from the nectar collected from flowers and stored in nests or hives as food. It is composed of fructose and glucos. Good types include red clover honey, or orange blossom honey.
Benefits: Honey tends to be low-glycemic. You can comfortably use this to sweeten your beverages.
Concerns: Both are high-caloric and high-carbohydrate, so use sparingly.
Stevia is a very sweet herb from South America that’s available in powder and liquid form at health-food stores.
Benefits: FOS are fruit ogiliosaccharides, which are beneficial for and support healthy intestinal bacteria, or flora. Stevia with FOS is a nonnutritive powder found at health-food stores or in the health-food section of your grocery store.
Concerns: Stevia is very potent, so use sparingly (A couple sprinkles can be equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar).
Originally published on SheerBalance