Choosing Natural Sweeteners
Sugar in its natural form is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and grasses (sugar cane). When these foods are eaten in their whole state such as in fruits, veggies, raw sprouted grains, and sugar cane, they have not been extracted, processed, and refined.
These natural carbohydrates are accompanied by thousands of other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, and phytochemicals. These nutrients work together synergistically during digestion and assimilation, which is why the best source of sugar is always from whole food fruits and vegetables.
From a health perspective, it is the naturally occurring sugars in whole foods that the body was built to assimilate, not the ones in processed foods or the ones artificially created in the lab.
When choosing natural sweeteners, head first for whole food sources such as fruits, dates, figs, and coconuts.
Natural sweeteners also come in a highly concentrated form, such as agave nectar, coconut sugar, honey, maple sugar, maple syrup, and stevia. Even though they are natural, in large quantities, they can interfere with our appetite control leading to sugar cravings, promote insulin resistance, and cause us to gain weight. Concentrated sweeteners contribute to blood sugar disorders because they are concentrated far beyond what the human body was adapted to metabolize at one sitting. Just because it is "natural" does not make it a Holy Grail for sweetness.
When using sweeteners, always remember that when you take a whole food and then extract and isolate compounds from it, it is no longer the same product. It can no longer function as it did when it was part of the whole plant. For example, a vitamin C pill can never be compared to the vitamin C in an orange, which interacts with a symphony of thousands of other micronutrients. If you take vitamin C supplements daily, reconsider that choice. Studies have shown that synthetic vitamin C supplements fare little better than a placebo, and do NOT produce the same protective qualities in the body as when eaten with the accompanying protective factors from whole foods.
When it comes to supplements, over 90% of them are synthetic. Not only that, once a nutrient has been isolated, they function differently to the original nutrient, and some synthetic supplements (e.g. folic acid - the synthetic version of folate) do you more harm than good.
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Cooking With Sweeteners
A sweetener of some kind is one of the most widely used ingredients in cooking. If you need to add a sweetener to your recipes, then always use natural sweeteners. Use them in moderation and with the intent to reduce them in your diet. Let's take a look how to use some of the most common natural sweeteners in our cooking recipes.
With the exception of brown rice syrup, syrups work well for moist baked goods and will soften crispier baked goods. Experiment with these conversions, as they may vary from recipe to recipe (and when cooking at high altitude).
For every 1 cup of sugar called for in a recipe, use the following equivalents:
|Coconut Sugar||1 cup|
|Agave Syrup||3/4 cup||lower 25ºF|
|Honey||3/4 cup||reduce 2 tbsp||lower 25ºF|
|Maple Syrup||3/4 cup||reduce 2 tbsp||lower 25ºF||add 1/4 tsp baking soda|
|Brown Rice Syrup||1.5 cups||reduce 2 tbsp||lower 25ºF||great for crunchy food|
|Stevia||1 tsp||add 1/8 cup|
|Evap. Cane Sugar||1 cup|
|Vegetable Glycerin||not recommended|
|Sucanat/Turbinado||1 cup||add 1/4 tsp baking soda|
- Choosing natural sweeteners
- Health dangers of artificial sweeteners
- Refined sugar
- Refined sugar & chronic disease
- Soda's, pop & energy drinks
- Additives & chemicals in our food
- What are processed & refined foods
- The Dirty Dozen: What they are & why you should avoid them
- Addicted to sugary foods? Kick that addiction now
- Get off the diet merry-go-round
- Healthy food choices for children
- Healthy food choices for pets
- The FDA: Failure to protect human & pet food
- Food pyramids & food politics