In the past, I’ve railed against agave nectar, truvia and splenda. I’ve even dogged on natural sweeteners because — let’s face it — on a metabolic level too much sugar is bad for you.
“I get it. I really do. But I still want to know which natural sweeteners you use. What do you think about maple syrup? Or raw honey? How about stevia?” I get variations on this question in my inbox at least once a week, often times more. So, for those of you dying to know how I sweeten my foods, here it goes.
What is A Natural Sweetener?
This may seem obvious, but as more and more dubious products hit the market claiming to be “natural” sweeteners, I think it’s time to set the record straight. A natural sweetener is one that a person could reasonably expect to grow, harvest, and process themselves without the use of added chemicals, enzymes, or expensive machinery. So, let’s do a quick exercise.
Agave Nectar? — NOT NATURAL
Maple Syrup? — NATURAL
Miel de Agave (traditionally made agave nectar)? — NATURAL
Honey? — NATURAL
Truvia? — NOT NATURAL
Sorghum Syrup? — NATURAL
Turbinado Sugar? — NOT NATURAL
Sucanat? — NATURAL
Sugar Alcohols (like xylitol and erythritol) — NOT NATURAL
Are you starting to get the idea? While I don’t actually grow or process any of these natural sweeteners myself, I know *how* it’s done and know that I could do it myself. I don’t live in Vermont or the Carribean, and while I could raise honey bees, I don’t want to. The point here isn’t that I actually make all my own natural sweeteners, just that I could (given the right circumstances).
This, along with raw honey, is the most used sweetener in our home. We use it to top our grain-free pancakes.
Stevia is an herb that tastes sweet on the tongue without any actual sugar molecules to send your metabolism into a tailspin. As such, it’s awfully nice to use when you’re trying to reduce sugar intake or go low-carb. The white, powdered versions of Stevia out there are highly refined mysteries and therefore suspect. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a white, powdered version of Stevia in my own kitchen, but I just don’t know how I’d do it. And unfortunately for most of the companies selling the stuff, they’re not willing to disclose how they do it either. So, for now, I’ll assume it’s some kind of weird, chemically-enhanced refining process and stay away from the stuff.
That said, the green-leaf stevia is a plant that I have actually grown on my own patio. I’ve used it for the following:
1) Adding fresh or dried leaves to tea leaves or other herbal teas before brewing in order to add a natural sweetness without the use of sugar.
2) Making a liquid stevia extract using vodka, which I then use to do things like make homemade chocolate milk for my kids or sweeten already brewed or cold beverages. I also use it in my better barbeque sauce recipe.
Coconut Sugar and/or Sucanat/Muscovado
I use these in baked goods or other recipes that call for granulated sugar. I can even substitute coconut sugar fairly well for sugar without it dramatically altering the final consistency or flavor of the recipe. Although these are still sugar and still bad for you, at least they’re unrefined and have the naturally-occurring trace minerals present.
(Where to buy coconut palm sugar.)
I stir this into hot beverages, use it to sweeten dips or dressings, and use it to make my favorite ice cream. I very rarely substitute honey for granulated sugar in recipes as it has a strong (and different!) flavor as well as a different consistency. As a rule, though, if you do try to substitute it, you’ll want to follow the tips in this how-to.
(Where to buy organic, raw honey.)
This, too, occasionally gets used to top our pancakes. Sorghum syrup is a traditional natural sweetener used in the South, but originally hails from Africa. I use it over these almond flour biscuits and in my pecan pie (instead of corn syrup).
How about you, how do you sweeten your foods?
Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions says
Great post. I have greatly reduced my sugar consumption over the last few months, however, I still allow myself the occasional sweet treat. The only sweeteners I use in my kitchen are stevia, maple syrup and coconut sugar. I use the maple syrup in smoothies, ice cream, in my yogurt and oatmeal. I use stevia for beverages, smoothies and occasionally for cooking, depending on what it is. The coconut sugar is used for baking – it’s wonderful stuff, though expensive, so I don’t do much baking! 🙂
How is coconut nectar as a sweetener?
Ronald Stonis says
You might want to look into your sweethers a bit further. Whether it be fruits, honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, these are all still sugars and your stomach does not know the difference. Your stomach, still says, so to speak: “The is fructose or sugar” The result? Your blood sugar is raised and insulin comes to the rescue; howver insulin in the blood is the leading cause of heart disease, espcially among diabetics.
Stevia, in its natural, powder form–only 100% stevia is probably the way to go. it can be bitter tasting, but add a bit of sea salt and it may help. You can take 1/2 glass full of water and put 1/4 teaspoon of stevia powder into it and let it sit for about 48 hours. This also helps take away the bitterness.
The sweetener I’m confused about is evaporated cane juice! It’s easy to find, but is it a good choice?
That depends. If it’s just turbinado sugar, than it’s still refined (although it retains some molasses and so has a caramel color to it). If it’s sucanat or muscavado (which are also evaporated cane juice, but unprocessed), then it won’t be crystalline or uniform in color. It’ll look like tiny little nuggets.
I have one suggestion if you’re wanting the more delicate sweetness of cane sugar (succanut still has the molasses in it, so it’s very aromatic to me, and I am from the south and use sulfur-free molasses, which actually HAS some nutritional value, go figure). Keep in mind sugar still has the same 50% sucrose 50% fructose blend regardless (so are honey, maple syrup–which is more processed than honey OR the cane I use as it undergoes a LOT of boiling to get “syrupy” since it literally starts as near-flavorless water with a few sugar chains, the water being boiled off leaving the sugar chains, and the bit of sap that again is boiled down… but when I was in Battlebroro VT one of the maple farms had a presentation showing how literally for grade B–the most “nutritious” and flavorful option (it’s more sap, less sugar; A is refined through another process that separates the sap, and that actually does sometimes involve an enzyme to break the bonds; centrifugal separation is just too expensive). Anyway, check FLORIDA CRYSTALS (you can buy it in bulk to save $ or it comes in 3lb bags and plastic 5lb jugs). It’s the only *CARBON NEUTRAL* and as burning of cane plants is a well-known and pretty clean way of making energy, their plant powers the city where all the sugar’s processed. It’s all-USA-sourced sugar, too. It varies year to year, but in general, if you see some that’s either a darker golden color or peach looking (vs pale like a “yellow” diamond), those I’ve found are smoother. All their sugar for an entire year is harvested over the course of a few weeks, and they use the least processing of cane options apart from succanut, which I’m not so sure is much less processed, just less separated (which doesn’t always mean less heat’s applied). LEGALLY, ALL sugar HAS TO undergo heat treatment. That’s actually true of almost all sweeteners that are shelf-stable (honey is a weird exception). A key difference in FC sugar (the brown sugar, where the molasses is left in, is the only brown I’ll use, since I know it’s a “first batch” product and not cheap white mixed with molasses later) is the crystal structure is a bit variable; why I mention the colors is part of that (but the flavor is the main thing)–they dissolve better and are a bit more rectangular or round than those odd perfect square pieces. In any case, while I do minimize my consumption of sugar–50g a day is what we’re supposed to limit ourselves to in terms of fructose (that is the real killer; what turns to glucose/glycogen=good; fructose turns straight to fat and causes insulin resistance; fiber is why WHOLE fruit is still alright. Fruit JUICE is basically beer minus buzz. Smoothies I’ll make MYSELF because I know I’m using the whole thing, but I won’t buy them at shops because they always use JUICE–apple almost all the time or that cheap watery apple-white grape-pear blend–that is pure fructose with no fiber. Even when I DO make smoothies, it’s usually only when I’ve got excess fruit and freeze it. I prefer to “use it not lose it” regarding my gut. Blended food breaks down into short sugar chains that hit the liver sooner; less becomes available energy and more becomes stored as fat. My main beverages are milk and water, though. Tea and coffee are there, tea especially, but something that didn’t get mentioned is a SUPER tea sweetener as long as you don’t have high blood pressure: LICORICE ROOT. (Tastes NOTHING like licorice!) I get that from Angelina’s Teas, a shop from my hometown that is, to be frank, THE largest tea purveyor in the nation. What’s on his site doesn’t even include specials or his own blends 🙂 Anyway, I’ve actually SEEN how crystal is processed both by C&H (which is WRETCHED stuff) and Florida Crystals. I clearly was content with the results of the latter. They’re also really NICE and love what they do and give back to their community. That doesn’t hurt in my fondness for them!
Something else (more for the OP but anyone else too): maple syrup and fresh local yellow peaches with Brown Cow yogurt=HEAVEN. Doesn’t take much of the maple (grade B again) but it makes the peaches just divine. Any kind of fruity pie can have some maple. So can chocolate chess pie…
I’m glad this post–where AGAVE is properly condemned (the stuff here that is; I’ve seen how it is scooped from the root in Mexico for tequila, but that is NOT what we have; ours should be called Ultra Fructose Agave Syrup). Muscavado I’ve found is a bit “weird” in flavor and extremely costly where I’ve seen it. It went unused for about 2 months and when I revisited it, it had, despite a cool dry storage space (like everything else), gone bad. Not a pretty sight or scent.
Xylitol has one BRILLIANT use (the way they use it in Finland, actually, where I lived for a few months): toothpaste and gum. It binds to plaque, so they have sparkly whites from their tradition to chew xylitol gum after meals! 🙂 Burt’s Bees contracted with Oravive (the makers of also-natural NOVAMIN which actually REBUILDS ENAMEL–took 30 years to figure out what structure actually would, and it’s brilliant and I’ve seen first-hand results in the form of a small cavity on two separate teeth being “waited on” and remineralizing on their own because I use Burt’s–the orange fluoride stuff in the morning MWF and the no-fluoride berry, sometimes mint if I’ve had garlic, every other time, including *leaving it on overnight* which also rebuilt the enamel on “soft spots” ie places where tapping the tooth made me “feel” it… great product anyway, albeit unrelated. I can talk toothpaste for ages, esp. that one with the cranberry for your gums, the glycerin that cleans and moisturizes, the lack of SLS which even most Tom’s pastes have, and so on).
But isn’t xylitol derived from birch tree sugar? Wouldn’t that be similar to maple sugar? Or am I completely misled in my thinking here?
Hi Nance, in this article called “Sugar Free Blues,” Jim Earles writes:
“While sugar alcohols may indeed occur in nature, their usage as sweeteners also suffers from the same problem as many other sweeteners, pharmaceutical drugs and other substances today–one single factor from a natural food item is being isolated from its normal co-constituents and consumed at levels that are difficult to obtain when eating the food item itself. Rarely, if ever, does this situation lend itself to good health. While sugar alcohols are certainly the lesser of two evils when compared to the non-nutritive sweeteners, they should be consumed with prudence if at all. There are better choices.”
Nice information here. But sorghum syrup…you gave an Amazon link again for maple syrup. I’ve often wished I could find the sorghum syrup. It brings back my childhood. 🙂
Thanks for catching that! It’s fixed now. I buy my sorghum syrup from the local mercantile where I pick up my raw milk. It’s shipped from Tennessee to Texas (where I live), but it’s still CHEAP compared to maple syrup.
Beth @ Upper West Side Mom says
How do you make the liquid stevia extract? Thanks.
I do it the same way I make any herbal extract. Cut the leaves of the herb and fill a small glass jar with them about 2/3-3/4 of the way full (it’s not an exact science, but the more leaves you’ve got in there the sweeter it is). Then, pour in vodka to the rim. Put the lid on the jar and store at room temperature for three to four weeks, shaking at least once a day. When done, pour it through a coffee filter to filter out the solids and bottle the alcohol extract in an amber bottle (light reducing). Store in a room temperature, dark place. Use one or two drops to sweeten a cup of beverage. It will keep for 2-4 years. If you don’t like the alcohol content, you can simmer it for about 30 minutes on the stove before bottling it, however this simmered version will only keep for a few months rather than years.
I didn’t see how to do a general reply to the article, so I am replying here…
As far as how Stevia is extracted, you can read the box or go to the manufacturer’s site. NuNaturals is a real good brand. Any reputable brand with disclose it. I find that the ones that use chemicals to process it tend to be bitter and also have more of the licorice-y aftertaste, while the naturally processed ones have a more pure flavor with little to no aftertaste. I even like the commercial brands that have come on the market sicne the FDA decided to stop protecting Monsanto’s aspartame market. like Truvia and Purvia. While these are not straight Stevia…it’s good when there aren’t any GNC’s or Whole Foods around. I am trying to grow a plant myself so I can use that to make teas and stuff…maybe even make my own extract too. I have been using stevia since I was diagnosed with diabetes back in 2000…I love it.
Hi Eric — I really don’t think Truvia qualifies as “natural.” See here for how I came to that conclusion. I’d also stay away from the NuNaturals white stevia powder as it’s full of corn (maltodextrin) and undisclosed “natural flavors”. Nor do they ever actually describe their refining process so that I could duplicate it in my own kitchen. As such, it’s a far cry from a natural, whole-food based sweetener.
Corn maltodextrin is free glutamic acid… ie MSG. People who find they *love it* most likely are feeling the same craving itch people get for snacks like doritos, processed foods, etc that are laden with the stuff… but it’s often called maltodextrin (because “malt” and “dex” ordinarily would signify milk sugar, nope nope nope) or yeast “extract” or fermented wheat, agh, so many things, all neurotoxic but most critically very verrry bad for people with migraines and/or developmental disorders ie asperger’s/autism or epilepsy, for that matter. Suicide rates *happen* to shoot through the roof every time MSG products get introduced into places that previously did not have it–Finland, New Zealand, Big Island area of HI, Argentina… sad, and Monsanto is the king of corn (and soy, also neurotoxic, and canola and cotton anymore–all are GMO except for TWO farms in the USA for soy, ONE canola farm in Mexico I believe, maybe central america though… the one for spectrum organics’ products is what I mean… and cotton here is about 80%, cottonseed OIL almost all being GMO since regular cotton seeds are typically reutilized by the organic farms, my fave farm being SOS in Texas! You should check them out, at least via video if not actually going and seeing it done 😀
Susan Day says
This was a great educational link. I have not trusted many sweeteners for years but had never learned of agave down side. It was introduced to me by a very knowledgeable woman. Always more to learn. My husband loved the nu naturals stevia and I didnt trust it because of the maltodexrin which is showing up in everything. I would never buy truvia or purvia because they might still have some of the aspartame in them considering they are pepsi and coke company products. I make a great homemade sprite out of fresh lemons and limes ,seltzer water and lime stevia buy stevita company. I love their products and have been using the company for 10 yrs.
Susan Day says
Laura, I hope you dont mind me sharing some of this info on my facebook page as it is extremely informational. Thank you, Susan D.
I completely get how you use this, and think it’s a grat idea and see that you only use a very small amount, and that you can remove the alcohol.
But my very first stream-of-consciousness thought when reading about it in the article was “God I would LOVE to add vodka to my son’s chocolate milk and perhaps get a moment’s peace!”
Thanks for the laugh, as well as the education. 🙂
Kelly @ The Nourishing Home says
Thanks for this informative post. I have a similar post on my FB “blog.” I came across some recent studies showing that maple syrup has more than 50 beneficial compounds – not that we should be chugging it down, but as you stated, if you’re going to use a sweetener, it’s best to use one that has beneficial nutrients and that has not been altered (processed). Honey and maple syrup are the mainstay sweeteners I use, with rapadura and coconut palm sugar used in moderation, as you also stated. After being “clean” for so long now, my family and I immediately feel a huge difference when we eat refined sugar, verses natural sweeteners. My kids are not even tempted by refined sugar, as they know how bad it makes them feel. It’s sad to see so many children eating such a high volume of sugar, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. I wish more people would take the time to educate themselves, Thank you for your dedication to making this information available to all of us who are striving to eat and live healthier. Blessings, Kelly
What about rice syrup or tapioca syrup? As far as I know, these are composed of glucose, maltose, and maltotriose which means no fructose is in them.
I don’t know much about those. The molecular components of the sugar sound reasonable (no fructose = YAY), but how are they made? Could they, like maple syrup or sorghum syrup, be made by an individual in their own kitchen without the use of added chemicals, enzymes, or machinery?
you can make brown rice syrup at home, it’s the kind of thing that you might need to take several runs at to get right though, as this blog entry illustrates: http://takingbackourfood.blogspot.com/2009/06/homemade-brown-rice-syrup-blues.html
ultimately, i think it’s likely the kind of thing that it’s okay to purchase, because i don’t want to get into making maple syrup at home either, and i can tell that’s a natural process. the enzymes from the dried barley sprouts break down the starch in the rice to create the sweet taste. so it’s a mildly complicated chemical process, but it uses natural enzymes from another plant to create the final product. i vote NATURAL as far as the list goes.
Pure Mothers says
Thanks for the information! We use organic maple syrup for sweeting oatmeal, plain yogurt and for oatmeal cookies, as well as pancakes and waffles. Honey also gets used for teas, iced tea, yogurt and smoothies. I do use unrefined cane sugar sometimes (evaporated cane sugar) or rapadura or muscovado sugar for banana bread, cookies or my gluten free chick pea cake. Unfortunately muscovado is very molasses-y and I don’t like the flavor for some foods. I usually cut the sugar back by 1/4 -1/2 in all recipes if I use evaporated cane juice.
Shanon Hilton says
I like to use soaked dates or bananas as sweeteners, but when extra sweetening calls, we use honey or stevia.
What do you know about honey granules?
Nothing. Are they like evaporated honey?
My container says that the ingredients are evaporated cane juice and honey. They look like sucanat and are very light on the sweet side. I was told by the co-op that I purchased them from that they can be used 1:1 in the stead of sugar.
They’re also called honey crystals; their primary reason for existence is they’re CHEAP. “Evaporated cane” is what’s in refined white sugar, so don’t be deceived into thinking there’s super high quality cane. In reality, it’s super cheap cane SYRUP with usually about 10-20% honey added to give it color and aroma. It’s almost always clover/orange honey, ie the cheap stuff, and I wouldn’t trust that it is especially ethically made in terms of bee health. In the middle east/northern Africa, it’s sometimes used as a shelf-stable, transportable good; same with Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia areas… cheaper than honey, often cheaper than good quality sugar, and with the look of something a bit higher up. It often irks me because it’s not even HONEY but honey-enhanced sugar. They’ll often say it has “all the health benefits of liquid honey” or something to that effect, and the fact of the matter is NO it does not.
Re honey: Two kinds that are amazing are Sourwood (deep south, my absolute favorite) and Fireweed (the one kind I adore in the PNW, though a few raspberry honeys have been pretty good). They are not so “smelly” or “funky” tasting, just clean, sweet, and rich. Takes very little to sweeten. Then again, for a lot of baked goods, super-ripe persimmons a rich way to sweeten (hachiya in particular, the ones that droop down to a point at the bottom; fuyus, the ones that look like orange tomatoes, are less sweet). Dates, of course, are also great for sweetening (I bought date syrup, a common commodity in Iraq etc, because I’m too lazy to do it myself and it tastes superb without having anything added to it but a little water, time, and effort).
Kira P says
Hi! I live down in Mexico and here the tradicional way the grandmas used to sweeten the food was to use something called piloncillo (panela in South America). It´s super dark unrefined sugar, anyhow I wanted to now what you think about it.
It sounds like plain old, unrefined evaporated cane juice — like muscovado. If so, it’s definitely a “natural” sweetener and can be used sparingly.
Helpful and informative discussion.
I bought a block of panela from my nearby Walmart in the summer of 2011 after calling the company, Goya (in Miami), to find out how the panela is processed. I was told that they source it from Colombia and that that country doesn’t legally allow the spraying of their food crops. So, in effect, panela from Columbia is organic. It’s also, as Kira said, unrefined.
I’ve seen other panelas in stores here in South FL, but I haven’t followed up on them. The Walmart panela was very inexpensive…I think it was something like $2 for maybe 8 ozs? I haven’t used it yet, and it still looks as fresh as when I bought it last summer.
There are lots of ways that herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers can be applied to plants and soil. If Columbia has outlawed spraying, that does not indicate that farm foods are organic.
I’m no scientist, but I’d be as worried about what a plant draws up and into itself (from soil and water)
as I would be what is sprayed onto it’s surface.
Thanks for this post! What are your thoughts on Rapadura?
Rapadura is essentially the same as Muscovado and Sucanat — an unprocessed evaporated cane juice. It’s just not commercially available where I live, so it’s not on my list of sweeteners I use.
Joanna Borseth-Ortega via Facebook says
I love maple syrup. I use it to sweeten ice cream and other desserts when I make them, which isn’t often, but a wonderful treat when I do!
Amanda Kate Donovan via Facebook says
im in new england, and i lurve my maple.
Alice Sun via Facebook says
your mom introduced me to palm sugar and it’s a good sugar replacement.
Elizabeth Thomas- Joiner via Facebook says
I have always wondered how to use the actual stevia plant as a sweetener. Never thought to meld it with alcohol similar to making vanilla extract. Raw honey and maple syrup are my top 2. Next on the list goes palm sugar and Sucanat. 🙂
Food Renegade via Facebook says
@Alice – Yes, palm sugar is a good substitute for granular sugar in most recipes. Unlike sucanat, it doesn’t have the extra molasses, so it doesn’t really alter the flavor of your final product.
The problem with palm sugar is that consumer demand for this product has led to the destruction of rain forests which are the habitats of orangutans. I feel very strongly about not supporting the palm sugar industry.
Food Renegade via Facebook says
@Elizabeth — Yeah, I should do a tutorial on how to make your own stevia extract. I bet people would like that.
Gina M Finch via Facebook says
I would love a tutorial 🙂
I’ll have to give this to my dad. He is constantly trying to get me to OK and give him the go ahead so he can use his Truvia or Splenda. I’ll just forward this to him and say…read!! Thanks:)
Soooo…if you have a son who responds unwell to simple sugars (adhd like symtpoms) and can’t make your own stevia….seriously…I barely have enough time to do the whole foods cooking I do….and have a family that insists on desserts (baking) what sweetner would you use? The white powdery stevia or something else…is there another natural sweetner that would affect these symptoms less? It’s NOT maple! Maple seems to make him angry….
What about Lakanto? (https://shop.bodyecology.com/prodinfo.asp?number=BE021)
I like the taste of it and it can be used in place of sugar for baking, unlike stevia. Plus it doesn’t feed candida and I have no blood sugar problems from it.
I also like D-Ribose, but that is too expensive to use as a sugar substitue. I just use it in my coffee.
I’m originally from Kentucky, and LOVE Sorghum!
I’m right there with you on occasional use. I made some candies for my daughter for her Easter basket using a touch of honey, and….used some real cocoa ~ with mostly carob ~ for some. What a mistake!!! I really feel for parents who allow their kids to have sugar and chocolate regularly! Whew! It’s not only unhealthy, it’s hard to deal with kids who are high on stimulants!
I don’t give my children regular deserts for that reason, but an aptly timed cookie now and then when I know they will have a chance to run it off, and really small sized candy like tic taks (yes, among the most unnatural thing around I know) for a treat now and then pinches the sweet tooth without causing a sugar rush. Plus, I give myself one small piece of chocholate a day, and it soothes my cravings without causing me to overdo it. I take the same perspective with my kids. Small amounts in moderation don’t seem to cause the rush…but large portion (candy bar or cake slice) will.
I use maple syrup to flavor oatmeal sometimes…with a dash of cinnamon. The kids don’t even complain.
Crystal - Prenatal Coach says
Hi Kristen, great post! Locally, in Vancouver BC, we can get panela and rapadura sugar which are unrefined. Our brands of sucanat are refined. I had a hard core real foodie nutritionist teacher that told us that sucanat is refined. Your post has piqued my interest to look into it further. I’ve also never heard of Muscovado so I’m going to look into that as well 🙂
Prenatal Coach via Facebook says
Mmmm love raw honey, maple syrup and our unrefined panela sugar 🙂
Debra Worth via Facebook says
I tried making a stevia extract. When my peanut butter tasted more like vodka then sweet I realized I had made a mistake :D. I’d love a tutorial too.
I use honey, maple syrup, and sucanat…I do not like stevia. I learned to drink my coffee without sugar and since I no longer eat cereals, I have cut back on sweeters considerably.
Nickole @SavvyTeasandHerbs.com says
We use Sucanat, raw local honey, and maple syrup. We mostly use honey. We use sweetener very much in moderation and never sweeten any drinks, tea, coffee, nothing. We have never been used to the taste of sweet drinks. I think it is also best to cut back, even with natural sweeteners. Thanks so much for the tip about how to make stevia extract. I recently planted a stevia plant and cannot wait to try it!
We use maple syrup and a little bit of honey. It can be a pain to use liquid sweeteners in baking where the recipe calls for sugar, so for that I granulate some of our maple syrup. It is super easy. Your yield will actually be a little bit more by volume of granulated sugar than the syrup you started with. Just boil the syrup until it gets to 50F above the boiling point of water, then let it cool to about 200F. Then you stir and stir and stir until it is sugar. Easy!
GI Jane says
Have you ever used date sugar? You have to read the packaging because sometimes additional starches are added, but most brands consist only of finely ground dried dates. I am curious to try them one day as a substitute for brown sugar.
In Nurishing Traditions Sally Fallon list sucanat under the “do NOT use” catagory.. she says it has it’s nutrients removed and then molasses added back in to give it a brown color..
She recommends using Rapadura and says that folks in India have used it for thousands of years and it is rich in minerals. I have used Rapadura in many recipes that call for sugar and, though they are a bit more “gritty”, it is the only thing I have found to give it a close consistency to sugar….
Have you used Rapadura at all or looked into it?
Unfortunately, the information in Nourishing Traditions is more than a decade old. Since then, Sucanat has changed the way it was processed. It has since been added to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s shopping guide of recommended natural sweeteners, along with Rapadura. Rapadura and Sucanat are pretty much identical these days — just different brand names for an almost identically processed sweetener. As I wrote to another commenter above, Rapadura is not commercially available near me, so I’ve never tried it.
Walter Jeffries says
Honey and maple syrup here, but we’re in Vermont so it’s naturally what we go for! 🙂 Grew up with those, their reasonable costs here. People are accustom to the flavors. We make a all natural hot dog out of our pork and put a half gallon of pure Vermont maple syrup in each batch. Delicious. We’re sold out on the next 8,000 hot dogs ahead.
What are the benefits of raw honey vs. regular honey?
Honey that is not raw is heated, some even pasteurized, to process it and remove any impurities (or rather unsightly things) …in turn, killing many of the health benefits of honey.
Red Bee Carla Marina via Facebook says
REAL beekeepers honey is the only unprocessed sweetener with minerals and vitamins and levels blood sugar-it never needs refrigeration and it never spoils! Don’t confuse it with commercially produced cheap, illegal imports. Enjoy!
What are the health advantages/disadvantages of using organic brown rice syrup? We usually use it to sweeten oatmeal and I have even made lemonade with it. It is supposed to be absorbed in your blood stream more slowly than refined sugar.
I don’t really know. It’s not something I’ve researched, nor is it something I use.
Brown rice syrup, barley malt and molasses–what about them? I believe that brs and bm are traditional and old sweeteners before modern technologies and are created with enzymes that are natural themselves. I’m guessing that if dehydrated molasses is good, than molasses is…?
We use sorghum syrup instead of molasses, but I’ve got no experience with brown rice syrup or barley malt. This post isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of all natural sweeteners — just the ones I personally use.
Brooke Woodside says
I’ve been reading some disturbing information now coming to light about brown rice syrup potentially containing high levels of arsenic. Read all about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/arsenic-organics-rice/story?id=15642428#.T0Je9oem-So
Maple syrup is my favorite sweetener for coffee. I use a fair amount of raw honey. I don’t completely avoid refined sugar, but I do try to limit it. Some very sweet fruits can be used as sweeteners in cases where their other flavors are not a detriment. Dates are one example. I haven’t personally experimented with using these, but I have purchased unsweetened snack bars with dates as a key ingredient and they are quite tasty and plenty sweet. Fruit juices like pear or white grape juice can be used for sweetening also, but it depends on how sweet you want it.
Do you have the study name and institution that conducted the agave study? I would like to research it further. Thanks.
susan lumiere says
Hi Kristin, Thanks for all the valuable info. I noticed a question about barley malt, brown rice syrup, and molasses but no answer. Could you let us know about the above three? I’ve used raw honey for over 20 years. I like maple syrup but, strangely, seem allergic (respiratory congestion when I consume it? Any suggestion for that? Also, I chew gum made with xylitol (Xylichew) but don’t use any other form. Is that safe? Susan L
The answer is simple, and I *think* I stated it in various comments above: these aren’t sweeteners I use, and I don’t know much about them. I do know that molasses is the byproduct of refining sugar, the concentrated minerals, etc. that are removed to make sugar “white”. Is it “good” because it’s got trace minerals and other goodies in it? Is it bad because it’s refined? Make of that what you will. This post isn’t meant to be an all inclusive list of every approved “natural” sweetener out there. It’s just meant to let you all know what *I* use in my own kitchen, and the principles that guide my decisions about what to use.
Marie R. says
Some time ago I purchased powdered stevia at a “Pow Wow”. It is unrefined, appears to be dried stevia that is ground into a fine powder, green in color. I purchased this from Peacepipe Leather Traders, E-mail listed is [email protected].
This whole sugar debate is so frustrating. I am just waiting for all the listed “sweeteners” above to get a bad rap too – It’s enough to make you want to go back to the poison white stuff! OK not really but geez!!!
Hi Kristen, what do you think about Palm syrup as compared to Coconut Palm sugar. I love palm syrup but it’s difficult to find and I was wondering if the coconut version has similar taste and nutrient profile.
Thanks for the reply.
I didn’t notice anyone suggesting dates as sweetener. Although I don’t bake, I use dates and the soak water from dates to sweeten my raw desserts. And what about date sugar?
So glad I’ve found this site – some really good information here!
I cannot believe all the negative things I’ve been reading about agave nectar! I lost 90 lbs. substituting agave nectar for the sugar in my diet and four years later, I have not gained any of my weight back. My skin is tight and I look years younger. It doesn’t boost my cravings for sweets like sugar used to. I use it to make my own chocolate using cocao powder and adding coconut or almonds. Yum. No diet I have ever tried worked as well as substituting agave nectar for sugar because I don’t feel deprived of sweets and that is why I have been able to maintain my weight loss. Unless someone is a total healthfood nut, the pros far outweigh the cons with this sweetner.
Thanks Natalie for you input. I was researching Agave syrup to use along with Chia seeds I just discovered weight loss and health benefits of. Until I read your post I was getting pretty discouraged because I do like my sweets. Wish me luck!
Oh, yes…..I forgot to mention: that 90 pound weight loss only took me 6 months. With my dieting track record that is nothing short of miraculous! I think this whole agave thing is a conspiracy. I’ve SEEN what agave nectar can do! And the first place I lost inches was my abdomen. That’s a sure sign that it is a good thing! I am 56 and prior to using agave, I was diagnosed diabetic. My latest bloodwork came back normal. My naturopath is ecstatic. Sorry, but I am sold on the wonders of agave nectar!
We have some old golden plum trees in the yard that my husband’s grandmother planted. They are soooo sweet that I can make a raw paste with them (thank you Cuisinart)to use like honey. Freezes well too. I use it for baking, dressings, smoothies and to sweeten raw,dehydrator cookies. Yum. Dates are great too, but not local.
Thanks for this site!
J. Scott says
What do you think about palm sugar? Is it about the same as coconut sugar?
how about date sugar and stuff like that?
Thank you about the Agave syrup information. I was already wondering that something good would be offered at Costco…
What about dates? I use a lot of dates plus also maple syrup.
Norine Banfill says
I am a hypoglycemic using Agave syrup and shying away from sugars of any kind. You say it is bad–I believe you–but cannot use the natural sweeteners you use (syrups, honey, etc.)I have been led to believe from other sources Agave was okay!! Do you have any other safe ideas of what to use in my case?
Will appreciate any help or websites.
Andrew Howard says
I am also hypoglycemic, which is why I was reading this article in the first place.
Agave nectar is recommended for sugar metabolism because it is high in fructose.
The article explains that earlier research recommending fructose in lieu of glucose was mistaken. The atticle does say that fructose may not produce the same surge of blood sugar, but that in the final analysis excess fructose will actually make hypoglycemia worse, while also producing excess visceral fat.
In any case, honey is similar in this respect to agave nectar. There is also high fructose corn syrup, which is widely known to exacerbate hypoglycemia.
Unfortunately, if one has hypoglycemia, sugar needs to be sharply limited.
I use limited quantities of muscovado, succanat, and Rapunzel whole cane sugar. Maple syrup is also good, but needs to be limited.
If you really want to find out how something is made (like powdered stevia) get as much info as you can find on the package and log into the patents website. In order to protect your product you must have a full detailed discription of the manufacturing process. Patent info is public domain.
Has anyone used Lyle’s Golden Syrup? It’s unrefined sugar can syrup. I have used it instead of agave, which has an unpleasant taste for me.
I am not a sugar person. Gave it up years ago. I get my sweets by eating fruit…mostly blueberries…nothing better than sitting in front of the TV at night and chowing down on a pint of blackberries or blueberries (OK so I am not so normal). But I am trying to make some sweet treats for my husband and my other relatives (who have hypoglycemia).
I was waiting for a response from an above post about using dates to sweeten with. I just got a Vitamix and wow it is great to blend dates and apples to bake with. How do they compare when evaluating the glycemic index and blood sugar fluctuations with other products.
I baked an apple crumb thing with the agave nectar and had a taste of it. I didn’t like the sugar reaction from it and the aftertaste.
Please comment on the use of dates. It is hard to compare the sugar content of this fruit and other natural products. Thanks for any response.
Mary Alice says
What do you know about a product (sweetener) called B Sweet from Boresha International? I understand that it’s natural, low glycemic, and safe for diabetics.
What is everyone’s favorite sweetener to put in your coffee?
You may want to alert your readers about a little-known side effect of honey. Since most honeys contain small amounts of bee parts, they can trigger a chitin allergy, which is much more common than you might think. It manifests itself as episodic irritable bowel syndrome, and may be the root cause for many idiopathic cases of IBS, given the common use of honey as a sweetener. As a beekeeper who has developed this malady, I can vouch for the fact that it is no fun to deal with, and really forces one to take care in using honey as a sweetener and in recipes.
BTW, I find your enzyme-treatment stricture a bit humorous, since honey is ‘processed flower nectar’ enzymatically treated by honeybees. Natural, yes, but not that much different from commercial enzyme-enhanced sugars. And probably not much better for you in large doses. The real trick is to wean ourselves off the expectation of high sweetness in all of our snack foods. When an apple is not sweet enough, because we compare it with a cinnamon bun, something is wrong. That’s the most serious problem created by our food industry.
Sorella - Blueberry Fingerprints says
I’ve become really interested in becoming healthier in my choices of food the last few months. I have a question though. My boyfriend supports me but doesn’t share my passion for avoiding things that are not good for one’s body. He drinks some amount of coffee each day and uses 2 teaspoons of sugar in a cup. He wouldn’t like honey in coffee, it would have to be a sugar. Which one is the least harmful that I shold get for him?
Susan Day says
Stevita stevia works for me or wisdom brands liquid stevia with flavors that are great in coffee.
What about this product, it states that it is unrefined…Unrefined Sugar cane….Piloncillo- avail in the GOYA section of the supermarket. When I look up the process , it sounds ok !! Just boiling down sap , the same as Maple syrup- any thoughts, has anyone else seen/ tried it ?
Is demerara sugar comparable to turbinado or sucanat?
Wondering about the sweetener “Sun Crystals”. Is it any better than Truvia?
Erin @ livelifeactive.com says
Just found your site and I’m so glad I did. Thanks for the information on Agave.
Max Greenberg says
I just found your website while doing some research on sweeteners. I would like to mention that many people who should limit/reduce/eliminate sugar from their diet and suffer from obesity and other sugar-related ailments are actually sugar addicts. While it may be preferable to switch from sugar, high fructose corn syrup etc to artificial and “natural” sweeteners, for the sugar addict that only serves to perpetuate the cravings for sweet food. Not to recognize the physical and psychological components of sugar usage ignores the barriers to getting people off sugar and sweeteners of all kinds. It starts from an early age, with well-meaning parents laying the foundation with comfort foods for a life-time of addiction. Sugar addiction is often one large part of a greater compulsion to overeat. I myself am a compulsive overeater and sugar addict. I have benefited from a 12-step program that, much like AA for alcoholics, provides food and sugar addicts with a support group for eliminating over-eating from their lives while a healthy body weight of achieved and maintained. OA.org will introduce folks to the program and help you find a meeting group near you.
….wow! what a lesson!!!! I’ve just thrown out my brand new jar of the raw blue, organic agave nectar, and a box of biscuits sweetened with malitol….all pricey at a nice health=food store….BUT, with borderline diabetes, which sweetener is “safe” – I don’t need much of it, but for those few things and the odd ‘oh! where’s a sweet?’ moment?…..is it honey? which one?
Thanks for fascinating help!
“Your comment is awaiting moderation” says your site after I submitted my comment……does that mean I should eliminate exclamation points? change my vocabulary? or perhaps just forget sweet things forever, tout court?
What are your thoughts about this sweetener? http://www.amazon.com/Tropical-Traditions-Rapadura-Organic-Whole/dp/B002OC74WO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1334788681&sr=8-2
I had a friend tell me that it is a natural unlike Turbinado Sugar.
My husband and I have been using coconut nectar for about 4 months now. The taste is good (sort of similar to molasses). The texture is a bit thick, but we are able to work with it (in smoothies, oatmeal, teas, etc.). The label says,
“This sap is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), is an abundant source of minerals, 17 amino acids, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH. Small batches ensure that our pure, low glycemic Nectar, made from this natural sap, is a raw, enzymatically alive product, minimally evaporated at low temperatures (only to remove excess moisture and allow sap to thicken), never exceeding an average summer day in the tropics. Some agave syrups are hydrolyzed at temps up to 140 degrees F. for 36 hours, the end product containing 90% fructose, compared to coconut sap which is only 0.5% glucose, 1.5% fructose, 16% sucrose, and 82% inulin”
rebecca olesen says
Turbinado sugar comes from the first ‘pressing’ of the sugar cane and even still has some of the molasses flavor HOW IS IT NOT NATURAL? YOU DRIVE ME NUTS, do I have to suck the sugar right off the CANE for it to be natural?
rebecca olesen says
ALSO – SUCANAT IS A BRAND NAME. Is only the registered trademark brand of WHOLE CANE SUGAR “sucanat” NATURAL?
If not, you really need to say WHOLE CANE SUGAR because calling it all sucanat is like calling all petroleum jelly ‘vaseline’ or all cotton swabs Q-TIPS.
Sucanat is a registered brand trademark name from a contraction meaning loosely |sugar of the cane natural| in French. Panela, Rapadura – clarified or unclarified whole cane sugar…be more specific instead of BRAND DIRECTING.
What about Muscovado (the ONLY brown sugar I can find in Sweden, which I think is classified as ‘natural)
What about BEET SUGAR while in Morocco it was the only sugar the people there ate. It came in big cones that would break into chunks the size of your fist to put into a small pot of green tea. Morocco has the highest sugar intake per capita on earth. But they live long, seem healthy as horses & the men are all skinny looking 130 pound string beans. They’re healthy enough to have been the most prolific ethnic group on earth in the last 30 years increasing their population by 1,000%. I even met a lady 105 years old while I was there & saw 70 year old women working the fields like donkeys.
very informative stuff. thank you! What about evaporated cane juice? Is that processed as well?
This was the first (and probably the only) post I read on the “truvia” sugar or not sugar subject…and it was good enough for me. Thank you for the explaination and also the breakdown of how you use the natural sweetners in your home. I too, have grown the stevia plant in my backyard and couldn’t figure out how they got it to turn white, yet so many health food places sell it. I don’t believe you mentioned the liquid stevia sold in the markets did you??? Anyway, very good and I plan on trying some of those home recipes!
Silvana Brindisi says
please reply with recommendation on how to sweeten coffee
Have you heard of Xagave? It is supposed to be different from other types of agave and healthier.
Bonnie VanDam says
“Xylitol has been demonstrated in repeated clinical studies to be very slowly metabolised. In fact, on the glycaemic index, which measures how quickly foods enter the bloodstream, sugar is rated at 100 and xylitol at just seven! Xylitol is a natural insulin stabiliser, therefore it causes none of the abrupt rises and falls that occur with sugar. In fact, it actually helps in stopping sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Foods sweetened with xylitol will not raise insulin levels. This makes it a perfect sweetener for people with diabetes as well as those wanting to lose weight. There is a growing consensus amongst anti-aging researchers that maintaining low insulin levels is a key to a successful anti-aging program.”
“By the 1960s, xylitol was being used in Germany, Switzerland, the Soviet Union and Japan as a preferred sweetener in diabetic diets and as an energy source for infusion therapy in patients with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Since then, many other countries including Italy and China have been producing xylitol for use in their domestic markets–and with remarkable health benefits. It has been relatively unknown in the USA and Australia, primarily because cheap supplies of cane sugar made the more expensive xylitol less economically viable.
Although xylitol tastes and looks exactly like sugar, that is where the similarities end. Xylitol is really sugar’s mirror image. While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity, protects against chronic degenerative disease and has anti-aging benefits. Xylitol is considered a five-carbon sugar, which means it is an antimicrobial, preventing the growth of bacteria. While sugar is acid forming, xylitol is alkaline enhancing. All other forms of sugar, including sorbitol, another popular alternative sweetener, are six-carbon sugars which feed dangerous bacteria and fungi.
I can tell you that when I used Agave my thyroid went crazy. It just screamed at me and it took several days to clam it back down again. When I use xylitol my thyroid is happy.
I don’t use a lot of any sweeteners but when I do I mostly use xylitol.
My husband would like to try Stevia, but his experience has always been that it is bitter and has a bad aftertaste. Is there a Stevia that does not do that now?
Peter Ilyk says
Good article. But one product that is missing is xylitol? Is xylitol OK? I notice that it’s now used in lots of dental products.
I know this an older post, but I’m wondering if anyone has an opinion on Sweet Leaf brand stevia? I bought it from Amazon with some Swagbucks money (ie, I tried it because I didn’t have to pay for it), and I’d read that it was a less processed brand of stevia. We are getting used to the flavor (still has some of that bitter aftertaste I associate with the powdered stevia), but I’m wondering if it’s really a good option to use? It is a liquid, and they have flavored versions. We like the vanilla stevia liquid, just couple drops in some raw milk with cocoa powder for a homemade chocolate milk. Ingredients on the bottle are stevia leaf extract, vanilla extract, and the ominous sounding “natural flavors.”
I was diagnosed with M.S. in 2006 and the seizures I had as a child came back. I think the M.S. was due to the aspartame laden drinks (diet cokes, ensure) I drank in the 1980s and 1990s.
I only learned about aspartame from Dr. Betty Martini 4 years ago. Not only is aspartame very deadly, msg is as well. I also learned about the dangers of aspartame from Dr. Stan Moneith on Radio Liberty.
So now, I have health issues I never had before. Do I think it is from sugar…well duh…fake or real, sugar is not good for us.
Ali Smith says
What about xylitol, how safe do you think it is?
Debrah Roemisch says
I just ran across your blog–thanks for the good info on agave, I was trying to explain why it is bad to a client recently–this helps. I would like to mention that I get severe migraine with even the tiniest amount of agave or stevia.I could be allergic to the stevia but just curious if anyone else has ever had bad reactions to it. I use local raw honey and small amounts of unrefined sugar. But try to keep sweeteners to a minimum.a
I love to use Maple Syrup to sweeten my coffee. Also I am curious why Turbinado Sugar? — NOT NATURAL? The kind I buy at the health food store has this on the label so I felt pretty good about buying it.
Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Turbinado Sugar is a golden-colored sugar with large sparkling crystals and a rich aroma. It is the ultimate topping for cakes, cookies, muffins, crumbles and pies and a wonderful start to the day sprinkled on cereal or fruit.
Organic Turbinado Sugar is made by crushing the freshly-cut sugar cane to squeeze out the juice, rich in, vitamins and minerals. The cane juice is evaporated and spun in a centrifuge, or turbine, to produce the large sparkling golden crystals.
I personally do not care for the after taste of Stevia & avoid it when possible.
Regarding xylitol I don’t use it as a sweetener, I have recently started to by candy & toothpaste with it for cavity control. I do make sure I am buying GMO free. While it might not be completely natural or something I can make myself if it can save members of my family from & costly & invasive dental treatments I think the benefits outweigh any negatives.
Turbinado sugar is only slightly less refined than refined white table sugar. If you’ve ever seen a real raw, evaporated sugar cane juice, you’ll spot the difference instantly. Turbinado sugar looks like crystalline white sugar, but with a golden color because it retains more molasses than white sugar does. Yet a truly old-fashioned evaporated sugar cane juice doesn’t look all that crystalline at all — more like little pebbles. And it’s very, very brown because it retains all the molasses.
As per the definition of natural sweeteners in this post, I couldn’t replicate the production of turbinado sugar in my kitchen without super special industrial equipment and processing methods. I could, however, create an evaporated cane juice like sucanat or muscovado without anything super special or modern. Make sense?
“Yet a truly old-fashioned evaporated sugar cane juice doesn’t look all that crystalline at all — more like little pebbles. And it’s very, very brown because it retains all the molasses.”
That is why most of traditional India and Ayurvedic vaidya’s used to use “Jaggery”. I am surprise if you know so much about the STAGES of sugarcane juice you have not mentioned Jaggery at all.
thanks for the article – been thinking about switching to agave syrup – i’m sticking with honey
Marc Victor says
What’s the best sweetener for coffee? I want to stop using spenda.
What do you think of xylitol when the product is said to have been “naturally” extracted, NOT with sulfuric acid?
For instance, Jay Robb’s protein bars. I’ve been trying to find a decent low-carb, high protein bar that isn’t full of artificial sweeteners (and other junk). I know real food is best, but I need a portable option for lunch and also I have a really hard time getting enough protein during a day without protein supplements.
Thanks in advance for your response.
What about Tupelo honey? It has high fructose and lower glycemic index but it does vary depending on how much fructose there is. I am diabetic and this is a natural food. Is this fructose digested in the liver as well? I do eat fruit but not juices as there is fiber in the fruit. I am really disappointed to hear that Agave nectar is not good for us, but I thought that fructose was better than sugar. I also thought that truvia was from Stevia. I didn’t like it anyway but I thought it was the same as Stevia. Seems like as soon as I hear something is good for us and for diabetic that it changes and it is bad. Sort of like eggs.
Dona Cardenas says
Frustrated!! I switched our family over to Agave a couple of years ago and it’s all we use as syrup and in my coffee. It says natural and I’d heard it didn’t raise the glycemic levels. I hate that sellers can put whatever they want on the label and it doesn’t seem to be regulated. Here I thought we were doing the right thing and now I find out way not so much. Switching to honey and syrup immediately. One question, how do you know how to buy the honey? there is store brand, ones sold in health food stores. Several types you can find at whole foods or trader joes. Again, mass confusion. How do you know which is the right one for you?
Catherine N. says
Just please do not give honey to kids under 1 year old.
Sr Fusion says
Just curious about your definition of natural…why do you consider Sucanat natural but Turbinado Sugar as not natural?
Please see my response to bmommyx2 above. Thanks!
I love your article on agave. I have known for years that it is no different than good old sugar and it drives me crazy that people think it’s good for you! I have been using molasses. Do you ever use molasses as a sweetener? How would you compare molasses to other natural sweeteners?
Carolyn Dixon says
Thank you for your article on Agave! I was proudly using it in an occasional cup of tea, thinking I was doing good. Then just this week, at Easter dinner, my sister imformed me Agave is bad…I was shocked, crushed, upset. So I went online and found your article. Now I have decided to make my own “boiled cider” or “apple molasses”. The only ingredient is pressed apple juice, boiled down to a syrup. I am hoping this will hit your “good” list!
Margaret Dickie says
You asked what I use for a natural sweetener. Well, I saw this product on Dr. Oz. Found it at my grocery store beside Stevia and Splenda. I is considered 100 percent natural made from the monk fruit. More about it is written on the package. One fourth of a tsp. is equal to the sweet taste of one tsp. of sugar. Perhaps you can decide whether or not you find it to be suitable. I enjoy it’s taste and would like to know what you think of it. It comes in a container to sprinkle on food and also lil packets: NECTRESSE is the name. Made by the Splenda company, but it is NOT the Splenda artificial sweetener. Pls advise what your thoughts are on this new product.
Steven Hoffman says
Not sure if this was addressed but how do you feel about stevia extracts that are commonly available?
When cooking for the family with a baby under 2, when honey is not recommended, what is your best recommendation for sweetener for baked goods and drinks?
I have a jar of “Madhava Agave Nectar” in my cabinet. And, it does say “miel de agave” on the front and has the USDA Organic stamp.
I found a response from Madhava Agave Nectar’s President, Craig Gerbore, on another blog addressing agave nectar: http://alteredplates.blogspot.com/2008/12/madhavas-craig-gerbore-responds-to.html
Wondering if you have any knowledge of this brand.
I use Fruit Sweet by Wax Orchards (http://www.waxorchards.com/waxorchardstraditions.aspx) It has a low glycemic and we use less sweetener in recipes (1/2 -2/3 c per 1 cup…depending if it is for us or company!) for most baking. Some maple syrup. On occasion evaporated cane and sucanat….but rarely. ♥
Wow…..this article has really opened my eyes. 22 days ago, I cut all refined sugars out of my diet – or so I thought. I thought that agave and turbinado were okay for me to have. And when I was at the health foods store looking for powdered stevia, an employee recommended xylitol to me as a natural alternative…..SMH!!! Well I’m not about to waste money so I’ll use it up, but after that I’m not buying it anymore! I’m sticking to honey and stevia, those are what I like best.
On the note of stevia…. the one I currently use has a slight almost minty aftertaste… is that normal? Or should I be concerned? Its also turned milky in appearance and it was clear when we bought it…
Honey becomes TOXIC if at all heated or put into hot liquid etc.
Ask any ayurvedic vaidya and they will tell you how dangerous honey becomes when heated.
This seems like interesting information, and useful taken with somewhat of a grain of salt. The phrase ‘sugar is bad for you’is largely simplified. Obviously consuming large amounts with no exervice or even with exercise is a bad idea, but by the same token, there is no such a thing as a 100 percent complete sugar free diet. When used in moderation, in the natural variety (ie maple syrup), and used at the right time of day (not in the morning for breakfast) and mixed with other fibrous food, is a great way to sweeten healthy snacks that people otherwise might not consume for lack of flavour. For example, a smoothie or muffin loaded with flax, nuts, spelt flout, omega 3 oil or whatever else, with a tiny bit of sweetener is absolutely a health snack. As well, when you use like a quarter cup of maple syrup in a muffin recipe that makes about 12, you are looking at consuming only about approximately 5 grams per muffin. Paired with exercise, I dont see how in moderation that would pose much of a problem if the rest of the diet was really nutrional and health based.
Oh, so many comments. Use this, don’t use that. Just eat any kind of sugar you want in moderation, and you will be fine. As long as it’s occasional and limited, it’s not gonna make much of a difference what you use. Key: exercise daily, eat clean and the occasional sweet treat will not harm you. Come on ppl….stop stressing and do the easiest, most obvious thing. If you eat a cookie here or there, the minimal amt of sugar you consume won’t harm you, regardless if it’s white, brown, purple, flecked, square, round or doused in vodka for a few weeks! Haha! That was the best. Just live and don’t stress about the small stuff….if you wanna eat sugar everyday, then that’s a problem. Eat the food God gave us in the natural form whenever you can, but for goodness sake, stop going crazy and spending tons of money buying special sugars. Sugar is sugar….yep, that’s right folks. It’s all bad for you, so moderation is the key. If your one of the health nuts that professes to only use unprocessed, etc…well if you eat so little of it in the first place, then how can you think the little amounts will make a difference opposed to processed sugar here or there. Wake up and smell the agave nectar…..it’s all bad. Sincerely, Dr. Rachel.
I just bought my first twin bottles of agave today. Yuk after reading your evaluation of the product.
I’ve been growing agave for at least 25 years in pots from a few pups in my sister’s yard in Scottsdale, AZ and thought I finally had a real use for them besides getting stuck by the needles. Oh, well.
Where does coconut nectar fit into this? It’s hailed as low fructose AND low glycemic index AND natural.
Thank you for all the useful information about sugars in one place. I’m trying to switch my family over to a more natural lifestyle and I’ve been overwhelmed with all the “natural” sugars out there.
Hi there, I love your post about the different sweeteners and what you consider to be acceptable or not. I consume honey on a daily basis, and sometimes use coconut sugar, too, but I still worry about how it affects my insulin levels if I consume too much of it. (Been reading a lot about how sugar feeds cancer). I would love to know how you feel about monk fruit extract or monk fruit In the Raw. I think it tastes just like Stevia, (which isn’t great), but I’m curious to know if you think it’s a safe option. I appreciate your opinion!
Read your article on sweeteners. You neglected to mention sweetening coffee which is probably what most people could want to learn. 1 cup of coffee (1/2 cup water, 1/3 t coffee, 1 packet of Truvia, half cup of milk) per day. Hope you have suggestions.
Just so we are clear – “natural” does not directly equate to “healthy.” This can be a very deadly fallacy. Many of the “natural” sweeteners you talk about can be downright deadly and certainly deadly in terms of losing weight. Also, a blind prejudice against anything that has been “processed” in any way is simplistic and, in many cases, full of righteousness, which is definitely not healthy in any form or quantity.
Note: I am not a representative of any food manufacturing company, just someone with an open mind looking for what will work best for me.
landscaping apps says
I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about
my problem. You are incredible! Thanks!
There was a programme on UK television that showed how stevia is processed, Food Unwrapped. It will surprise you!
All the programmes are worth a look – some things I used to eat are off the menu now, others are back on the menu.
We try to use much of dates, raisins or pears in cooking. Also apple syrup (thickened juice) or grape juice is quite good. But if it goes into drinks, we love date syrup most.
Omar Ayyash via Facebook says
raw organic honey!
Omar Ayyash via Facebook says
raw organic coconut butter. I hate using the term organic, it should be just called by it’s real name and not organic. Geez, why did people have to start the green revolution?
The Meatless Marathoner says
I’m vegan. In no particular order, my favorite natural sweeteners are:
Local, raw honey (Many vegans are OK with honey. It’s a personal preference.)
What I’ve learned is that when I’m craving sweets, usually what I really want is fruit.
Oh, after reading more comments, I see you’ve already read that article I recommended. Good research!
JustinandGinger Herle via Facebook says
Ruby Ord 🙂
Susan Louisef via Facebook says
Local honey has been my fave. But I admit, I do like brown sugar sometimes, but I don’t use alot of sugar anyway. I would use maple syrup w/o guilt, and if I ever make my own toothpaste, I would probably use Xylitol, bacause I don’t want to use Stevia. If I ever make Kombucha, I would use the organic cane sugar I saw at the health food store, that I’ve seen in Kombucha recipe.
Ruby Ord via Facebook says
Thanks Ginger. Good article:)
Susan D. McLean via Facebook says
coconut sugar – tastes great and LOW GLYCEMIC !
Kami Shkooratoff via Facebook says
I’m from Canada…pure maple syrup all the way baby!! And local honey
I can’t prove it, but it seems it’s futile to use “raw” honey for “hot beverages.” Anything over a certain temperature is going to kill the benefits of the honey being raw. No?
Regarding organic honey, how can they prove that it’s organic? They know where the bee has been? Generally, yes. Specifically, no. Think about it, a bee should be instinctual enough to avoid pesticides. Otherwise, the bee won’t make it back to the hive.. But, why would anyone put pesticides and such on clover and other sources for the bees? It’s not necessary as these are not generally cash crops.
In my humble opinion, organic honey is not necessary and raw honey is pointless for hot drinks.
Sara Turner via Facebook says
Green stevia leaf powdered (as opposed to the scary processed white stevia).
Can I use unrefined sugar like raw sugar cane? It is unrefined and natural.
Joanne Bowers says
I understand everything you are saying about sweeteners. But doesn’t the natural sweeteners such as honey turn to sugar in the body? If so, what are we diabetics suppose to use? It seems to be a catch 22 situation.
Patrick McDermott says
” Making a liquid stevia extract using vodka, which I then use to do things like make homemade chocolate milk for my kids”
Chocolate milk with Vodka? I wish you was my mommy.
Teacher: “Johnny, what’s wrong? Are you sick?”
Johnny: “No ma’am. I have a hangover.I drank too much chocolate milk last night””.
Diane Woodward says
Thank you so much for your most helpful advice. I have Crohns Disease and have to be very careful about my diet.Your emails have influenced me enormously and I look forward to the next..!
What are your thoughts on yacon syrup?
Whatis Maple Sugar ? I’m in Sydney Australia……..been asked for it
Thank you for sharing your knowledge about natural sweetners. I was struggling with whats healthy and not. This article has really gave me some clarity on the best sweetner to use.
Aren’t your favorite sweetners pretty bad for diabetics and high in calories too? Not much help for people who have to watch their sugar intake is it?? I would just eat refined sugar before I’d eat that expensive stuff you do that doesn’t do a good job of sweetning anything.
I would very much appreciate a copy of your article entitled “My Natural Sweeteners of Choice”.
Bindu Kumar says
Hi there, very informative article. Thanks.
I use jaggery (which is made in villages in India without using any chemicals) as an alternative to sugar. What is your opinion on jaggery as a natural sweetener?
What are your thoughts on Monk fruit as a sweetener ?
Corry Bell says
I would definitely be a more avid fan of Stevia were it not for the bitter taste it leaves in my mouth. Kind of defeats the purpose of using it at all, doesn’t it? I’ve been seeing a nutritionist to take charge of my cholesterol and triglycerides and I am so much healthier than I’ve ever been., but I ended up using Truvia when I want to sweeten my plain yogurt because, frankly, it tastes best. and in this first phase of my diet, the other sweeteners are not allowed. If my food is not palatable, I will fall off the wagon. Its so unfortunate that we have come to this. I guess, like most people, I’ve had to try to choose the lesser of evils. Thanks for your info.
I am looking for the episode where Dan Kohler takes raw white sugar, bakes it in increments of one hour and it comes out brown. It is a different taste and color, and has changed it’s molecular field.
Debora Sator says
Please explain why Xylitol is not good for you? It is also digested in the liver? Thank you!
Hi, how about organic blackstrap molasses?
Cheryl Kirk says
What about monk fruit sweetener?