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Care2 Directory of Natural Sweeteners

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Care2 Directory of Natural Sweeteners

By Annie Berthold-Bond and Nava Atlas, author of The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

The array of products in the sweetener aisle of your health food store might seem rather mystifying to the natural foods novice, but with a little help, sweeteners like rice syrup, barley malt syrup, and date sugar, among others, can be used with great effect in baked goods of all kinds.

While the detrimental effects of refined sweeteners such as white sugar and corn syrup are still being debated, there’s little doubt that Americans consume far too much of it. While natural sweeteners aren’t nutritional bell ringers, they are generally considered to produce less of a shock to the body’s blood sugar level because among the nutrients found in whole food sugars are necessary minerals that help with sugar metabolism.

From a culinary standpoint, natural sweeteners offer bolder, more complex flavors than sugar, adding delectably different dimensions to baked goods and other treats.

Here is our directory of less refined sweeteners, including a chart of equivalents:

Agave Nectar: A natural liquid sweetener that is less viscous than honey, agave nectar comes in three grades: Light, medium and amber. Light agave is sweet but neutral making it great for recipes where the stronger flavor of maple or honey may interfere. The flavor of agave becomes more intense and earthy with the darker grades. Agave is extracted from the agave plant, and is low on the glycemic index. It is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar.

Barley Malt: Dark, sticky and boldly flavored, barely malt sugar is nonetheless neither as assertive as blackstrap molasses nor as sweet as honey. Primarily maltose, a complex sugar that enters the bloodstream slowly. This sweetener offers trace amounts of eight vitamins and several minerals. Barley malt syrup is a wonderful addition to squash and pumpkin breads, bran muffins, and hearty rye or pumpernickel breads. Use it to glaze sweet potatoes and to make winter “malteds” combined with bananas and soy milk.

Date Sugar: Not actually a sugar in the conventional sense, date sugar is ground from dehydrated dates. What a great source of sweetness. Dates are high in fiber, and rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Date sugar can be exchanged measure for measure for sugar in baking, for cakes, muffins and quick breads. Use it in place of brown sugar to make crumb toppings for pies and fruit crisps. It can’t be used to sweeten beverages, though, as the tiny pieces won’t dissolve.

Fruit Juice Concentrates: Made from the juice of fruit that has been reduced about one quarter by slow cooking. Note that some commercial fruit juice concentrates have been stripped of flavor and nutritional value.

Fructose: Derived from fruit sugar, this sweetener, closely resembles granular white sugar but is more concentrated so that less is needed for a similar effect—about 1/2 cup fructose to 1 cup of sugar. Though fructose has little nutritional value, it is generally believed that it doesn’t disturb the blood sugar level as much as sucrose. Use it in place of sugar as an all-purpose sweetener in baking and cooking, and in hot and cold beverages.

FruitSource: A relatively new natural sweetening product, Fruitsource replaces not only sugar, but also fat, in baking. Made from a natural blend of grape and rice carbohydrates, it can also be used as a general-purpose sweetener for hot and cold beverages and in cooking. To use in baking, replace every cup of sugar with 1 1/4 cups Fruitsource and reduce fat by 50 percent; optimal oven temperature is 300 to 325 degrees.

Next: G-S sweeteners

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

250 simple recipes and dozens of healthy menus for eating well every day.buy now

93 comments

+ add your own
10:28AM PDT on Apr 10, 2014

Thanks for the information :-)

6:44AM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

Thank you

12:02PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

You might want to look into adding coconut sap to your list - from everything I read about it, it is actually better for you than agave (albeit harder to actually find in normal markets), containing 19 amino acids not typically seen in sweeteners

It tasts reminiscent of a mild (not too strong) molasses/maple syrup, and is made by harvesting the sap from a cocunut tree instead of the cocunuts.

12:02PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

You might want to look into adding coconut sap to your list - from everything I read about it, it is actually better for you than agave (albeit harder to actually find in normal markets), containing 19 amino acids not typically seen in sweeteners

It tasts reminiscent of a mild (not too strong) molasses/maple syrup, and is made by harvesting the sap from a cocunut tree instead of the cocunuts.

6:37AM PDT on Mar 16, 2013

It would be nice to see an update on this article to include the monkfruit sweetner just out, Nectresse.

8:35PM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Interesting and fascinating.

4:45AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

how about brown Jeggary ? I assume it is very good.opinions please.

7:44AM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Useful information.

12:18AM PDT on Jul 8, 2012

I use stevia in my green tea, and love it. There is xylitol in my natural toothpaste, and I am fine with that as well. I have been wanting to try Manuka honey from NZ because I have heard it has antibacterial properties.

6:47PM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Too many choices. Thanks.

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