Author: Diana Walker
When it comes to making it sweet, one of the first things that people grab for is the sugar or, if they are trying to lose weight, an artificial sweetener. However, neither of those options are the healthiest ones to choose. There are healthier options.
1. Stevia - Stevia is a wonderful alternative for sweetening. Stevia is a herb that is a part of the sunflower family and is commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia. It is widely grown for its sweet leaves. Its extracts have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar and because it has a negligible effect on blood glucose and is known to enhance glucose tolerance, it is a much better choice than artificial sugars like Aspartame, Nutrasweet, Equal, Splenda, Sucralose, for people who are diabetic.
Stevia in most forms, other than the white powered forms, gives a long even energy and works in the body like a complex carb. It is important to note that many of the extracts, are processed with alcohol and do not keep the plant properties intact; therefore it is important to pay close attention to how the stevia you may use is processed.
If you are a baker and wonder what you can use as a sweetener that is a healthier alternative, then Rapadura or Sucanat are good choices. They are both natural sugars which have many of the minerals, vitamins and nutritional value still intact.
2. Rapadura - Rapadura is a dried sugarcane juice that is common in Latin American countries, that comes in the form of a brick. It is the perfect unbleached, unrefined sweetener to use in place of refined sugars. And the unique processing of Rapadura gives it a mild, caramel-like flavor which is superb for baking and sweetening food and drinks.
3. Sucanut - Sucanut is a non-refined cane sugar that, unlike white sugar, is a pure dried cane sugar, retains its molasses content. Of all the major sugars derived from sugar cane, Sucanut ranks highest in nutritional value; although, as with most sugars, it is not a significant source of any nutrient apart from carbohydrate.
4. Agave Nectar - Finally there is Agave Nectar, a sweetener that acts as a complex carb instead of a simple one. It is derived from a plant and due to its fructose content, Agave Nectar is remarkable in that its Glycemic Index (GI) and glycemic load are lower than most, if not all natural sweeteners on the market. This makes it a good alternative to honey as honey has a high GI. Agave Nectar also naturally contains quantities of Iron, Calcium, Potassium & Magnesium which why it has the color it does.
There are other alternatives such as molasses, honey and maple syrup. However, due to some negative properties such as the fact that they can raise blood sugar quickly, they are not the best choices for a healthy sweetener; although they are still healthier alternatives to refined white sugar.
Refined white sugar, and let me add, most brown sugars, are unhealthy options for cooking, baking, drinking, and all sweetening needs. In order to find the natural sweetener that is best for you, do a taste test and choose the one that fits your needs. You may find it necessary to have two or three of these sweeteners in your home for whatever your food preparation needs are.
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