One of the goals of a healthy diet is a lower refined sugar intake. Lately, agave nectar and stevia have received the lion’s share of attention among natural sweeteners. However, if you are looking for other alternatives to sugar, you have plenty of choices. Here are a few that you may want to add to your shopping list:
Coconut sugar — Also known as palm sugar, this sweetener looks and tastes a little like brown sugar. It comes from coconut palm nectar and is rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. You’ll love baking with coconut sugar because it measures the same as refined sugar. Even better, it is low on the glycemic index at 35. Coconut sugar is available at health food stores, gourmet grocery stores and online.
Date Sugar — Made from dried, ground dates, date sugar is a 1:1 substitute for brown sugar. It does have drawbacks: date sugar is relatively high-glycemic, and does not dissolve well in liquids. Like most natural sweeteners, you can find date sugar at health food stores and online.
Honey — If you want to use honey as a sugar alternative, look for unpasteurized or raw honey. Most of the honey in supermarkets is highly refined and not much better for you than refined sugar. Raw honey is a treasure trove of nutrients, including living enzymes, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. Its antibacterial properties make it an excellent cold and flu remedy or topical first aid remedy. Never give honey, which can cause infant botulism, to a child younger than twelve months. Honey — even raw honey — is moderately-high glycemic and not the best sweetener if you are diabetic.
Molasses — Molasses — especially blackstrap molasses — is a nutritious sugar alternative. All types of unsulphered molasses contain vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium. Only the blackstrap type is low-glycemic. The sweeter-tasting mild varieties are better for cooking and baking, but are higher on the glycemic index.
Maple Syrup — We’re talking 100% pure maple syrup, not “pancake syrup.” Fortunately, pure maple syrup is available in many grocery stores, in the same section as the pancake syrup. Although this sweetener is three times as sweet as cane sugar, it is moderately low-glycemic. It is rich in nutrients, including manganese, which has antioxidant properties.
If you are diabetic, ask your doctor before trying natural sweeteners, and monitor your blood sugar levels. However, if you are simply looking for a natural alternative to refined cane sugar, why not try some of these sweeteners? Some are a bit expensive — for example, date sugar runs between $6.00 and $7.00 for a 1 lb. bag — but you’ll notice a richer flavor and you’ll benefit from the nutrients. Online sources include Bob’s Red Mill and Amazon.