February 27th, 2012

3 Safe Natural Sweeteners

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Organic and Natural sweeteners

 

I know I’m not alone on this one-I have a sweet tooth and it kicks in A LOT.  There’s a reason behind this love of sweets: they make us feel good. The sweet flavors release serotonin in our brains, which creates a feeling of love and well being. It’s nice to have some validation for my love of sweets.

The number of choices out there for sweetening our food or drinks is overwhelming. Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and Sucralose, have deservedly gotten a bad rap over the years. They are known to cause numerous side-effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Research also suggests that they can actually cause overeating among consumers.

Even natural sweeteners can come with their own baggage. Organic brown rice syrup recently made it into the lime light with findings that it contains arsenic. Agave nectar also came under fire when a report from The Weston A. Price Foundation said that it’s as bad for our bodies as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

With all this negative information looming about so many of the popular sweeteners the question often arises: Is there a safe sweetener choice?

Thankfully there is a way to satisfy our sweet tooth and, if eaten in moderation, our health won’t suffer.

Here are my top three natural sweeteners:

Honey

raw organic honey

Raw, local and organic are the way to go with this natural sweetener. Not only will it sweeten your favorite cookies, it will also help sooth a cough or sore throat.  Honey is often touted for having mega vitamins, minerals, and protein, but I’m not convinced the amount is significant unless you eat honey by the car load (which you shouldn’t do).

Careful when you choose your honey-recent testing by Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly pure honey. The testing showed that pollen had been filtered out of the honey, thereby stripping the honey of all nutritional value and erasing any way to trace where the honey came from. Your best bet for avoiding honey that’s been filtered is to buy honey directly from bee keepers, farmers’ markets and natural food stores.

Date Sugar

Chopped, dried dates are my snack of choice when I’m looking for a sweet fix. Date sugar is made from finely chopped dried dates. It is a natural and non-processed sugar alternative filled with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s great for baking, but might not work in your hot or cold tea (it doesn’t dissolve very well).

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is one of my favorite natural sweeteners. My kids can’t get enough of the stuff on pancakes and French toast. Maple syrup contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey.  The syrup comes directly from the maple tree and is clear when it first comes out. After the tree is tapped the syrup is then boiled to remove the water. The end result is the deep maple syrup color and flavor that most of us are familiar with.  Maple syrup is perfect for baking and sweetening your favorite drink.

When buying maple syrup it’s important to read ingredient labels carefully. Many of the syrups on the market have additional sugar and/or are not pure maple syrup. Buy organic whenever you can. Use it sparingly because organic maple syrup can be quite pricey.

Remember all sugar should be eaten in moderation-sugar is sugar and can be hazardous to our healthy in any form.

What do you use to sweeten your food and drinks?

[Photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt, Robert Neff and Jim Sorbie/Flickr]

This post is part of Your Green Resource over at Green Backs Gal.

 

 

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8 Responses to “3 Safe Natural Sweeteners”

  1. I use both honey and maple syrup. Maple syrup is one of those items which, if pure syrup, usually need not be certified organic. The reason: it’s one of the few commodities which is often still made in tiny batches on rural properties. And maple trees are so self-sufficient that almost nobody would bother to treat them with chemicals.

    I buy “B” grade maple syrup because it tastes better and it’s sometimes cheaper.

  2. I love honey. It’s the only sweetener that is truly local to me (20 miles). I get mine from the beekeeper at the farmers’ market — she always has about ten different varieties, so I never get bored. Plus she seems to genuinely care about her bees.

    Maple syrup is a bit more of a treat for me — California sure doesn’t produce it! I think I read recently that it’s likely to become more scarce as climate change progresses.

  3. Dates and raisins are my favorite. Maybe I will dry and make my own date sugar. I wonder how one would do that. Maybe dehydrate them and grind them up? I will have to look into that! I do use honey and maple syrup as well on occasion. I have used agave, but I prefer honey. :)

  4. I love to use agave as a sweetner. A little goes a long way and I think it’s even sweeter than honey. I put it in my green drinks to give them a hint of sweetness. Yumm. Do you have any views on stevia? Isn’t that supposed to be good too?

  5. [...] 3 Safe Natural Sweetners by Groovy Green Livin [...]

  6. Hi Lori! Featured this on this week’s Your Green Resource and pinned it. BTW – I think the research that recently came out on sugar & asking that it be regulated was funded by the artificial sweetners peeps. They want to regulate the real sugar so we’ll buy more of their chemicals.

  7. Thank you so much Andrea! You know how much I love Your Green Resource. So much great green info all in one spot. Not surprising about the study-I’ll have to look into it.

  8. [...] Pureed dates are a wonderful sugar substitute. [...]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I continue on my journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I just might stop to make some noise about issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I fight for a safer world for all of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes in your life can lead to a non-toxic, healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

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