OK, I know there is an over abundance of sugar in the typical American diet. But, did you know that not all sweeteners are created equally? I won’t go into detail about why refined (white) and artificial sweeteners are bad for you, but I will give you a few sweeteners you can feel good about. (It’s always good to concentrate on the good…don’t ya think?). These sweeteners are in no particular order and it should go without saying that moderation is key because regardless of the type, too much sugar is never a good thing.
Now, I’m not talking about Aunt Jemima or any of the other varieties of “pancake syrup” you find at the grocery store. I’m talking about 100% pure maple syrup straight from the tree. OK, so the sap undergoes a boiling process, but nothing else should be added or taken away from your syrup. You can find pure maple syrup in the grocery store or online here, but you can’t beat fresh, local syrup when it comes to taste and price. Now, let’s talk about why maple syrup is a good choice. In addition to its earthy sweet taste, it is an excellent source of manganese (providing 22% of your daily recommended value in just one ounce) and a good source of zinc (3.6%). Manganese is a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight free radicals and zinc plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division.
Blackstrap Molasses is a byproduct of the refining process for table sugar and is chalk full of nutrients. It comes from the third round of processing and is the thickest, darkest and most nutrient dense form of molasses. With just 2 teaspoons, you get a good source of manganese (18% of recommended daily intake), copper (14%), iron (13.2%), calcium (11.7%), potassium (9.7%), magnesium (7.3%), vitamin B (5%) and selenium (3.4%). When purchasing, look for molasses that is unsulphured because many people are sensitive to this processing chemical. Plus, unsulphered molasses has a cleaner and more clarified taste. You can find unsulphered molasses online here and in most health food and grocery stores.
While raw honey really doesn’t possess much in the way of nutrition, it does come with a slew of health benefits. To start, honey has the same relative sweetness of table sugar but with a chemical makeup similar to fruit, thus allowing it to be more easily digested. Raw honey also offers great antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and cancer prevention benefits. That’s not all…raw honey can boost the immune system, suppress coughs, aid in allergies and provide relief for upper respiratory infections. For the best nutritional benefits, it’s important to choose raw honey, which means it has not been heated or strained. Most raw honey will crystallize over time, but placing the container in hot water for 15 minutes will help return it to its liquid state. Do not microwave raw honey or bring it’s temperature above 100 degrees as that will destroy many of its medicinal properties. You can find raw honey online, and in most health and grocery stores, but it’s best to buy it from a local honey farm whenever possible.
Date Sugar is made with dehydrated dates that have been ground up to a fine powder, making it an excellent source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Plus, dates loaded with fiber, which helps you feel fuller and keeps you…well, you know, regular. Although it won’t dissolve in drinks like regular sugar, date sugar will give baked goods a fabulous taste. You can find date sugar online, or in most health food stores. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even make it at home.
This mildly sweet granulated sugar can be substituted 1:1 in place of traditional white or brown sugar. It is considerably low on the glycemic index and is a rich source of amino acids, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Coconut sugar also contains 12 of the B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, nicotinic acid, biotin, pyridoxal and inositol. This sweetener is produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm with little processing and has been used for thousands of years in the South and South-East Asian regions of the world. Heck, even Dr. Oz says coconut sugar is a better choice than refined sugar because it won’t lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels. You can find coconut sugar online here, and in most health food stores.
OK, so stevia doesn’t really have any major health benefits to it, other than the fact that it’s not nearly as bad for you as refined or artificial sweeteners. So, let’s just say it’s good for us because it’s not bad for us.
Stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia plant, which are really sweet and contain no calories. Still, while it has been used for centuries in South American, not a whole lot of research has been done on stevia. So like any other sweetener, it’s best not to over consume and to make sure you’re choosing a minimally processed variety (we don’t want another agave nectar on our hands). Look for liquid forms, which are generally less processed, and read labels to make sure there aren’t any funky ingredients like dextrose, ethanol and methanol which are commonly used to process stevia.
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, doctor or other professionally trained health practitioner. While I don’t think I did, it’s possible I might have gotten a few facts wrong. So, don’t sue me if you find different information somewhere else.