I love sweets. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners. Because they have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, refined sweeteners can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. They are also highly addictive substances; once you start eating them, for most people it’s hard to stop.
Using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things, balance blood sugar ups and downs, stabilize moods and have a dramatically positive effect on long-term health. Below are my favorite natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less.
Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus. It does not stimulate insulin secretion as other sugars do, so it does not create a “sugar rush.” It has a delightfully light and mild flavor. This is my favorite all-purpose sweetener, from coffee and tea to whole wheat cookies.
Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks, Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best. Maple syrup is best used in baking.
Everyone is one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Wherever possible, choose raw, local honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. Honey is great in tea or yogurt.