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March 2007
Sugar Never Tasted So Sweet… Your Guide to Sugar Alternatives
By Maureen C. Wyse

 

The first step to S.A. is to admit the problem. My name is Maureen C. Wyse and I am a sugar addict. I love sweets, it’s true. Ice cream, cookies, donuts, brownies—they’re what keeps me going. I am quite easy to please as long as the sweet stuff is involved. I know people love that line, everything in moderation, but I have to say, try and put a tray of sweets next to me and tell me that. It is not going to happen. But, I know I am not alone. So why am I at this S.A. meeting?

What’s the deal with sugar? Some people say sugar and sweets aren’t all that good for you. But why? It could be the caloric content of sugary foods, the rise in high blood sugar/ blood glucose levels, the suppression of the immune system, the increase in diabetes, tooth decay, but it also could be the simple fact that sugar is everywhere. Yes it’s true, in small doses sugar ain’t so bad, but when sugar is in everything you eat from the top of the food pyramid to the bottom, sugar can be deadly. To avoid the dramatics, the simple solution is to check out the ingredients in your foods and make sure to look out for high fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose and… sugar. Eat a few less sweets during the week, or better yet, check out this guide to alternative sweeteners and replace the not so good white stuff. It’s time to have your sweets and eat them too.

Agave Syrup/ Nectar
Who knew something so sweet and versatile could come from a Mexican cactus-like plant? Agave syrup is truly a superb all-purpose natural sweetener and perfect for baking. If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use 1/3 cup of agave and kiss your sugar blues good bye. Bitter coffee, bland hot cereal, or a sweet pick me up… get some agave.

Barley Malt Syrup
Although not as sweet as sugar, barley malt syrup adds a distinct molasses-like flavor to any baked good. This is a tricky alternative to find the right balance for, but when you do, it goes especially well in homemade breads and rolls.

Brown Rice Syrup
Made directly from brown rice and some added enzymes, this concoction makes a sweet alternative that is extremely similar to honey. That’s right honey lovers, that thick, sticky, golden sweet stuff is replicated sans the bees. Brown rice syrup can be used instead of maple syrup on pancakes, and in baked goods. Make sure to pick up our favorite use of brown rice syrup in Suzanne’s Specialties, Just Like Honey.

Carob Powder
When needing a slightly sweet, chocolaty alternative, turn to carob. In powder form, carob powder dresses up your favorite pancake, scone or less sweet pastry recipe nicely. Adding a bit of sweet and a very subtle chocolate flavor is probably just what your favorite muffin recipe has always needed.

Fruits
In dried, juice and sauce forms many fruits are excellent sweeteners. You would be surprised what your run of the mill apple, banana, prune, fig, pear, date, grape or apricot can do. Experiment with dried fruits in a food processor making purees, make your own apple, cranberry and pear sauces, and use fresh juices to naturally sweeten anything in your life.

Maple Syrup
Your pancakes and waffles aren’t the only two food items that should benefit from the sap of maple trees. That’s right, maple syrup is a rich, thick and very sweet alternative that can be used while baking, and in pretty much every other situation you may need a sweet kick. Also, if you have a few extra dollars to spend, dehydrated maple syrup granules makes the most delicious sugar alternative, maple sugar that acts exactly like white sugar.

Rapadura
One of the most popular natural sweeteners, rapadura is a fine brown powder that is not overtly sweet like brown sugar but does the same job. Made from sugar cane juice, rapadura is often used anywhere sugar is called for and can even be used while sweetening hot beverages. It has a distinctly caramel/molasses flavor and is becoming more and more popular with those who refrain from the unnatural sweet stuff.

Stevia
The new craze amongst diabetics and sugar haters, stevia in liquid or powder form is pretty spectacular. Sweeter than sugar and made from leaves, stevia acts as a potent sweet kick to any beverage or food. It is not recommended for baking, but without calories and added nutrients, stevia is a number one sugar replacement.

Sucanat
Similar to rapadura, sucanat is also made from sugar cane juice and can be used anywhere sugar is called for. Sucanat, however, is more similar to brown sugar in flavor, therefore anywhere a thicker, darker sweet is needed sucanat can come to the rescue. In granule form, sucanat becomes very sweet when dissolving or baking, so make sure to keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

 

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