Sarah Pope is a local chapter leader in Florida. She also blogs as The Healthy Home Economist.
Transcript: Natural Sweeteners
By Sarah Pope
Refined sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup are a true villain of health, stealing away vitality and adding pounds to one’s backside in short order.
These displacing foods of modern commerce as described by Dr. Weston A. Price not only contain large amounts of refined sweeteners syrup but also contain little to no nutrition to compensate for these empty calories.
Avoiding processed sugar through use of artificial sweeteners is even more damaging to health as consumption of artificially sweetened foods appears to increase the odds of overweight by triggering overeating. And just as with sugar, artificial sweeteners can be addictive.
Sweets need not be avoided completely, however. It is possible to be healthy and still satisfy the natural and instinctive desire for sweet things with homemade desserts that are both nutritious and delicious.
The key is to use only whole, unprocessed sweeteners.
Since individual reactions to even natural sweeteners vary widely, it is a good idea to test your pulse before and after eating different ones. An increased pulse of more than a few beats per minute likely indicates a reaction
The key to eating sweets safely once you have determined which whole sweeteners suit you best is to always consume them in the presence of fat –whether that be cream on fruit, egg yolks in custards, or butter and eggs in cakes, cookies, puddings and pies. Fat consumed with sugar in any form greatly slows down the blood sugar rise from absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream
It is also a good idea to limit desserts to special occasions and one or two nights a week after dinner only. Keeping sweets accessible around the house, even if homemade, is too tempting for most people, especially children.
Let’s spend a few minutes identifying which sweeteners can be considered truly natural – meaning no original nutrients have been removed:
Maple syrup is rich in trace minerals and imparts wonderful flavor to baked goods, cream-based desserts and of course, pancakes and waffles.
Be sure to seek out Grade B maple syrup, which is darker and richer in minerals and flavor than Grade A maple syrup. Grade B is also sometimes less expensive than Grade A.
“B” stands for “Better” when it comes to maple syrup!
Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup. It has a delicate flavor and good chemical properties. However, it is very expensive, and usually must be purchased on the Internet.
Sucanat is the best substitute for white or brown sugar in your recipes for cookies and cakes. It is simply dehydrated cane sugar juice and has been used for thousands of year by the people of India.
Sucanat is widely available in healthfood stores and through bulk co-ops for maximum savings. I typically split a 50 lb bag of sucanat with a friend and this easily lasts my family a year or two. It stores without spoiling in the garage in a 5 lb bucket with a tight fitting lid.
Be careful not to overdo on the sucanat as eating too much can upset blood chemistry very much like white sugar. Also, don’t buy turbinado or other sugars labeled as raw as the nutrients have still been removed from these products. In a pinch, turbinado sugar can be used with small amounts of molasses added back in.
My Grandmother’s molasses cookie recipe is one of my children’s all time favorites! A beneficial byproduct from the production of white sugar, molasses has a very strong taste and contains many minerals including iron, calcium, zinc, copper, and especially chromium which is important for the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels.
Molasses is delicious stirred into a glass of whole, raw milk. Instead of iron supplements, I took it straight off the spoon almost daily during the last trimester of my pregnancies to help maintain optimal iron levels.
Malted Grain Syrups
Malted Syrups, usually made with barley, have been used for thousands of years particularly in Asia. While malted syrups do not contain much in the way of nutritional value, they offer a real alternative to other sweeteners in that they contain very little fructose which is harmful in large amounts .
If you have a compromised gut environment, the following whole sweeteners may prove to be even better choices due to their ability to be fully absorbed even when the digestion is imbalanced:
Seek raw honey from local producers if possible as it can prove beneficial for thwarting seasonal allergies. Raw honey is loaded with beneficial digestive enzymes that are destroyed by heating above 117 degrees F so be sure to use in desserts that do not require heating.
Do not give honey to infants, however, as young babies are not equipped with sufficient stomach acid to tolerate honey in its raw state.
Stevia is a sweet powder made from a South American herb that can be used even by people who are sensitive to other whole sweeteners.
Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, so just a pinch is all that is needed to replace an entire spoonful. Stevia does not work very well in baked goods but it is an excellent sweetener in salad dressings, smoothies, whipped cream, puddings, and pie crusts.
Take care to find green stevia powder, which is the unprocessed whole form of stevia leaf unlike the processed white stevia powders and stevia liquids that are popular in healthfood stores.
Date sugar is made from dehydrated dates and contains the amino acid tryptophan which has a calming effect, making it a good choice for sweets made for hyperactive children.
Date sugar does not dissolve well and so is not as suitable for cookies and cakes but goes very well with breakfast porridges and cream-based desserts where a little crunchy texture is delightful.
Coconut Sugar and Coconut Nectar
A newly discovered sweetener on the market is coconut sugar and coconut nectar. These low glycemic sweeteners are the ideal alternative to agave nectar which has become very popular in alternative health circles but is actually a highly processed sweetener manufactured in a manner similar to high fructose corn syrup.
Coconut nectar in particular is similar in texture to malted grain syrups and can be used in place of maple syrup on pancakes and waffles.
I hope you’ve found this catalogue of whole sweet foods helpful in navigating the minefield of sweeteners on the market today. By sticking with traditional, whole sweeteners and limiting consumption to only a few days each week, you can satisfy that inborn sweet tooth and still maintain vibrant health.
Be sure to order the Shopping Guide from the Weston A. Price Foundation to find a complete list of healthy sweeteners and where to order them.
This is Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist blogger and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader. Thank you for watching today and I’m wishing you all the best in the kitchen!