We have many options for how to sweeten food these days, particularly considering the abundant artificial and natural sugar substitutes on the market. Most of us want to eat sweet things on a regular basis, but with Diabetes and obesity so prevalent these days, warning about the dangers of too much sugar has become a rich media topic. What to do with your sweet tooth?
We want it all in the hunt for the perfect sweetener; one that tastes, looks and acts like cane sugar but doesn’t go straight to the belly or overstress the pancreas. As sugar has become one of those foods we are taught to avoid, where do we go from here? My rule is to always avoid artificial or chemical sweeteners. These are ones containing sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, or neotame. Some of these have been linked with cancer and other health problems in test rats. These types of sweeteners can also lead to obesity, by lowering bodily levels of serotonin – the neurotransmitter which tells you when you are full.
There are sweeteners that I like and recommend, and others I try to avoid completely. When I am choosing a sweetener I look for the following things:
- Nutritional benefit
- Satisfying flavor
- Slow to absorb
- Natural and minimally processed
- Contain nutrients
- “Real food” as opposed to chemical.
Sweeteners I use and recommend when making a dessert or satisfying a sweet tooth include:
- Real maple syrup – I use grade B, organic maple syrup. Grade B is less processed and has more nutrients.
- Raw, unfiltered local honey- It is full of enzymes, proplis, pollen, and vitamins. If made locally, it may help with seasonal pollen allergies.
- Liquid Stevia- Although processed, it is made from a very sweet herb that can be grown here in Florida. It is about 60 times sweeter than sugar and acts as a blood-sugar balancer.
- Rapadura or Succanat- Two brands of unrefined cane juice that has been dried and granulated. I like this type of sugar because it is full of nutrients and is minimally processed. It has a rich flavor, as the molasses is still present (not to be confused with “sugar in the raw” or “turbinado sugar” which are both basically white refined sugar with added molasses).
Other good sweeteners are molasses and date sugar. Remember that fruit is always a good way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Even vegetables and nuts have some sweetness and can sometimes do the trick. It makes healthy sense to limit any sweetener, and eat sweets for the occasional dessert, but not with every meal.