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Natural Sweeteners

Guide to Natural Sweeteners
Barley Malt Syrup is made from whole barley which is sprouted to break down some of the carbohydrate into the simple sugar maltose. It is then ground and heated to make a thick syrup. It is 65 percent maltose and 30 percent complex carbohydrate. Barley malt is a good substitute for brown sugar. It is delicious in hot breakfast cereals, cookies, breads, muffins, and recipes using carob.

Brown Rice Syrup is made from fermented brown rice and sprouted whole barley. Like barley malt, it is ground and heated to make a thick syrup. It is 50 percent maltose and 37 percent complex carbohydrate. Because of its mild taste, it can be used as a substitute for white or brown sugar.

Fruit Concentrate/Sweetener includes frozen juice concentrates such as grape or apple juice and refrigerated jars of fruit concentrates which are typically blends of juices such as peach, pear, and pineapple juice. Fruit concentrates are thicker than fruit juice concentrates and are made by cooking whole fruits at very low temperatures until they have been reduced to a thick syrup. These are a combination of the simple sugars, fructose, glucose, and sucrose. Fruit sweeteners work well in most baked goods except white cakes and recipes using chocolate. They are excellent for sweetening homemade lemonade, hot breakfast cereals, and plain yogurt.

Granulated Brown Rice Sweeteners are made from dried brown rice syrup or a combination of dried brown rice syrup and powdered grape juice concentrate. They contain 33 percent or more complex carbohydrate. Brown rice sweetners have a very mild flavor and can be used to replace white or brown sugar in baked goods. Because of their light brown color, you may not want to use them in white cakes, white frostings, and meringues.

Granulated Cain Juice is made from organically grown sugar cane juice that has been filtered and dehydrated. It`s a simple sugar that tastes much like brown or turbinado sugar; however, it`s less refined and contains more vitamins and minerals. Granulated cane juice can be used as a substitute for both white and brown sugar, but due to its brown color, you may not want to use them in white cakes, white frostings, and meringues.

Honey is a mixture of acid secretions from the glands of honeybees and nectar from flowers. Although honey is a natural sweetener, it is considered a refined sugar as the sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose while in the bee`s stomach. It is sweeter and higher in calories than refined white sugar, so use 3/4 cup or less of honey to replace one cup of sugar (see chart, left). Honey does contain some B vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. However, the enzymes are generally destroyed by high heat causing the honey to lose nutritional properties when used in baking. Honey is a nice sweetener in hot breakfast cereals, breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies. It is especially tasty in plain yogurt.

Maple Syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Thirty‚five to 50 gallons of sap are boiled to produce one gallon of maple syrup. Grade A maple syrup has a lighter color and flavor than Grade B, which is darker with a stronger flavor. It is 65 percent sucrose. It is an excellent sweetener in apple and pumpkin pie. Maple syrup also works well in carrot and spice cakes, muffins, and quick breads.
Molasses is a by‚product of the refined white, brown, and turbinado sugars. Sweet molasses or light molasses is the liquid left after the first extraction of sugar crystals. Blackstrap molasses is the liquid left after the last extraction of sugar crystals, and has a stronger, bittersweet flavor and is richer in potassium, calcium, iron, and B‚vitamins than sweet molasses. Both sweet molasses and blackstrap molasses are 70 percent sucrose. Sweet molasses is an excellent substitute for brown sugar. It adds a very nice flavor to baked beans, breads, muffins, gingerbread, and cookies.

Organic coconut sugar is made from coconut sweet, watery sap or nectar that drips from cut flower buds which is natural and organic. The sap or nectar is collected each morning and boiled in huge wok until a sticky sugar remains. The processing is purely simple, natural and farm technology level. This is a high-value product. Coconut sugar can be used in coffee, milk and an ingredient to any recipe that requires sugar like sweets, desserts and especially confectionary. It also enhances the flavor of curries and rich sauces for savory dishes. Because it is simply processed like the brown muscuvado sugar, the color, consistency, flavor and level of sweetness can vary from batch to batch, even within the same brand.
The color can be as light as creamy beige and as dark as rich caramel brown, and the consistency soft and gooey, or rock hard, depending on how long the sap or nectar was reduced.

Sustainable Sugar
The coconut palm tree has long been used and appreciated for its edible resources by tropical communities. Among the most delicious parts of this plant is its sugar: the crystallized nectar of the coconut palm flowers, known as palm sugar. More than just lending a sweet taste, this sweetener is also extremely ecologically friendly: coconut palms produce an average of 50%-75% more sugar per acre than sugar cane, while using only a fifth of the resources. It is no wonder that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized palm sweeteners as the single most sustainable sweetener in the world.
The Power Of Palm Sugar
The wonderful sweetness and planet-friendly attributes aside, this natural product is beneficial to the body as well. Navitas Naturals palm sugar is naturally very low on the Glycemic Index (GI35) – half the GI of cane sugar. Excitingly, palm sugar serves as an ideal sugar substitute for those watching glucose levels (such as diabetics), or those monitoring lipid levels and looking for weight control. This organic, evaporated palm sugar has a nutritional content far greater than all other commercially available sweeteners — with high amounts of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, as well as vitamin C and many of the B vitamins. As a natural as it gets, palm sugar is a pure and simple sugar alternative that provides the energy and nutrition needed for a healthy (and delicious) lifestyle.


To obtain panela, organic sugar canes are carefully washed, gently squeezed, and evaporated in the open air on small farms in Central and South America. The resulting gel is then poured into molds and cooled, and sold in hard bricks of various shapes. It is a traditional artisan product with all its original vitamins and minerals.

What sets panela apart from other sugar cane sweeteners is that it is completely unrefined. The first step of making any sugar is to press the juice and cook it down into a thick syrup. Panela stops there. The refining process takes panela and continues to boil it until crystals form, which separates the sucrose from the remaining liquid and all the nutrients. Refining continues until the cane juice is completely separated into refined white sugar, and black molasses. Any time you see a crystallized (or “granulated”) sugar, it’s been refined to some degree. Panela is not. There is no industrial process involved in making panela at all.
A nutritional analysis of panela shows why it has traditionally been considered a health-giving food. Panela contains significant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron–more than most commonly eaten foods.

Traditional cultures know that panela has some unique medicinal properties. It prevents tooth decay, nutritious anemia (due to iron deficiency) and rickets (due to vitamin C deficiency). It also provides energy without the “sugar rush” and blood sugar spikes that are the result of refined sugars.
In South America, the main use of panela is to make health drinks, known as Aguapanela or Papelon con Limon. These are extremely popular. They are given to infants and even cyclists drink them as a natural sport drink due to their high vitamin and mineral content. It is also used as a flu remedy.

Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Medical research has also shown possible benefits of stevia in treating obesity and high blood pressure. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. However, health and political controversies have limited stevia’s availability in many countries; for example, the United States banned it in the early 1990s unless labeled as a supplement. Stevia is widely used as a sweetener in Japan, and it is now available in Canada as a dietary supplement.

The agave plant has long been cultivated in hilly, semi-arid soils of Mexico. Its fleshy leaves cover the pineapple-shaped heart of the plant, which contains a sweet sticky juice. Ancient Mexicans considered the plant to be sacred. They believed the liquid from this plant purified the body and soul. When the Spaniards arrived, they took the juices from the agave and fermented them, leading to the drink we now call tequila.
But there is a more interesting use for this historic plant. Agave syrup (or nectar) is about 90% fructose. Only recently has it come in use as a sweetener. It has a low glycemic level and is a delicious and safe alternative to table sugar. Unlike the crystalline form of fructose, which is refined primarily from corn, agave syrup is fructose in its natural form. This nectar does not contain processing chemicals. Even better, because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed in your recipes. It can be most useful for people who are diabetic, have insulin resistance (Syndrome X), or are simply watching their carbohydrate intake.
Fructose has a low glycemic value. However, according to some experts, if fructose is consumed after eating a large meal that overly raises the blood sugar or with high glycemic foods, it no longer has a low glycemic value. Strangely enough, it will take on the value of the higher glycemic food. So exercise restraint, even with this wonderful sweetener. It is a good policy to eat fructose-based desserts on an empty stomach, in between meals or with other low-glycemic foods. Use it for an occasional treat or for a light touch of sweetness in your dishes.
This sweetener is sometimes called “nectar” and sometimes called
“syrup”. It is the same food.
The light syrup has a more neutral flavor.
In recipes, use about 25% less of this nectar than you would use
of table sugar. ¾ cup of agave nectar should equal 1 cup of table
sugar. For most recipes this rule works well.
When substituting this sweetener in recipes, reduce your liquid
slightly, sometimes as much as 1/3 less.
Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Agave nectar can be combined with Splenda to counter Splenda’s aftertaste
and to control the amount of fructose used.
The glycemic index of agave nectar is low.
As a food exchange, a one-teaspoon serving of agave nectar equals
a free food. Two servings or two teaspoons equals ½ carbohydrate

Substituting One Sweetener For Another
The granulated brown rice and cane juice sweetners are roughly equal in sweetness to refined white, brown, or turbinado sugar and can be substituted on a cup for cup basis without changing t anything else in the recipe.

When you substitute a liquid sweetener for a dry one or vice versa, you will have to adjust the recipe to end up with the right batter consistency. The chart (below) will help you modify your recipes when using natural sweeteners.

To replace 1 cup dry sweetener with 1 cup liquid sweetener: reduce another liquid by 1/3 cup or add 4-5 tablespoons flour.
To replace 1 cup dry sweetener with 3/4 cup honey: reduce another liquid by 1/4 cup or add 1/3 cup flour.

To replace 1 cup liquid sweetener with 1 cup dry sweetener: add 1/3 cup water.

To replace 1 cup liquid sweetener with 3/4 cup honey: add 1/4 cup water. Note: When using thick liquid sweeteners, heat the jar in hot water for five minutes to make pouring easier and spray measuring cups with vegetable spray to prevent sticking.

the average American consumes about 115 pounds per year. Since I don’t eat anywhere near that much, someone out there is eating my share. Someone is eating over two hundred pounds of sugar a year!?! Do you know what that can do to you? It can do this:

Suppress your immune system

Contribute to hyperactivity, depression and anxiety

Upset your body’s mineral balance

Increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease your HDL (good) cholesterol

Cause hypoglycemia and hypertension

Weaken your defense against bacterial infections

Cause migraines, arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, liver, colon, and kidney problems………

This is the short list. We need to find a way to eat a lot less of the stuff. I think that coconut palm sugar is a good substitute in many cases. This granulated form is not boiled down in the traditional way, but evaporated so that it still contains it’s vitamins and minerals and is enzyme active and truly raw. White sugar is striped of vitamins and minerals and highly refined.

Palm sugar is also eco-friendly. Coconut palms produce 50%-75% more sugar per acre than cane sugar,

while using a fifth of the resources. It’s thought to be the single most sustainable sweetener in the world.

The best news is that it’s low on the glycemic index scale, which rates how your body metabolizes sugars. Here’s a comparison: (Low is considered 55 and below)

Glucose 96 GI

White Sugar 64 GI

Brown Sugar 64 GI

High Fructose Corn Syrup 62 GI

Evaporated Cane Juice 55 GI

Molasses 55 GI

Maple Syrup 54 GI

Barley Malt Syrup 42 GI

Coconut Palm Sugar 35 GI

Raw Honey 30 GI

Brown Rice Syrup 25 GI

Agave Syrup 15 GI

I decided to test it out using my “go to” chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I make weekly for Mr RK. All I did was replace the 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup of brown sugar with 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar. Here are the results.

The cookie on your left is made with white and brown sugar. The cookie on your right is made from coconut palm sugar. The coconut palm sugar cookies did not spread as much so I needed to flatten the ball of dough before I baked it. They were also browner in color (from the start) even though they were cooked for the same amount of time. They were not quite as sweet or crispy as the regular sugar cookie but Mr RK thought they were good, and he eats most of them. Those chocolate chips are sweet enough.

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