Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unrefined sweeteners verses Refined and Artificial

I have been doing a lot of research on sweeteners lately, and I've decided to write a blog about it (at least the ones that I use), discussing the positives and negatives of each one. Most of these sweeteners have a few things in common: 1) They contain minerals and nutrients that are not found in refined white sugar (so, it's not just empty calories), 2) They take longer to break down; therefore, you are satisfied longer and there isn't as much of a change in blood sugar, 3) They contain much less sucrose, 4) Most contain more flavor, and 5) Some of these sweeteners, you can use less of.

Sucanat: made by keeping together the sugar and molasses. All of the nutritional benefits of molasses remain. This has a strong molasses flavor. This product is dry (like flour), has many vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. This has a much lower sucrose level than white sugar. It is easier to blend, and creates a smoother texture in baked goods.

Unrefined sugar: made from sugar cane juice. It is released by pressing sugar cane stalks. It is typically 50% less processed than refined sugar, and contains more molasses. There isn't quite as much molasses in this as in sucanat. We use this the most (we buy it in the "Latino foods" section at Walmart for the same price as white, refined sugar!).

Molasses: contains the most vitamins, minerals, and trace elements (iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) because it comes straight from the sugar cane plant. There are two types: 1)Blackstrap (stronger flavor) and 2) Barbados (lighter and sweeter flavor). You can use 1/2 of this to produce the same sweetness.

Fructose: natural sugar found in plants and fruits. This is highly refined, but it is absorbed more slowly into your body, so it produces smaller fluctuations in blood sugar. You can also use much less of this to produce the same amount of sweetness (1/2 to 3/4 the amount). I use this in my tea because it tastes like sugar.

Honey: this is sweeter than sugar, and has more calories. The great thing about it is that you can use much less (about 1/2), and it contains medicinal benefits as well as enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.

Stevia: a natural herb, calorie free, and contains no artifical sweetners (saccharin or aspartame). It dissolves nicely in cold drinks. I use this one, as well, in tea. You can find this in the health foods section at HEB (if you have one where you live!), or probably in any health food store. It is a bit expensive, but completely worth it!

Information found at:

Now, onto why not to use artifical sweeteners:
- There are 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame! Check out to see a chart submitted by the FDA on the symptoms attributed to aspartame.
- I haven't really done much research on Splenda yet, but just seeing it fizz in my coffee when I was out of town was enough to make me not want to use it! I will get back to you once I have done more research on the risks of it!

1 comment:

Lisa Clark said...

These are some of my own observations about various sweeteners. When we did try splenda, Silas would get awful stomach aches. I did some research and we quit using it right away. We use sucanat most of the time, but ran out this month. I missed our buying club order so I bought a bag of white sugar. Savannah made another batch of fudge using the same amount of sugar as we use of sucanat. It was WAAAY too sweet. None of us liked it at all! I think we've gotten so used to natural sweeteners that we don't like the too sweet taste of white sugar anymore.

The health benefits from honey are best you use get raw, unpasteurized honey. We have a local supplier who breeds his bees to be resistant to the mites killing so many hives. He is the only beekeeper in AL who is not chemically treating his hives. Maple syrup is another good sweetener that we like to use in some recipes. We also use xylitol. You see this used in breath mints and tooth paste because it actually fights cavities. It's available in health food stores and is not calorie free, but has less effect on blood sugar levels. But it's very expensive.

We get our sweeteners through a wholesale buying club, saving 50 to 75% off health food store prices. I couldn't afford health food store prices. But if I was back in Texas I'd love to check out Sun Harvest Farms. I remember they had health food at much better prices than typical.