The Ultimate Guide To Sweeteners

(photo by Sonja Langford)

So I talked about why added sugar should not be a regular part of our diets, but even I refuse to eat my avocado brownies without some sweetness in them. And praise the Lord, not all sugar is created equal. So here's a fairly short list of the most common sweeteners we encounter and whether or not we should give them the time of day!

Sweeteners to avoid:

Pasteurized Honey
Yes, that cute little squeeze bear in your pantry. The average brand of honey you'll find in the grocery store has been pasteurized, heated to at least 161°F. This kills any beneficial enzymes, amino acids, and nutrients found naturally in the honey, and giving it that thick but flowing viscosity. C'mon guys, honey is not naturally "squeezable".

The agave plant has traditionally been fermented to make tequila, but more recently it's been touted as a "healthy" sweetener. But agave syrup is just another highly processed form of fructose that uses chemicals in the manufacturing process. 

Equal, Splenda, Sweet'n Low, and other artificial sweeteners 
Aspartame, sucralose, and all those little colorful packets sitting on the tables of diners. We know the consumption of these can lead to weight gain, and can mess with your gut's microbiome. But since they're still fairly new to the human diet, they jury's still out on whether or not they can cause more serious damage. Still, that's not something you wanna mess around with. I'm not really looking to be a guinea pig. Plus... they just taste gross.

White table sugar
Nutritionally bankrupt and harmful. 'Nuff said. 

Sweeteners to embrace:

Raw Honey
Honey in its raw form is different from the average honey you see in the grocery store. Since this honey hasn't been heated, its full of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. Bits of the honeycomb, pollen, and propolis (basically bee glue) are still present in the honey. (I've even found a little bee wing in one of my jars) Even the propolis in it of itself has a vast array of health benefits
And consuming local pollen can help with allergy sufferers. Past cultures used to use honey like we use Neosporin. It has anti-bacterial properties, and can be used to treat burns and wounds.
This brand is fantastic, and I use it pretty much anytime I need a sweetener in baking. Also, it tastes amazing. 

Maple Syrup
Made from the sap derived from a variety of maple trees, this stuff has been around for awhile. It's loaded with antioxidants and has high levels of zinc and manganese. Just make sure you're getting the real stuff. Most products are made of high fructose corn syrup, then add maple flavoring...whatever that is. Look for "100% pure maple syrup", and of course, read the ingredients label.
Maple syrup is great because, at the end at the end of the day, ya can't pour raw honey over pancakes. 

Stevia is often bunched in with other artificial sweeteners, but it's not artificial at all. It's an herb that has grown in popularity in more recent years, but it's been used in ancient cultures. It's 100-200 times sweeter than white sugar, so you really only need a little when using in recipes. It also has a low glycemic-index, meaning that it doesn't raise blood sugar levels when consumed. And some studies show it may actually help increase insulin sensitivity.
But since stevia has become popular, it's common to see it in may different forms. So try and stay away from highly processed ones. (ground up stevia leaves don't turn into white powder on their own)

P.S I'm not suggesting that you gorge on spoonfuls of raw honey daily. (although I lowkey imagine that's what heaven is like) But if you are gonna use sugar in some form, stick with the traditional sweeteners that have some sort of nutritional value, and have stood the test of time. I mean, like this is just cool. 


(photo by Jennifer Pallain)

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