1. Food

Understanding Alternative Sweeteners

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Understanding the difference between sweeteners will help when you’re trying to reduce white processed sugar consumption. Many of these alternatives include the added benefit of being rich in almighty minerals. Experiment with a variety of them to determine which suits your cooking style and your favorite dishes. Keep sugar-free foods in mind that may also be a suitable substitute. For example, this coconut jam could be stirred into a warm beverage in place of sugar.

1. Honey

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Honey is not only a super alternative to white sugar, it is also considered a super food in various cultures. Raw (unpasteurized) honey is rich in probiotics, friendly bacteria that is beneficial for the gut, aiding in immunity and digestion. The heating of honey destroys some of this goodness so eating it raw is best. This means that raw honey is not the sweetener to use for warm beverages or baking. It can be used to sweeten other foods that are eaten at room temperature or cooler.

2. Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar is derived from the coconut tree blossoms when the tree is tapped. It is enzymatically rich and high in Vitamin C and amino acids. This syrup can be used on pancakes or blended into smoothies. The flavor is quite mild and lends sweetness without a strong coconut taste.

3. Coconut Crystals, a.k.a. Coconut Sugar

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Coconut crystals are made from the nectar and also go by the name coconut sugar. It is made from the flowers of the coconut tree. This product often gets confused with another natural sweetener called palm sugar, but the two are different.

Coconut crystals melt nicely into a warm beverage and are good for sweetening other liquids such as the steaming liquid used for vegetables. They are a good sugar alternative when baking items that are not overly sweet, such as muffins.

4. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is rich in minerals such as manganese and zinc and is a naturally occurring sweet food. Tapped from maple trees, maple syrup is boiled and concentrated before being bottled. It is the syrup of choice for pancakes and waffles so it can be eaten as is. It is also a useful sugar substitute for baking or cooking. It can be used to sweeten everything from a salad dressing to a dessert. You’ll pay for quality syrup that is pure but you will taste and appreciate the difference immediately.

5. Monk Fruit Extract

Monk fruit extract is the latest addition to the natural and alternative sweetener market. It is derived from an exotic fruit that is a melon native to China. It is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Unfortunately, it often contains corn-derived dextrose. Corn crops are genetically-modified making this sugar alternative a poor choice.

6. Prune Extract

Prune extract is made from dried prunes. Often this is the only ingredient you’ll see on the label but double check the ingredient list on the one you’re purchasing. This sugar alternative will lend minerals such as calcium and magnesium to your food. It can be blended into whatever you’re eating or preparing but may not be the best choice for baking. It has a syrupy consistency so it lends well to sauces and smoothies.

7. Dates

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Dates are a real, unprocessed, warming, delicious alternative to white sugar. They are rich in minerals and are especially good for baking. Medjool dates are especially tasty and popular but others are just as good when used for cooking. Often dates will be soaked for a few minutes in warm water to soften them before adding them in with the other ingredients of a recipe. Be certain that the date you are eating or baking with does not contain the pit. If it does, it can be removed easily by hand.

8. Stevia

Stevia is a herb and therefore is calorie-free. It is widely considered safe for diabetics. It is dried and ground into a powder before reaching store shelves. Although it is not recommended for baking but does have a use as in place of white sugar. Stevia is good in cold or warm beverages. It can be shaken on top of a food for added sweetness. Some brands do leave a bit of an aftertaste while others don’t seem to. Liquid stevia is a little less strong and is excellent for sweetening smoothies or other liquids.

9. Sucanat

Sucanat is unrefined cane juice that has been clarified and evaporated. It is very similar to sugar but is higher in minerals and vitamins. Sucanat is sweeter than sugar so be mindful to use less of it.

10. Blackstrap Molasses

The biggest benefit of molasses is that it contains important nutrients such as iron and calcium. It blends easily into foods and is often used in baking. It can be used as is and may serve as an important iron source for vegans or anyone else that does not consume red meat.

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