Natural sweeteners are an excellent addition to many recipes for the health conscious cook. A sweetener is considered natural if it has not been chemically altered or processed. Most natural sweeteners, except for Stevia, still have a high glycemic affect and may not be appropriate for diabetics. Any food that is less processed, however, will require a lower amount in a recipe and will be more healthy overall, even for a diabetic.
It’s important to try to use less sugar in your diet, whether the sugar is natural or not. It’s also important to pair sugary foods with fiber, protein, or fats to slow down the glycemic affect on the body. This helps even those without risk of diabetes to help maintain a steady mood and steady blood sugar. As you eat more naturally sweet foods, such as fruit and certain vegetables, your taste and cravings will change.
Check with your nutritionist or doctor about the appropriateness of these sweeteners for you specifically. Organic versions of these ingredients are always best because when a food is certified organic, it is closest to its natural state. Organic foods lack the chemical residues from pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
There are several tools to have to help you properly utilize and extract natural sugars. A really excellent juicer can help you get sweet juice from a variety of foods that you might not otherwise think of. It’s also helpful to have a good amount of space in your refrigerator since raw and natural foods require more refrigeration than those with chemical preservatives.
Here are 6 healthy natural sweeteners:
1. Raw Sugar
Regular white sugar is highly processed and contains many ingredients that are best avoided. You can buy sugar that is “raw,” meaning unprocessed and closest to its natural state. Raw sugar is usually less white and less fine. Organic raw sugar is best.
2. Raw Honey
Honey in its natural form has not been cooked or processed. There are several different flavors of honey. Experiment with different flavors depending on the recipe you are making.
Agave usually comes in a syrup. It’s an excellent sugar substitute and works in raw and cooked foods.
4. Grape and Orange Juice
You can juice your own grapes and get a very potent sweetener. If you buy grape juice, make sure it’s not already supplemented with sugar or fructose. Orange juice is slightly less sweet and has a bit more of a specific taste, but does well in many bread and soup recipes.
Stevia is the best natural sweetener for someone with diabetes or for someone who is sensitive to blood sugar ups and downs. The stevia plant has long been used for its medicinal purposes in South America. You can buy a pure stevia liquid in dropper form. Be careful of stevia products as they are often supplemented with lactose or other sweeteners. It can take up to a month to get used to the unique taste of stevia but once you do, you’ll hardly know the difference.
6. Yams and Bananas
Cooked yams and bananas are very sweet. You can puree either into a vegetable soup to add some sweetness. Pureed yams can also naturally sweeten bread recipes and very ripe bananas can be used in a bread where you don’t mind some banana taste. Yams are a bit more mild so might work better with other recipes.