Satisfying a “Sweet” Tooth: Healthy Sweets for Holiday Cooking

Right after we finished putting the Straw Bale Garden to bed (i.e. composting for next year), froze the last of the peppers and tomatoes for winter stews, and carved our Halloween pumpkins, along came the season filled with not only hearty soups and stews, but also pies, breads and cookies.


Winter vegetables for soups and stews are pretty straightforward, but the choice of sweeteners gets more complicated. There are increasing types of sugar accompanied by shrewd advertising. Through this blog, I hope you gain a better understanding of healthier “sugar” choices and how to use them. In my next blog, I will discuss using the sweetness of whole foods. In the meantime, enjoy baking and creating.

All sugars, even healthy sugars, increase blood sugar and make our bodies more acid.  The body can buffer an acid pH but it requires minerals, especially calcium from our bones and magnesium.  (FYI: 1 molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of Magnesium to metabolize the sugar.)

If you usually eat a high protein diet or experience bone loss, remember to use sugar in moderation. Cookie Monster had it right: “Cookies are a sometimes food!”

The following are SWEETENERS TO AVOID:

  • Refined pure cane sugar: 90% of nothing!
  • Artificial sweeteners: Nutrasweet and Equal (AKA aspartame); Sweet n Low (AKA saccharin); and Splenda (AKA chlorinated sucralose)
  • Beet sugar is genetically modified
  • Soy lethicin is genetically modified
  • High fructose corn syrup raises blood sugar higher than refined white sugar and raises triglycerides
  • Agave nectar is higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup
  • Turbinado or demerera sugar (AKA “Sugar in the Raw”) is a misleading name and only slightly less processed than refined white sugar

The following is a list of HEALTHY SWEETENERS (organic is even better):

  • Sucanat: SUgar CAne NATural
  • Rapadura sugar: organic sugar rich in iron
  • Refined Stevia: from Rebaundina plant of the Chysanthemum family is rich in calcium, phosphorous, sodium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamins A & C and 300 X sweeter than sugar and good for diabetics
  • Date sugar: don’t bake with date sugar because it doesn’t melt
  • Maple syrup: purchase only pure Grade B maple syrup, not artificial maple-flavored syrup
  • Blackstrap molasses has B Vitamins, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium
  • Brown rice syrup: butterscotch taste and good for diabetics
  • Barley malt
  • Raw honey: do not use with infants or cook with it above 117 degrees C.
  • Vegetable glycerin: thick syrup of coconut or palm oil
  • Birch sugar (AKA xylitol) is a sugar alcohol, which is good for diabetics but can cause serious intestinal discomfort

How SWEET IS SWEET compared to 1 cup of refined sugar?

  • Refined Stevia is 300X sweeter than refined sugar. Use 1 teaspoon of powdered stevia. Adjust for taste.
  • Sucanat and maple are just as sweet, but decrease recipe liquid by 1/4 c.
  • Honey tastes sweeter. Use 1/2 c honey and decrease recipe liquid by 1/4 c.
  • Date sugar tastes about 70% as sweet. Use 2/3 c date sugar. Use on cereal or in beverages.
  • Molasses tastes about 70% as sweet. Use 1/2 c molasses and decrease recipe liquid 1/4 c.
  • Barley malt tastes 50% as sweet. Use 1-1/4 c barley malt and decrease recipe liquid 1/4 c.
  • Rice syrup tastes 25% as sweet. Use 1-1/4 c barley malt and decrease recipe liquid 1/4 c.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– Alice

L. Cerier. The Quick and Easy Organic Gourmet. Station House Limited, Barrington, New York.
A. Gittleman, PhD. Get the Sugar Out. Three Rivers Press, New York.
M. Warner. Pandora’s Lunchbox. Scriber. New York. (accessed 14 November 2016)

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