You may feel bombarded with information or reports that sugar is bad for you. High fructose corn syrup and cane sugar may be items you try to avoid using in your kitchen. And yet, sometimes life requires a little bit of sweetness. It is true that sugar is sugar. When you consume sugar in any form, your body is going to recognize it simply as sugar. And yet, it can be fun to search out other natural options to sweeten foods rather than simply spooning in the table sugar. Here are 10 natural sweeteners and how to incorporate them into your cooking.
10. Raw Honey
You can find honey at your grocery store in two forms. Check the label when purchasing honey to see if you are reaching for honey or raw honey. Many honey products have been pasteurized and no longer contain all of the nutrients found in raw honey. According to Nature Nate’s, raw honey is unprocessed. Therefore, it retains pollen and many of the nutrients that would have been removed during the pasteurization process. Enjoy raw honey drizzled on oatmeal, blended into your fruit smoothie, or spread on whole wheat toast.
9. Real Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is not only sweet, but it also contains antioxidants, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Barred Woods Maple points out that these are nutrients you won’t find in white table sugar. Real maple syrup can be enjoyed in many recipes. Combine maple syrup with oats, nuts, dried fruit, and seeds to bake up a healthy granola. Drizzle sweet potatoes with maple syrup and cinnamon for a sweet side dish. Allrecipes has a recipe for Fall Harvest Baked Apples that calls for maple syrup in addition to apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and butter.
8. Medjool Dates
In addition to sweetening your recipes, Medjool dates will add extra fiber and nutrients to your foods. One date provides 66 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and small amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Detoxinista recommends making a Date Paste by blending Medjool dates and water in your food processor. You can whip up this sugar substitute in five minutes and store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Happy Healthy Mama has a recipe for Vegan Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars that uses pitted dates in the salted caramel sauce.
7. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is another sweet alternative to white table sugar. You may enjoy spooning coconut sugar into your coffee, adding it to homemade granola, or using it as a sweetener in baked goods. If you find your coconut sugar is coarser than you like, you can use your blender or food processor to grind it to a finer consistency. Yummly has a recipe for Coconut Sugar Snickerdoodle Bombs that uses coconut sugar in both the batter and in the sugary coating.
Molasses is available in light, dark, blackstrap, and sulfured varieties. When following a recipe, be sure to use the preferred type of molasses, as they vary in thickness and flavor. You can use molasses as a tasty glaze for carrots or ham. Use it to flavor baked beans or include it in a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce. Allrecipes has a recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Roast that calls for a pork butt roast, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, mustard, molasses, and spices.
If you love the taste of bananas, you may enjoy using them as a natural sweetener. A banana can provide flavor and texture as well as vitamins and minerals. Organic Authority reports that you can substitute one cup of mashed banana for one cup of sugar in some recipes. This works especially well in recipes that benefit from banana flavor. Ideas may include muffins, shortbreads, smoothies, and oatmeal. The Skinny Fork has a recipe for Healthy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that uses two mashed bananas as a sweetener.
4. Homemade Fruit Puree
Fruit purees, such as applesauce, can be used as sweeteners in certain recipes. Muffins are particularly forgiving when making this substitution. Keep in mind, you may need to decrease the amount of liquid in your recipe when replacing granulated sugar with a fruit puree. Furthermore, you may go through a lot of trial and error when first using fruit puree as a sugar substitute. Applesauce and raisins come together in Genius Kitchen’s recipe for Sugar Free Applesauce Raisin Muffins. Meanwhile, Delish has a recipe for Applesauce Cookies that contains no added sugar.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from a plant in the Asteraceae family. This zero-calorie sweetener is many times sweeter than table sugar, so you need less of it when cooking or baking. SweetLeaf offers a conversion chart for determining how much stevia is needed to replace sugar. For example, 1 teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 1/8 teaspoon of SweetLeaf stevia granules. The American Diabetes Association warns that using sugar substitutes may alter the taste, color, texture, and density of the finished product.Related: 5 Reasons to Take a Hard Pass on Sucralose
2. Monk Fruit
Monk fruit is a fruit grown in southeast Asia. According to the International Food Information Council, the sweetener extracted from this fruit is 100-250 times sweeter than table sugar. It can be used in recipes for dressings, baked goods, and beverages. When substituting monk fruit for sugar, check the package to determine the proper substitution quantities of sweetener for sugar. Warning: while monk fruit sweetener has no calories, the highly sweet taste may train your taste buds to crave even more sweetness.
1. Balsamic Glaze
You can reduce flavorful balsamic vinegar down to a balsamic glaze that adds a sweet touch to meats, vegetables, or salads. Simply simmer dark balsamic vinegar in a heavy pan for around ten minutes at medium-low heat. Whisk continuously to prevent burning. You can use this syrup as a delicious balsamic glaze for roasted vegetables. Simply place veggies such as carrots, onions, sweet potato chunks, and summer squash on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are brown and tender. Remove from oven and top with your balsamic glaze.Related: 13 Things You Need to Stop Doing if You Want to Lose Weight