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Answering Your Questions: Sugar!

February 22, 2013

Reading Sheri asks:

Q. Which do you think is the better sweetener: Stevia, Truvia, Agave, honey or raw sugar?

A. Oh this can be so confusing, can’t it?!  We are all just trying to eat better and there are just way too many choices.  And each one is marketed to be THE best.  Here’s the thing, if they have to market it to you with fancy labels, bells and whistles, it’s likely not a food.  Real food doesn’t require all that.  I mean, think about it: fruit and vegetables just have the little code to ring it up, unless it’s from the Farmer’s Market, then it has no labeling at all!  Meat from the butcher counter is wrapped in plain brown paper.  If you have to dress it up, it’s probably better to pass on it.

Food flow chart

But what about these sweeteners make them healthy or unhealthy?

  • Stevia is a plant, which you can actually grown and harvest and use to sweeten things yourself. However, we mistrust some of the commercial varieties.  Truvia is a chemical, derived from stevia, but is NOT stevia in its whole food form. It contains other ingredients besides stevia, including sugar alcohols.  Therefore, we do not consider it a food, rather a lab experiment and we get to all be guinea pigs for the Coco-Cola company who produces it through a highly secretive and patented extraction process. Hmmmmmm……  No thanks.
  • Agave, is a plant most commonly known for making Tequila.  If you had visions of someone essentially pushing the succulent through a juicer to get the sweetness out, think again.  In order to extract the “nectar” for commercial bottling, they use a chemical process that essentially turns it into high fructose corn syrup (which we all know to avoid like the plague, right?). Your body cannot tell the difference between the two. Traditional agave sweeteners use the leaves of the plant. Commercial varieties today use the starch from the root. The result is an unnatural product that raises your triglycerides the same way HFCS does.  Avoid.
  • Honey, love it! Especially if it’s raw and local. I won’t buy most commercial varieties because there is a lot of corruption and “honey laundering” going on.  There can be unsafe levels of heavy metals and essentially sugar water or HFCS fed to bees which make the honey no better than straight processed sweetener.   Commercial varieties usually contain no pollen whatsoever.  But raw and local is excellent for you, safe, and tasty!  Plus, it can help boost your immune system and build your defense against seasonal allergies.
  • Raw Sugar, if it’s truly a raw sugar than I like it–especially for baking. But don’t be fooled by brown sugars that are essentially just colored white sugars. Look for Organic Evaporated Cane Juice or Sucanat (which is short for sugar cane natural) or Rapadura.  We buy ours from Azure.

Then why not explore sweetening with other things.  A couple dates in your yogurt smoothie or a frozen banana.  No need to add any additional sugar!  Sometimes I put a piece of dried fruit, such as an apple ring, in my tea to give it just a hint of sweetness and delicious flavor and then I can eat the apple when I’m done!  And sometimes it’s a matter of learning to enjoy some foods without the sugar.  We’ve been so conditioned that everything should be sweet.  But when we finally wean ourselves off it, it’s amazing how good coffee can taste by itself or with a bit of cream.  Or plain yogurt with a few berries and a handful of raw oats.  Some foods are so amazingly flavorful on their own we don’t actually need the sugar.

So what sweeteners do you use most in your kitchen?

(Linked to Fight Back Friday!The Creative HomeAcre Blog Hop, and Tasty Traditions)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2013 11:09 am

    I use coconut or palm sugar! I love it. It feels/looks similar to Sucanat, and I experience absolutely no sugar crash from it. It is delicious on hot cereal as well as in my favorite Irish Breakfast Tea:)

    • February 22, 2013 11:59 am

      Oh yes! We’ve recently discovered coconut sugar. The kids LOVE it in their oatmeal.

  2. February 22, 2013 11:23 am

    Love that flowchart! I posted it up on my desk!

  3. Knifty Mama permalink
    February 22, 2013 12:46 pm

    what about pure maple syrup? sap of a maple tree boiled down…if you get the good stuff. it’s one recommended by Nourishing Traditions. That book has a whole section on a lot of sweeteners, how they’re made and which ones aren’t as bad…

    • February 22, 2013 1:45 pm

      Yes! And pure maple syrup is good for prostate health. A good reason to make pancakes on Saturday morning. 😉

  4. Mary permalink
    February 22, 2013 6:04 pm

    Thank you Daja for the good information 🙂

  5. March 1, 2013 10:26 am

    Great info! Thanks for sharing on The Creative HomeAcre Hop!
    Hope to see you next time at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-creative-homeacre-hop-5.html

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