Monday, April 25, 2011

Repost: Naturally Sweet and More Thoughts

A little over a year ago, I wrote this post:

I've been trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar we eat. I cut out devilish HFCS, but the yummy white stuff isn't angelic either. I'm trying to save it for occasional treats like birthday cake or other special desserts.

For more everyday-type baked goods (muffins, quick breads, etc) I replace oil with applesauce and reduce sugar by 1/3 to 1/2. If I'm leaving out brown sugar, a little added molasses maintains that warm sweetness. I sometimes use honey, depending on the recipe.

For breads, I always use honey.

Popsicles, yogurt, and oatmeal are sweetened with fruit purees or juice.

I usually don't sweeten my coffee, but I had an itchy tooth for a sweet cup this morning. I glanced at my sugar bowl, then opted for a drizzle of real maple syrup. Oh My Goodness. It is delightful! Try it!

Here's a list of sweeteners in pure form that I've tried:

Honey- Remember, if you buy local, you get great allergy protection! And for a touch of fun, check out my adorable new-to-me vintage honey pot!

Maple Syrup- The real stuff. Pancake syrup is sketchy. This is one of those things you probably want to buy organic...many brands contain formaldehyde. Gross. Did you know that maple syrup has more calcium than milk? For use in baking, sub 1c maple syrup and 1/4t baking soda for 1c sugar and reduce liquid by 3T for every cup used.

Fruit Purees- Applesauce is easy, but be adventurous! Purees have the added benefit of moisture, so you can replace oil or egg yolks in baked goods.

Fruit Juice- Juice is sweet on it's own, and concentrate is even sweeter. Many commercial concentrates are stripped of any nutrients, so I recommend making your own by bringing juice to a boil and simmering until reduced to 1/4 the original amount.

Edited to add: While minimally processed, fruit juice concentrates are high in fructose.

Molasses- Made from cane juice and high in calcium, potassium, and iron.

Sorghum Syrup- Sorghum cane juice, boiled down. Even if you don't buy organic, it has a low instance of pesticides because the cane is naturally insect-resistant.

I used to tout agave nectar, but I've been reading some sketchy things. Consumers are led to believe that it is some natural wonder, pressed from the leaves of the agave plant. Apparently, it goes through about the same level of chemical processing as HFCS. I will try to dig up some article links for you. For now, I'm looking for sweeteners whose processing involves no more than boiling.

I wanted to bring the subject up again after learning more about agave and fructose. Studies continue to show that fructose in large quantities poses health risks. The majority of agave sugars are converted into fructose during extensive processing. The end product--bottled agave nectar--is equally processed and contains as much fructose as HFCS! Not exactly a healthy option.