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Yesterday I received a call from a friend who was on her way to the market and asked me, “What can I use as a sweetener without using sugar?” She went on to say that she wants to get on a healthier track and she knew that refined white sugar simply isn’t the way. “Well,”, I suggested, “I’d say start using agave… Nah, go for maple syrup….but then there’s always honey…” By the time I finished  speaking I was baffled by what would be the best alternative!

Though I mainly use maple syrup and agave nectar, I too began to question a few products that’s used to sweeten one’s ” ‘ades” on the spot or give baked goods that sweet kick.

HONEY is an item that’s often presented as a healthy alternative to refined sugar, but there is some controversy about that. There is debate among vegans as to whether honey is technically vegan-friendly or not. The reasons are all very technical, but I say it’s really just a personal choice. Nevertheless, some people have similar reactions to honey as they would with processed sugars. This is especially common in children, in whom it can trigger ADD/ADHD-like symptoms. It is high glycemic, and hits the body as a hard sweet.

Raw, unpasteurized honey is rich in elements which can help with wound healing, kill bacteria, soothe sore throats and digestive upset, as well as decrease local allergy symptoms. Honey is sweeter than standard sugar, so you need less in baking or cooking.

MAPLE SYRUP is an excellent substitute for sugar. It is high in trace minerals like zinc and manganese, which can assist in heart health and in balancing cholesterol levels. The downside is that it is pricey. You also want to be conscious of which grade of syrup you’re getting: Though all the grades are safe, Grade C (the darkest amber syrup) is the best, since “Grade A” (the lighter supposed more desirable of the various grades, A, B and C) can contain formaldehyde runoff from the first extraction of the syrup under certain processing conditions.

The Master Cleanse uses maple syrup in their body cleansing recipe. I use it to top off a fluffy stack of blueberry pancakes or savory pecan french toast sticks. YUM 🙂

AGAVE is a sweetener extracted from a South American cactus. Often called “honey water,” agave nectar or agave syrup is light, both in taste and color. It is runnier than honey and tastes much milder, but is in fact sweeter so even less is required in cooking. Agave is extraordinarily low glycemic – it has almost no impact on blood sugar, making it an ideal sweetener for diabetics and those who are sensitive to sugars.

Try putting two open vanilla pods in a glass jar with your agave nectar, let it infuse for 48 hrs., then enjoy it with South African Rooibos tea or drizzle over fresh sliced Bosc pears.

Lastly there’s STEVIA, which is said to be the most perfect sweetener for the human body. It’s sold as a dietary supplement, and can be found in either liquid or powdered form in health food stores. In baking, you substitute only a tiny amount for normal sugar – 1/4 to 1/32 the amount of sugar called for. Stevia has been shown to support the function of the pancreas – increasing enzyme availability and improving your body’s ability to process other sugars. It has also been shown to reduce cavities and has few to no calories.

Hopefully this information will give you the knowledge to experiment a little and tweak your “sweet-o-meter” until it’s just perfect for your liking.


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