Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guide to Natural Sweeteners

Yesterday, we talked about one of the Maker's superfoods: raw honey. But there are other sweeteners as well that meet the Maker's specifications for health. They must all be used in moderation (even honey) as excess use can upset body chemistry just as much as white sugar does, (albeit white sugar does mess things up every time, not just when used in moderation!) but there are some really good ones out there.

I know we're in the middle of a series on the Maker's superfoods, but I thought I'd pause while on the topic of raw honey to show you which sweeteners will bring health to your family, and which won't!

Accepted sweeteners on the Maker's Diet: (see p. 224)

1. Organic, raw honey (see my post yesterday)
2. Organic, whole, unrefined evaporated sugar cane juice: aka "Rapadura"
3. Organic maple syrup
4. Organic Stevia

Ok, so now some explanations are in order. What on earth
is Rapadura, and what really counts as "raw" honey?

definitions are taken from p. 537 of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

1. Organic, raw honey:
"Honey that has not been heated over 117 degree is loaded with amylases, enzymes that digest
carbohydrates, as well as all the nutrients found in plant pollens... Glucose tolerance tests indicate that, for most people, honey does not upset blood sugar levels as severely as does refined sugar. Buy honey labeled "raw and use it in desserts that do not require heating."

2. Organic maple syrup:
"The concentrated sap of huge deciduous trees, maple syrup is rich in trace minerals, brought up from below ground by teh tree's deep rots. It imparts a wonderful flavor to cream-based desserts and may be used in baked goods, such as muffins and pancakes. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is used in the production of most commercial maple syrup."

3. Organic Rapadura:
"Rapadura is the commercial name for dehydrated cane sugar juice, which the people of India have used for thousands of years. It is rich in minerals, particularly silica. Rapadura has a wonderful flavor and closely mimics sugar in chemical properties. It gives the best results for
cookies and cakes but be careful not to overdo- in large amounts Rapadura can upset the body chemistry just as much as sugar..."

4. Stevia Powder:
"A sweet powder made from a South American herb, stevia can be used by those who are sensitive even to natural sweeteners. As it does not add bulk, it is difficult to use successfully in baked goods; but stevia powder is a good sweetener for salad dressings, smoothies, whipped cream and pie crusts."

In our family, we love using organic raw honey and organic dehydrated cane juice (Rapadura) for our sweeteners of choice. The Rapunzel brand of Rapadura is a really good one. Look at your local health food market for it or buy it online:

You already know about our family's favorite brand of raw honey, Really Raw Honey. We don't use organic maple syrup often, but when we do, it is delicious in plain, organic whole milk yogurt (preferably raw if possible) and on sprouted/soaked pancakes! You can buy organic Stevia at your local health food market if you want to give it a shot. I'm sure you can also find it easily online!

A note on the Rapadura: there is serious confusion regarding this type of sugar. That's because there are all kinds of sugars marketed as "natural" and healthy these days. Some of them are healthy, and others are not. Your best bet is to stick with the products I have outlined above, to spare yourself confusion and to ensure you are getting the highest amount of nutrients possible in your sweeteners. (Even though they really should be used sparingly, but it's totally unrealistic to never have sweets!)

For example, there is also "evaporated cane juice," "turbinado sugar," "sugar in the raw," etc. It is very confusing to walk down a health food store aisle. What I have discovered in my research is that all of these sugars are processed differently. Some, like "turbinado" and "sugar in the raw" are not too far removed from white sugar. They also metabolize in your body like white sugar does. Basically, I only use and recommend using Rapadura and evaporated cane juice. Sugar labeled "Rapadura" (Rapunzel is the only brand I know of marketing this product in the U.S.) is the absolute most pure form of sugar. However, evaporated cane juice is OK, but Rapadura is the purest, with the most nutrients and minerals intact.

My advice: if you want a white sugar subsitute that's not a liquid (e.g. honey or maple syrup) then use Rapadura. However, most organic sweets that are marketed (like Julie's ice cream, the best ice cream I have ever tasted!) in health food stores will contain evaporated cane juice. I think this is OK for these limited products, but it shouldn't be most food that you eat. I.e., make it the exception, not the rule! It's always best to make your own sweets with your Rapadura anyway!

I don't use other types of sugar because most of them are more refined. So if a product says, "Organic sugar" I won't buy it, because I don't have any way of knowing the processing of that product. I'll talk some more the next post about sugars and sweeteners you should avoid.

In the meantime, go get some Rapadura! ;)


Cindy Dy said...

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