Now after Tuesday’s post on sugar, I’m sure you’re going to stare clear of the stuff. Life is not definitive, though. I frequently get exasperations of, ‘I’m never going to eat anything sweet again!’ We do live in a land where sweet tooth’s run rampant. You’re holiday baking or special occasion treats, should take into consider what sweetener option to use. Sugar comes in many colors and values, so let’s take a further look:
We all know this one. The highly processed sugar decorating most tables. It can come from either beet or cane with varying crystal sizes necessary for an assortment of foods. It is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. It has virtually 0 nutritional value and the beet sugar often comes from GMO sugar beets. This is definitely one that you should put in the Never Pile.
The color comes because the molasses stays. Their are less processed variations like rapadura that still have minerals and enzymes intact. Most of the common stuff is highly processed white cane sugar that has the molasses added back in (tricky bastards).
Evaporated Cane Sugar
Milled cane with a single-crysallization process
Usually it is pretty grainy, making it difficult to bake with. It’s lower amount of sucrose also makes it less sweet.
Raw sugar that is only partially processed (surface deep- the surface molasses is washed off). It is a popular beverage sweetener, especially tea.
This one I’d never heard of. Probably because those cooky Brits love the stuff. It is a specialty brown sugar; very dark in color and strongly tasting of molasses. It is minimally processed, but also courser and stickier.
Another one that I’d never heard of, but shockingly comes from across the Pond as well. It is a light brown raw sugar, with large golden crystals. Great for tea and coffee, which makes it fitting for those Brits.
Common in Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean, this one I’m starting to see more of. It is made from dried sugar cane juice in the form of a brick. Interestingly it is rich in dietary iron.
This sap comes from the Palyma palm, date palm or sugar date palm, although today you commonly see coconut palm used. It does tend to be really grainy, but the lighter touch with processing keeps much of the flavor. It does have a lower glycemic cane or beet sugar.
Unfortunately in the 70′s the Japanese realized that cornstarch could be converted to sugar. Today it is highly industrialized, chemical fermentation, and distillation that uses tons of energy. Would you rather your food come from a lab or from a tree?
I’ve been leery of this one for a while now. I used to use it in baking and it sometimes thought to be a better sweetener because of its low glycemic numbers, but its concentration of fructose that we covered the other day actually makes it more lethal. How bad is it? Some can be as high as 92% fructose! Yikes!
This one is interesting. It comes from the roots of a plant. It is glucose free and does not raise blood sugar. Fructooligosaccharides (a mouthful that can simply be condensed to FOS), comprises 50% of yacon’s makeup. Although it does not raise blood sugar, inulin-derived sweeteners tend to have larger quantities of fructose, so use with caution (which is really the basic rule with sweeteners: use in moderation and look for the best quality products). It usually has minimal processing.
Comes from brown rice, that is specially fermented so that the starches turn into sugars. It will raise insulin, and could possibly contain gluten if not labeled as gluten-free. Add to this that it’s not very sweet either.
The part that they take away from white sugar. The processing will fortify iron, calcium and magnesium. It’s hype for this may be a little overrated as the high iron, as well as calcium tends to prevent iron from being absorbed.
Fewer calories and more mineral concentration (namely manganese and zinc) than honey. It has 54 phenolic compounds if it is real maple syrup. The rating system pretty much correlates with color, the darker Bs are actually higher in bioactive compounds and have more antioxidant activity.
I’ve covered this before, but this is my current sweetener for baking (so that is raw, that I usually get locally as well). It’s redeeming qualities are that it has trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds. The exact makeup depends on what flowers are available to produce. When they pasteurize honey it decreases moisture, destroys yeast cells and liquifies crystals. Not to mention deteriorating vitamins and enzymes. Raw honey, on the other hand is mildly antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.
This comes from an ancient cereal grain (don’t freak, it’s actually gluten-free). Usually minimally processed into syrup so that it still contains antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals. Making it was pretty labor intensive, so it experienced a fallout during WWII, but there seems to be a resurgence and I’ve come across it in several recipes.
There are several types of alternative sweeteners, like sugar alcohols, stevia and aspartame, but I’ve covered them extensively in the past, so I am not going to today (click the link below to check them out). Obviously we learned in Tuesday’s post that sugar is scary stuff, if you’re getting a sweet treat (I’d recommend fruit first) or have a special occasion coming up, try and make the best possible selection of sweetener (probably a quality natural sweetener).