By Gretchen Hein
Sweets, yum, yum! Rare is the person without a sweet tooth. With an abundance of alternative sweeteners, sweet treats no longer need be empty calories that send you off on a sugar high and then drop you into a crash. While processed sugars have been stripped of their fiber, vitamins and minerals, numerous natural alternatives are available.
These alternatives retain their nutrients, some of which help the body metabolize sugars. Natural sweeteners are usually absorbed more slowly into the blood stream thus avoiding those highs and lows I mentioned earlier. Check out this partial list: agave, amasake, barley malt, brown rice syrup, concentrated fruit sweetener, date sugar, fruit juice concentrate, fruit juice, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucanat, and stevia, most of which can be found at New Leaf Market Co-op. Even applesauce, pureed bananas, raisins and prunes can also be used as alternatives to processed sugar. See any that are unfamiliar? Learn more with the Co+op Kitchen video on alternative sweeteners.
Not sure how to begin using natural sweeteners? No, problem, there are recipes galore, online, in magazines and recipe books. No need to give up your favorite, family recipe, either. However, you may need to be willing to experiment. There are general guidelines to follow such as reducing the amount of sweetener as well as the amount of liquid when using a liquid sweetener. PCC Natural Markets website has a conversion chart that will take most of the guesswork out for you.
I’ve used natural sweeteners for the last 30 years and making substitutions has become second nature for me. I don’t think I ever made anything that wasn’t eagerly consumed, but there may have been a pie that didn’t quite hold together every now and then. Be adventurous and try something new, better for you. Over time you may be surprised to find that you prefer your sweets au natural.