No matter how healthy you are or how well you eat you can still have an occasional craving for something a little bit sweet. Sugar is not the best choice when we want to indulge. If you have any doubt about the negative health aspects of sugar check out “Sugar Blues,” written by William Duffy. Artificial sweeteners come with their own problems, not the least of which is being potential carcinogens. How about trying a sweetener which is more natural and more health promoting? There are many natural alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners which can be used for baking, cooking and sweetening beverages.
There are several considerations to think about when choosing a natural sweetener. They are taste, how the sweetener will be used, its nutritive value, and its glycemic index.
The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system of carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar levels. The scale is based on a score of 1 to 100, with glucose measuring 100. The goal is to eat foods with as low a score as possible, as this usually indicates less of a fluctuation in blood sugar levels. A low score is a food that ranks 55 or less, an intermediate score is from 56-69, and a high score is 70+. An important consideration to keep in mind when determining a food’s glycemic index is something called the glycemic load (GL). The glycemic load is a combination of a food’s glycemic index along with the portion size consumed. The formula is: GL = (GI x the amount of available carbohydrate) divided by 100. The glycemic load is an even better indicator of food’s effect on your sugar levels. This is one of the many ways to judge a food’s quality and effect on your health. It is to be used only as a guideline.
Barley malt syrup is made from sprouted barley. It is similar to molasses, in that it is dark brown, as well as thick and sticky, and has a malty taste. Barley malt syrup is about half as sweet as sugar. It is a good idea to use no more than 40% barley malt syrup and then combine it with other sweeteners. It is a good choice for baked goods, specifically spice cakes and bread and adds tremendous flavor to baked beans. 1T has 50 calories. It is easy to digest and has a glycemic index of 42. It can be used in moderation by diabetics. Barley malt syrup is considered one of the healthiest natural sweeteners because it is from a whole food.
Blackstrap molasses is best unsulphured and organic. Other sources may be polluted with pesticides. It is a dark liquid byproduct of refining sugar cane into table sugar. It has a hearty, bittersweet flavor. Blackstrap molasses can be used in a lot of different ways. It is especially good in baked beans and gingerbread. It can also be used in smoothies, breads, muffins, cookies and even broccoli and tofu, pretty much anything regular sugar can be used for. It is high in iron and a very good source of calcium. Blackstrap molasses contains a variety of other minerals including manganese, copper, potassium and magnesium. There are 32 calories in 2 tsp. One tsp. supplies all of your chromium needs for the day. Chromium helps to metabolize sugar in the body. Blackstrap molasses has a glycemic index of 55.
Read on to part two of “Natural Sweeteners-Alternatives to Sugar” to learn about more options.