Just as cooking with certain flours and protein needed their own post (see Part 1), a whole post can easily be written on Sweeteners…
Sweeteners are a pretty sensitive subject. Some people use sugar, some stevia, and some people Splenda. It really is a personal choice and depends on your needs and goals.
Majority of this post is based on my personal opinion, and I’m not a doctor 😉
For the record, I use stevia & sucanat the most. I won’t be talking about artificial sweetener options, like Splenda, as I don’t use them.
Stevia is a no-calorie natural sweetener. There has been debate whether it should be considered a supplement or food additive. Its now approved almost everywhere to add into foods. Most people don’t know that stevia has been used in Japan for decades. They’ve banned the use of artificial sweeteners. Personally, I will always choose putting stevia over sucralose (Splenda) in a recipe. I like the taste, feel better about giving it to my family as its natural.
In recipes, I typically use the Krisda Stevia Baking Formula. Baking stevia’s have fiber added so they measure more cup for cup to sugar. I always include a packets conversion if you don’t have a baking formula on hand as they are tougher to find, whereas stevia packets are widely available. Krisda is only available in Canada at the moment, so my favorite brand in the US that also carries a baking formula is NuNaturals. Stevia in the Raw is a brand I haven’t tried myself, but hear its pretty good. Its also available in the US. I have used Truvia, and its good, the granular texture is useful in certain recipes. Most stevia’s are a blend, so be aware of that. Most use different fillers for extra fiber, bulk and to lessen the potent sweetness of stevia and the potential for a bitter aftertaste. Most of the time they are cut with natural sugar alcohols or fiber. You may see dextrose (from corn), inulin (fiber from veggies/fruit), erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol). Some stevia’s are more processed than others, that is true. If you want the absolute purest form, that is available too. In recipes, you’d only use 1/8 of a teaspoon to sweeten the entire recipe! Its THAT sweet! They are mostly sold in vitamin-type bottles.
Drops are a great option for stevia too. You only need about 10 drops maximum to sweeten something. Most people have to experiment with a couple different brands to see what they like. Don’t give up if you’ve tried in once and didn’t like it. Its really come a long way, and there are good tasting ones out there. Many people would find stevia to have an aftertaste, but they’ve really changed in the last few years.
Sucanat is whole sugar cane. Its very minimally processed. The taste is similar to a brown sugar. Slight molasses taste. It doesn’t dissolve as quickly as brown sugar, but that’s because its raw. Regular brown sugar is really no better than white granulated sugar. Sucanat is NOT zero calories. Nutrition breakdown in similar to regular sugar, although this type is much better for you.
If I do use a real sugar in a recipe (since stevia doesn’t melt, caramelize or harden), its usually sucanat.
3) Palm Sugar (aka Coconut Palm Sugar)
A great substitute for sucanat is palm sugar. It lends a similar taste. Its slightly less calories & carbs than sucanat. I consider them very similar. Some say it has one of the lowest glycemix indexes for a sugar, but I haven’t done enough research to confirm that.
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that comes from birch trees. Its also zero sugar. It does contain some carbs though. Its very safe and has numerous other health benefits. It inhibits bacteria in the mouth which makes it a great sweetener for chewing gums. It also can prevent ear infections in kids as typically the bacteria starts in the mouth, then travels to the ears. Honestly, I haven’t done much experimenting with xylitol in recipes as I like stevia. But if you don’t like stevia, xylitol is a perfectly great option. Ratios will depend on what you’re making. For a batch of muffins, I would start with 1/4 cup and increase as needed to achieve desired result.
Another natural sugar alcohol with zero sugars. Out of the sugar alcohols, this one contains quite a but of carbs. Its very bulky, and not as sweet as xylitol, so typically you’d need to use more. I’ve used it before in a recipe that was heated and didn’t like the result. I found it had a cooling sensation in the mouth. Different. Although I know people that use it and like it. So its an option.
6) Other Sugar Alcohols
There are plenty of other sugar alcohols I haven’t mentioned. I haven’t mentioned them because many people find they get stomach upset, gas and diarrhea with these other types of sugar alcohols. Since the body doesn’t digest them, it can cause some people issues. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend them….
Can’t forget about honey! It has its place in certain recipes. Even though it has the same amount of calories and sugar as regular sugar, its a better choice, you just have to watch consumption.
I now prefer honey over agave, as its not made up of all fructose like agave is. Fructose converts to fat more easily than glucose which is what honey is primarily made up of. Glucose is utilized by the body as energy more than fructose.
8. Maple Syrup
Another great option depending on the recipe. Also containing calories and sugar, its runnier than honey, so keep that in mind if the recipe calls for honey, as it may effect the final outcome depending on what it is.
9) Brown Rice Syrup
This thick syrup is a great substitute for honey if you are wanting less sugar than honey in a recipe. It doesn’t contain as many sugar calories as honey. I find with brown rice syrup, I don’t get the sugar rush from it, so that’s great! Its sweet, but not super-sweet like honey. In recipes, it can keep the sugars lower. It works well in no-bake recipes as a sub for honey. Brown rice syrup and stevia together to bump up the sweetness would be a great combo.
So I think that covers all the sweeteners I’ve dabbled with!
QUESTION: I’m curious, what’s your favorite sweetener?