Whole Foods: Sweeteners

Alright my very last post in my Whole Foods series! And this last one is perfect for all of your holiday baking.

First off, I’m sure we all know that Americans eat way too much sugar. Currently it constitutes around 19% of our total daily calories. O.O

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Normal refined sugar is made:

  1. Cane stalks are crushed and pressed
  2. Juice is extracted
  3. The juice is then heated and lime is used to clarify the juice.
  4. It’s then centrifuged to spin off the liquid.
  5. Crystallized and made colorless with carbon.
  6. Filtered again.
  7. Crystallized again.
  8. Then stabilized and purified with chemicals.

Is sugar toxic? Interesting 60 Minutes documentary on the adverse effects of sugar.

  • It increases heart disease
  • Feeds cancerous tumors
  • And is addictive! (released dopamine in your brain!)

So in the end, sugar is sugar. But there are some alternative sweeteners that at least have environmental advantages, more flavor, and are less processed.

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Dry

  • Date Sugar – chopped up dried dates; doesn’t dissolve well.
  • Unrefined Cane Sugar
    • Sucanat – Dehydrated cane juice. Juice is reduced to a rich dark syrup which is dried into granules.
    • Florida Crystals – Cane is pressed and the juice is evaporated
    • Rapadura – unrefined, unbleached, evaporated cane juice.
  • Palm Sugar – Sap from date palm trees
  • Stevia – Actually lan herb plant native to Paraguay. Leaves are dried and steeped to make a liquid. Said to be 300x sweeter than sugar. Generally, 1 tsp = 1 cup sugar

Liquid

  • Agave Nectar – juice from the cactus like agave plant.
  • Barley Malt –  made from soaked, sprouted, cooked barley.
  • Brown Rice Syrup – Made from soaked, sprouted, and cooked rice.
  • Concentrated Fruit Sweetener – Made from peach, pineapple, pears, and other fruits cooked down into a syrup.
  • Honey – Cooled from bees!
  • Maple Syrup – Made from boiled sap of maple trees.
  • Pureed bananas/dates – ~.^
  • Sorghum – Concentrated juice of crushed and boiled sorghum stems.

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When replacing a granulated sweetener with a liquid sweetener (i.e. replacing white sugar with maple syrup) reduce liquid content in the recipe by 1/4 cup. If no liquid is called for in the recipe, add 3-5 tablespoons of flour for each 3/4 cup of liquid concentrated sweetener.

When replacing a liquid sweetener with a granulated sweetener (i.e. replacing honey with sucanat) increase the liquid content of the recipe by 1/4 cup or reduce the flour by 3-5 tablespoons. The dried or granulated natural sweeteners tend to absorb liquid. Check your dough or batter to see if it resembles the texture you are used to and consider adding an extra tablespoon of water or fat if it seems dry.

From Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

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Let’s just say, after this lecture I’ve decided to throw out my Sweet N Low since that’s the only synthetic sweetener I use. =/ Let’s just say that when there are so many other less processed sweeteners to choose from and studies show fake sweeteners causing issues with the thymus, kidneys, and liver it’s best to try something new.

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