Since white table sugar is highly refined and virtually without nutrients and artificial sweeteners present some safety concerns, cutting back on their consumption is a wise choice.
Agave syrup, made from cacti, is a natural sweetener gaining popularity. Choose the least refined agave you can find (the darker the color, the better).
Barley malt tastes much like molasses. It’s great in carrot cake, spice cake, and squash dishes.
Blackstrap molasses is the thick, dark syrup that results after sugar crystallization has been carried out three times. It adds B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, and iron to the diet.
Brown rice syrup is produced from water, brown rice, and enzymes. It’s amber-colored, with a texture similar to honey and a delicate flavor.
Frozen juice concentrates are an easy and flavorful way to sweeten sauces and salad dressings. While they don’t contain the fiber of the fruit they were pressed from, they do retain many vitamins. Look for varieties like apple, orange, pineapple, and grape in the frozen foods aisles.
Honey is the product of bees who convert natural flower nectar into a rich and golden syrup. The flavor of honey depends on what the bees consume and what part of the world the honey comes from. Varieties include buckwheat, clover, Greek, lavender, and orange blossom. Honey contains potentially beneficial enzymes and trace vitamins and minerals. Raw honey sometimes contains bacteria spores that can cause botulism in infants, so it should not be given to children under a year old.
Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap from a maple tree until it thickens. It’s available in various grades, including Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. Maple syrup contains trace amounts of vitamins B2, B5, and B6. Due to its hearty flavor, Grade B is recommended for baking.
Maple sugar is the result of dehydrated, crystallized maple syrup. It’s about twice as sweet as granulated white sugar, yet retains a characteristic maple flavor.
Stevia, a South American herb, can be used to sweeten tea, coffee, soups, and sauces. This herb may even help balance blood sugar and blood pressure levels. The leaves are often used in powdered form, and it’s also available as a liquid or concentrate. Use only a small amount of this herb since it’s 300 times sweeter than table sugar!