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Friday, December 9, 2011

Are there any healthy sweeteners?

Refined sugar: the enemy!

While all of us know that being vegan involves avoiding meat, dairy & eggs, you may not have considered the  everyday ingredients that are derived from or processed using animal sources, namely honey and refined white sugar, that are lurking in your grocery store or pantry. Honey is avoided by vegans who are concerned about the slavery of the honeybee and the fact that the substance has been regurgitated from the mouth of another living creature; and refined sugar is avoided by vegans because its processing usually involves animal bone char filter, yuck! An activated carbon filter made of bone char decolorizes sugar to make it white through an absorption process. While the bone char filter is used by most major sugar companies, it is not used to produce all refined sugar. Thankfully, there are many delicious sweetener alternatives to honey and refined sugar that are vegan and gluten free. 

Thank you bees, for pollinating our precious fruits and vegetables.
It doesn't seem right to steal your honey as thanks!

  • Sugar listed on the label as sugar, dextrose, fructose, or any number of chemical names ending in "_ose". the FDA allows companies to list sugar by as many pseudonyms as they wish as long as the total content is accounted for. They do this to keep "Sugar" from being the first ingredient, thinking people won't notice all the other sugars.
  • Maltodextrin: Has twice the glycemic index of refined sugar, the worst offender for causing blood sugar spikes even in non diabetics, and should be avoided! Though sometimes processed from wheat products, it is gluten free. It can be made from a variety of starches, including corn, potato, rice or wheat. However the source does not matter because maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient that the protein is removed, rendering it gluten free.- From the Gluten Free Living website. 
  • Aspartame aka:NutraSweet (renamed as AminoSweet and Neotame)  Known to be a neurotoxin, detrimental to the nervous system, and has been alleged to cause convulsions, vision problems, headache vomiting, nausea, joint aches and pain.
  • Saccharin (Sweet N Low) strong links to cancer.
  • Splenda. An artificial sweetener which contains chlorine, heavy metals, arsenic and methanol.
  •  Corn syrup or High Fructose Corn Syrup with it's high glycemic index and has very little nutrition. Many health advocates believe that high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar are the two biggest contributors to health ailments in our society. High fructose corn syrup is a combination of sucrose and fructose.
  • Barley Malt Syrup though a good sweet alternative,  it is not gluten free.

Ingredient lists: Buy vegan sugar, and look for it in packaging when you buy processed items (although avoiding processed foods is the healthiest alternative). 3 products or phrases that indicate a guaranteed vegan sugar in your product nutritional info, are:
"organic evaporated cane juice"
"organic dehydrated cane juice"
"organic cane sugar"

Or choose from the following list I have compiled for you.
The Organic Stevia pictured does NOT contain maltodextrin!!
The following is a list of healthful sweetener alternatives from A to X:

  •  Agave Nectar: Agave is nearly twice as sweet as sugar and is often used to replace honey. A sweet syrup made from the Blue Agave plant, Agave Nectar is obtained by the extraction and purification of "sap" from the agave plant, which is broken down by natural enzymes into the monosaccharides (simple sugars): mainly fructose (70-95%)which is higher than high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose (20-26%) and thus it is unsuitable for diabetics.
  • Brown Rice Syrup: This thick liquid is reminiscent of honey, but less sweet. It has a warm, almost butterscotch-like taste. It is not recommended for diabetics, since its sweetness comes from maltose, which is known to cause spikes in blood sugar.
  • Black Strap Molasses: White refined table sugar is sugar cane with all the nutrition taken out. Black strap molasses is all of that nutrition that was taken away. A quality organic (must be organic!) molasses provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and is alkalizing to the body.
  • Coconut Palm Sugar: Originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm , the date palm or sugar date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). It's also made from the sap of coconut palms. With a relatively low glycemic index, Coconut palm sugar is the new rage among health nuts. It's often called "coconut nectar sugar" or "coconut sugar".
  • Date Sugar: Made from dried and granulated dates, this sweetener is course & gritty, though quite tasty. It also lends brown flecks to desserts.
  • Evaporated Cane Juice: Evaporated cane juice is often considered unrefined sugar, but juicing is a refining process, and evaporating refines further. Though better than turbinado, cane juice (unevaporated) is a better choice as a sweetener.
  • Fresh or dried fruit: Don't forget this obvious choice for sweetening up your meal. Dried or fresh fruit can be added to most anything for natural sweetness! Dried Medjol dates, raisins, prunes, apricots, and apples are perfect additions to most any recipe adding both natural sweetness and helping hold together your recipe. Any fresh fruit can add sweetness and flavor to anything from your morning cereal, to your afternoon smoothie, to dessert.
  • Maple Syrup: Rumors abound about maple syrup containing pork fat. The US vegan society has checked all known sources and found that they are all suitable for vegans. Maple syrup has a warm, luxurious flavor.I sometimes use maple syrup in lieu of brown sugar for recipes that call for it, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar, and takes much less to achieve the same level of sweetness as brown sugar.
  • Molasses: A little goes a long way. Blackstrap molasses contains some B vitamins and minerals, but can be quite bitter. Light molasses (aka, Barbados molasses) is the sweetest.
  • Raw Sugar (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado Sugar): Turbinado sugar is partially processed sugar, also called raw sugar. Has a savory flavor reminiscent of brown sugar, and a large crystal that makes an attractive, glittery sprinkle on your vegan dessert. Put it in your food processor or your grinder to get a smaller, smoother consistency, or even to make powdered sugar.
  • Stevia: A South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green Stevia rebaudiana plant have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia has many excellent properties. The body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides from the stevia leaf or any of its processed forms - so there is no caloric intake. Stevia is 1000 times sweeter than sugar, so is mixed with maltodextrin in powder form, and you can get the pure stevia drops which are free of additives, but it is tricky to learn how much to use in recipes, it is really sweet! Stevia does not affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics. Though it is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia is not a sugar. Unlike other popular sweeteners, it has ZERO glycemic index and therefore does not feed candida (yeast) or cause any of the numerous other problems associated with sugar consumption. Please note that Stevia, PureVia, and Truvia are not the same thing! Truevia is a partial extract from stevia with added chemicals made by Coca Cola; and PureVia is Pepsi's version also a partial extract contaminated with artificial chemicals. I did not know this when I purchased the PureVia in the pic above, and found it to have a terrible aftertaste, which stevia does not have!  Look for organic Stevia such as this one made without maltodextrin, or grow some organic stevia in your herb garden!
  • Sucanat:  A perfect substitute for recipes that call for brown sugar. Unlike traditional brown sugar, vitamins, minerals, and molasses are not displaced during the minimal  processing of the product. Sucanat retains its molasses content and  therefore it's strong flavor. It is essentially pure dried sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated, and cooled, forming small brown grainy crystals. The product is sourced in Costa Rica and repackaged in the U.S.
  • Xylitol (Ideal or XyloSweet brand): Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. It is a naturally occurring 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. It has the same sweetness as sugar (sucrose) but with 40% fewer calories and none of the negative tooth decay or insulin release effects of sugar. Xylitol also has a low glycemic index (7) and has little effect on blood sugar levels. It can cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption. It's said to be safe for pregnant women, and is said to possibly treat ear infections, osteoporosis, respiratory infections, candida, and is it even helps fight cavities. Xylitol is the most common sweetener is sugar free gum. Be aware, Xylitol in TOXIC FOR DOGS and potentially fatal! 

    Poor baby got into mom's purse and ate all of the sugar free gum ... this is a Vet Emergency!


    1. Great info, thanks so much!

    2. Do you drink Coke or Pepsi?
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    Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear what you think!
    ~ Shelley