You pick up a new energy bar and try to figure out if it’s good for you or just another candy bar packaged to look healthy. Then you see that it’s naturally sweetened, but what the heck does that mean? It could simply be that it’s got plenty of dried fruits in it that take care of giving it all the sweetness it needs or it could mean they mixed in one of these natural sweeteners. Look on the ingredient list just to make sure you’re getting what’s been promised (and nothing more!).
Agave Nectar: Made from sap of the blue agave plant, this super-sweet syrup that is a bit thinner than honey and contains more calories per teaspoon than sugar. That said, 2/3 cup of agave nectar can be substituted for 1 cup of white sugar in recipes and it’s low on glycemic index (GI). You’ll mostly see it in drinks and softer foods like custard and cheesecake, but it can be found in baked goods as well.
Brown Rice Syrup: Who knew you could make a mildly sweet, golden syrup by fermenting brown rice with enzymes? Low on the Glycemic Index scale and certainly less sweet than sugar you would have to substitute 1 1/2 cups of brown rice syrup into a recipe to replace 1 cup of sugar. That’s why foods prepared with brown rice syrup are generally less sweet than others made with the granulated stuff. When baked in, brown rice syrup adds a crunchy texture to the finished product so it’s often used in cookies and granola.
Date Sugar: Offering a fruity, sweet flavor to baked goods, date sugar is made from exactly what you’d think–ground dates! You won’t find it in beverages, since it doesn’t dissolve or melt. In fact, in addition to crazy sweetness, all of these particles add fiber & nutrients to products made with them. (Afterall, they’re still dates, just ground up). That said, the high level of sugar content–natural or not–is not for everyone.
Honey: No longer just that golden liquid that comes in the cute bear squeeze bottle, honey has finally gotten the respect it deserves. Cultivated by busy bees, the flavor ranges regionally based on the different flora it is produced near. Generally though, it has the same sweetness level as sugar, but with added health benefits. We’ve heard that a spoonful of local honey per day can reduce environmental allergies significantly. Could be reason enough for a little sweet treat!
Muscovado Sugar: Coarser and stickier than regular brown sugar, Muscovado adds a rich molasses flavor to baked goods, sauces and other recipes. Unrefined and nutritionally richer than other brown sugars, this dark brown product retains most of the natural minerals inherent in sugarcane.
Organic Granulated Sugar: The big difference between organic granulated sugar and the pure white stuff seen in most grocery stores is that organic is less processed and made from non-GMO sugar beets. Retaining a bit of molasses, it offers some of the minerals found in the sugar beets and remains unbleached.
Palm Sugar: Palm sugar comes from the sap of coconut-palm tree flowers. Products made with it have a caramel-y sweetness like nobody’s business. In addition, it’s low on GI scale. Look for baked goods, sauces and even savory items that have a little mixed in and you’ll be happy you did.
Information provided by G-Free Foodie.