which ones are safe
are they harmful to your body?

a few of the many sweeteners on the market

Sweeteners have so much controversy swirling around them that it is difficult to know which ones to use. Some say sugar is natural, use it. Some say genetic modification of sugar beets has ruined sugar. Some say sugar is bad, use artificial sweeteners. Some say artificial sugars are dangerous,  use honey or maple syrup. Some say not to eat sweeteners at all.

Could we live without sugar to sweeten our lives? Maybe. Try taking a bite of dark unsweetened chocolate. Nobody would take two bites. Occasionally it is nice to taste something sweet.

The bottom line is that sweet things taste good. There is comfort in a steaming cup of hot chocolate with some sweetened cream. What is a birthday without a cake and a creamy dish of ice cream? In defense of sugar, it is a good source of energy.

The facts about sweeteners

  • agave Many of the healthful benefits of the agave plant are lost during processing to make agave nectar. It is more like a syrup than a nectar. 
  • aspartame has been thoroughly tested and according to experts is a safe sugar substitute. Some people believe that aspartame causes cancer. There has been no study of human beings which has proven this that I was able to find. Aspertame is found in thousands of foods and drinks. If you are worried, be sure to read labels of foods you consume.
  • brown Sugar - Most brown sugar is highly refined white sugar with molasses added back to it. Brown palm sugar is minimally processed and would be a good choice.
  • dates - are a good source of fiber, calcium and iron and a good antioxidant. A couple dates in your smoothie make it sweet. Dates can be soaked in water and when soft, blended to make a sugar substitute to use in baking recipes. They make a great snack.
  • demarara  is a light brown partially refined sugar. It can be used to replace brown sugar in recipes.
  • honey contains trace amounts of nutrients.  You should purchase local raw honey. Honey is mildly antibacterial and antiviral.
  • maple syrup -  Maple syrup is a good sweetener to use. It contains calcium, magnesium and  and potassium. Maple syrup is a healthy alternative in sugar in many dishes. Very tasty.
  • molasses is a thick brown syrup which is a byproduct of refining sugar. It is more nutritious than white or brown sugar. It is used mainly in baking and some people eat it on their pancakes or waffles.
  • muscavado is a dark brown sugar which is dried at low heat and not get spun in a centrifuge.
  • pilonconcillo is an unrefined Mexican sweetener. It comes in small cones which need to be chopped before use. It can be used to replace dark brown sugar in recipes.
  • saccharine (sweet and low) is the earliest artificial sweetener. I remember my grandmother putting saccharine tablets in her coffee.  She lived well into her 90s with fairly good health and a healthy mind. A one-person study is not conclusive, of course, but it made me wonder when I begin to hear the dangers of saccharine touted.
  • sorghum is a syrup which was common before word war II in the United States. People are beginning to take notice of this sweetener again lately because, it is made from an ancient grain and is very nutritious. It is minimally processed. It has antioxidant vitamins and trace minerals.
  • splenda is a sucralose based sweetener. Sucralose is made by modifying sugar molecules. There is controversy as to whether or not it is harmful to use Splenda. It may not be conducive to weight loss. There were tests done on rats which showed detrimental outcomes. It sounds as though Splenda may be safe if used in moderation and may need more testing.
  • stevia is a South American herb. It is sweeter than sugar, so less is needed. There is some controversy about whether or not it is healthy, but the FDA does consider stevia a safe sugar substitute.
  • sucanat is made from cane sugar and is not refined. It has a strong flavor.
  • sugar - First of all, I want to say that sugar tastes good. It is very addictive. This is probably the best known sweetener and maybe the most widely used. We have been told in the last few years that sugar is the enemy. It makes people fat, causes tooth decay, senility, and diabetes. Too much sugar makes children hyper (and some adults as well).  
  • In a Reader's Digest article from the 1920s, people were encouraged to eat no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar daily to lose weight and be healthy. Today just drinking a soft drink can add up to 40g of sugar to your diet. If you choose to use sugar, sugar made with 100% cane is best due to the fact that most sugar beets are genetically modified.
  • turbinado - This is raw sugar which has only been partially processed. 

Supermarkets are becoming more sensitive to people's desire for healthy sweeteners. They are beginning to offer choices such as demarara, turbinado and others.

Sweet things to eat

Good sweeteners

  • To sweeten a smoothie, add sweet fruit. a banana makes anything sweeter. If you don't like the taste, use half a banana. Pears and some apples are good sweeteners. Purple grapes or dark cherries make smoothies tasty. Taste the fruit before you use it to make sure it tastes fresh and sweet. You can also add a very small amount of honey or maple syrup. 
  • Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal, add fruit puree or honey or natural maple syrup.
  • To sweeten beverages, just add fruit or honey.