With all the discussion about avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and refined white sugar, many are looking for alternatives to sweeten their food. If you are interested in natural sweeteners that can provide other, more holistic benefits beyond their sweet taste, look no further than these ten alternatives. Each offers unique flavors and other potential benefits that make them suitable options, depending on your needs.
- Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup offers excellent sweetening power while also providing antioxidants and minerals. Because it is so sweet, be sure to use sparingly. However, this alternative is an excellent addition to many foods and beverages. Because maple syrup has a distinctive taste, though, it may not work for all applications.
- Raw Honey
Unlike its pasteurized cousin, raw honey retains its natural enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, and some vitamins. Because it is unheated and unfiltered, you can also benefit from raw honey’s antimicrobial properties, which can be useful in fighting cold symptoms. Like maple syrup, it has a distinctive flavor which may not be appropriate for all recipes. It is also a very sweet additive, so use this one sparingly, too.
- Stevia Extract
While still a natural product, stevia extract is still a highly purified element, taken from the leaves of the stevia plant, native to South America. Stevia leaves have been used for hundreds of years to sweeten foods and drinks. It is available in many forms and is very sweet, nearly 200 times more so than sugar.
- Coconut Sugar
Packed with essential minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants, coconut sugar is a versatile alternative to sugar in many recipes. Coconut sugar is made from the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. It has a similar color and flavor to brown sugar, and it measures just like sugar in your favorite recipes, making it easy to substitute.
A puree made from dates is an excellent, natural sweetener. Dates contain lots of potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B6. Sugars in dates are easily digested and help your body metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
- Blackstrap Molasses
Another mineral-rich alternative, blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling of raw cane sugar, which gives it the beneficial concentration of nutrients. Blackstrap has a distinctive flavor and dark color that can alter the taste of some foods.
- Balsamic Glaze
Made by reducing balsamic vinegar over heat, this tangy and sweet glaze is a delicious addition to foods. Balsamic glazes benefits include potent antioxidants and great taste.
In addition to the alternatives listed above, you can also consider banana puree, brown rice syrup, and sucanat as natural sweetener options. Banana puree is naturally sweet and has a subtle flavor, making it a great sweetener in baked goods. Brown rice syrup is an excellent alternative to corn syrup. Sucanat, a brown, less processed version of table sugar, is sweet and mild but still retains many beneficial minerals and nutrients.
Any of the sweeteners discussed here offer holistic benefits and are great options to the more-refined HFCS and table sugar.