Clean Cooking: More Than 100 Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Sugar-Free Recipes - Elisabeth Johansson (2016)
ALTERNATIVES TO WHITE SUGAR
You don’t need to depend on refined white sugar as a sweetening agent. Several alternatives exist, many of which contain important enzymes and trace elements. Here are a few choice options, all of which impart a natural sweetness and tasty end results.
Agave syrup is made from the agave plant, which is native to South America. The syrup is extremely sweet and its fructose content is very high (as is its GI index rating), which means it should be used sparingly. Use half the amount as you would honey.
The most commonly available type of date in grocery stores today is the Medjool. They are soft, sweet, and extremely rich in fiber. Originally from the Middle East, they are now cultivated in California. The fruit grows from the very top of the date palm. Dates not only add sweetness but also impart a nice texture to coffee cakes, cookie balls, and smoothies. Their taste is reminiscent of dark syrup, caramel and vanilla.
There are a wide variety of honeys to choose from. Raw honey is in its most natural state when it has not been heated, which allows it to retain more of its natural enzymes and trace elements. It is common practice, however, to heat honey in order to prevent crystallization. If you’re lucky, you can find the cleanest and finest virgin honey that is drip-extracted from beeswax cakes instead of honey that is obtained via centrifugal extraction.
Honey can be used in both baking and cooking applications. It’s sweeter than white sugar, so you’ll need to use less of it.
Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of several types of coconut palms that are mainly found in Asia. Almost one gallon (3.8 liters) of sap is needed to produce just over 1 pound (500 grams) of palm sugar. This sugar has a low GI index rating and contains large amounts of minerals, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, several different B vitamins, and several amino acids.
The sap is heated during the extraction process, which gives the sugar a nice caramel flavor reminiscent of molasses or muscovado sugar. Coconut sugar can be substituted wherever white sugar is used.
Maple syrup is made from the sap that has been extracted from the sugar maple tree. The sap is boiled to evaporate its water content. It takes 15 gallons (60 liters) of sap to produce 1 quart (1 liter) of syrup, which is why this gleaming, golden syrup can be so expensive. Cheaper versions are often diluted with white sugar, so it’s important to read the ingredients label carefully.
Maple syrup is a wonderful topping for ice cream and pancakes, as well as a great sweetener for drinks.