Alternative Sweeteners for Raw Recipes
I’ve mentioned before that I am not much of a sweet tooth, but when it comes to raw desserts, there seems to be a little confusion as to what’s best to use for sweetening your cakes, cookies, puddings etc.
Agave has gotten a bit of a bad wrap over the last couple of years, after initially being touted as a ‘healthy’ product, then when Mercola came out with this article in 2010, plenty of people were up in arms about the sweetener. I wrote a bit about it here, but I still use a raw version myself now and then if I cannot find an an an alternative, however I’m usually veering towards maple syrup (not raw) if a recipe requires the same smooth texture (think cashew based cheesecakes) or one of the alternatives I’ve listed below, keeping in with the flavour and texture of the dessert or dish I am creating.
Of course not all of the below suggestions are raw, however when eating a high raw diet, I don’t get too hung up on being 100% raw especially if I’m indulging in a treat food like a dessert. I’ve written before here, bout how raw desserts are still really an occasional food reserved for treats, but they just give you a better choice option when indulging, rather than the highly processed, high fat, hard to digest factory made, conventional desserts and foods.
I’d love to hear if you’ve used any of the following or any other forms of sweeteners in your desserts in the comments below.
Sweet mild syrup derived from the agave cactus with a lower glycemic index than honey, maple syrup or cane sugar, but a high fructose level so should be consumed in small amounts. Dark agave tastes more like molasses where as light agave is milder. Agave has had a bit of a bad wrap in the last couple of years, for being noted incorrectly as a ‘health’ product when some studies believe it is no better than high fructose corn syrup. It is still used in some of my raw food recipes, but sparingly and only where I find alternatives would not suit the texture of the recipe. Always better to try and substitute with a whole food option instead (fresh fruit like dates, bananas, raisins etc.)
Barley Malt Syrup
Considered one of the healthier sweeteners in the health food world, made by sprouting barley into malt and cooking the mixture with more barley to mark a sugar starch, which is made into powder or syrup. This is not raw.
The sap from coconut blossom with a neutral PH.
Very closely resembles light brown sugar, with a milder flavor, and with a lower GI. Due it’s milder flavour, when substituting it for brown sugar, more will be required. Is often available as paste, power or block form.
Can be blended with water to form date paste to your desired thickness & sweetness, as an alternative sweetener to agave or maple syrup is a milder sweetness so may require a higher quantity to produce the same level of sweetness. Can provide a caramel like flavor.
Said to not effect blood sugar or insulin levels and has a zero glycemic index s and is nearly zero calories. It tastes sweet (about 70% as sweet as sugar) unlike stevia, which can sometimes taste a little bitter or have a funny aftertaste. It is produced through the fermentation of non-GMO certified corn. Grapes, mushrooms, cheese, wine and beer contain it naturally.
Not vegan, so those adhering to a vegan diet (unless beegans – a term coined to describe a vegan who still consumes honey) will steer clear of honey. I prefer to use raw honey if using honey, as it is antifungal and antibacterial, and is thought that non raw honey has been heated to temperatures that damage or destroy it’s health benefits. If possible buy local or visit your local bee keeper to collect your local honey, as it’s been said that consuming local honey can reduce or eliminate seasonal allergies, but be sure not to feed raw honey to infants.
Is a sweet fruit hailing from Peru and is usually found in powdered form for mild sweetening. It is the most popular ice cream flavour in Peru and lends itself to vanilla custard like flavour. It is also low GI whole-food sweetener.
Maca powder is derived from the maca root, also from Peru and is reported to increase energy and libido. It is called an adaptogen which means it helps your body to adapt to stress, anxiety and fatigue & trauma. It only has a slightly sweet taste, so will need to be used in addition with another stronger sweetener if required, but can be used to thicken smoothies and has been known to work in conjunction with cacao to increase stamina.
Boiled sap from the maple tree which again is not raw, but used by many raw chefs as an alternative to refined sugars. Maple sugar and butter are more condensed in flavour. Maple syrup is made from the boiled sap of the maple tree.
Has a sweet caramel/biscuit like flavour and is a very mild sweetener that will not elevate blood sugar levels, will a need another stronger sweetener to be added if required.
Intense flavoured syrup left after the processing of beet sugar. Is very high in calcium and iron.
Dried grapes taste great in dessert recipes.
High glycemic sweetener and not raw but is a healthier alternative to white sugar.
Derived from the leaf of the stevia plant. Stevia is an herb with a naturally sweet taste, which is said to not elevate blood sugar, and is zero calories. Usually available in liquid or powder, a more powerful sweetness than sugar, it should be used sparingly. It is available in liquid and powder form. If used in combination with other sweeteners, it can reduce the amount used. Can have a funny aftertaste.
Has a lower glycemic index than agave syrup and tastes strong similar to molasses. Not as strong in sweetness as other sweeteners
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