With new lower sugar recommendations from the World Health Organization (less that 5% of total energy intake - or 25g/6 tsp sugar per day) and more scary sugar documentaries being released, are you trying to decrease your sugar intake? Here are three of my favourite alternatives to regular (or "organic," or "natural") cane or beet sugar.
This is a new one to me. The main sweetener in Lakanto's Monkfruit sweetener is erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols have been approved for use in Canada and many other countries.Sugar alcohols are called non-nutritive sweeteners because they aren't used by the body so don't provide any calories. Erythritol is made from corn or wheat starch, which is broken down, fermented and dried into crystals.
Erythritol may have some side effects in larger doses. One study found that 50 g (about 4 Tbsp) of erythritol resulted in increased reports of nausea. Sugar alcohols can also be hard to digest for people with IBS. However they don't affect your blood sugars, don't contain calories and don't promote cavities.
Monk Fruit extract, as I've just learned, is made from the Asian Monk Fruit melon. It's juice is 20x sweeter than sugar, so very small amounts can be used to provide the same sweetness as regular sugar.
I like the taste of this sweetener. It's sweet without any chemical taste of strong aftertaste (ahem stevia). Lakanto has both a white and brown sugar option. I haven't tried baking with it, but you can substitute one for one with sugar, and they have some recipes on their website.
I've been using xylitol to sweeten my coffee for years, and it's my favourite for this purpose. It's another sugar alcohol, extracted from corncobs or hardwood. It's safe in moderation but may cause nausea, bloating, and diarrhea at doses of 35-50g (3-4 Tbsp). See the study here. I did try baking once with xylitol, and found the results of my muffins a bit crumbly. And honestly, I'm comfortable baking with regular sugar (or date sugar, see below). Especially for kids, as they would likely suffer the GI side effects at lower doses! And no studies have been done on kids to test this out.
One use for xylitol that I do love for kids is gum, mints and toothpaste! Xylitol strengthens teeth, so is a good flouride alternative. I've noticed that my teeth are less sensitive since adding it to my coffee.
3) Date sugar
So this is a "real" sugar, rather than a substitute. So it contains calories, will raise your blood sugar and rot your teeth. BUT I still consider it a better alternative to regular brown sugar, as it does contains some nutrients, and is safe for kids.
Date sugar is made from dried dates mashed into a powder - that's it! So it's a whole food, and even contains some fibre. Any other sugar like honey or maple syrup contain very minimal nutrients that really don't count with the small amounts you (hopefully) consume them in. Besides date sugar, molasses is really the only sweetener with any nutrients (iron).
I like baking with date sugar, instead of brown sugar. I actually made chocolate cupcakes for my son's class using date sugar, and apparently they were the best cupcakes some of the kids had every tasted :)
There are lots of other options for sweeteners, but these are three of my favourite. I also talk about Coconut palm sugar here and Agave Nectar Here. Stevia is another natural & popular sweetener. It's fine too, but I don't love the taste. What's your favourite sweetener?
If you want to try out any of these sweeteners, they are all available on Amazon (affiliate links):