Chocolate cakes, creamy ice cream, steaming cookies straight out of the oven…when it’s sweet, we just can’t take our hands off of it! You may have tried cutting out the sugar but found it nearly impossible. You may have found you get sugar rushes and crashes, belly aches, cavities . . . yet still you want it. Ever wonder why? Sugar definitely gives us quick energy and causes endorphins to release. When we look to nature for sweets, there are many minerals and nutrients to be found, but when we look at today’s processed foods, we see that most refined sweeteners have little to no nutritional value. (Image By FotoosVanRobin)
With that in mind, take a look at natural sweeteners. Some of these are simple carbohydrates which still elevate blood sugar (honey, fruit concentrates, sugar cane juice, etc.), which means they’re still sugar, but also have vitamins and nutrients (a key difference from refined sugar). Other sweeteners have complex carbohydrates which means your body doesn’t have that sugar rush/crash (agave, date sugar, maple syrup, etc) as it takes longer to process.
Here are a few of the “other” sugars. Keep reading as below you will find some well-reviewed, naturally-sweetened dessert recipes!
DATE SUGAR or DATES – rich in potassium and iron. Date sugar does not dissolve and works best in a crumbled topping, a bowl of oatmeal, etc.
FRUIT CONCENTRATES – has the slight taste of the fruit they came from. You’ll see apple and grape concentrates the most. They don’t work well with chocolate.
HONEY – still a refined sugar, but raw honey has propolis and pollen as well as B vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Honey is excellent in baking but should not be eaten by children under two.
MAPLE SYRUP – Grade A is the lightest and most mild form, whereas Grade B is darker and better for you. It works well in pies.
MOLASSES – Sweet or “Barbados” molasses is from the first press and lighter while Blackstrap molasses is from the last press, much stronger and darker with more calcium and iron.
STEVIA – a South American bush whose leaves are 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero calories and does not raise the blood sugar, though some say it has a bit of an aftertaste.
SUCANAT and SUGAR CANE JUICE: Sugar cane juice is made from crushing juice from the whole cane. The most popular and most nutritious form is Sucanat, one type of dehydrated, unrefined sugar cane juice made with a hint of molasses.
This pumpkin pie calls for pecan-date crust and creamy date-flavored filling. Just in time for a few test runs before Thanksgiving. It’s all the pumpkin goodness without all of the refined sugar.
When you’re thinking pies, you’re probably also thinking of pecan pie. This grain-free pie has a beautiful and simple almond flour and coconut oil crust (with a few other bits thrown in), and a filling with medjool dates, pecans, vanilla bean, and other ingredients. A true delight.
Quintessential sweets usually mean quintessential cookies. These chocolate cookies call for almond meal, quinoa flour (with links on where to get both), date paste, chocolate chips, and other ingredients.
This same website also has chunky monkey cookies – peanut butter, date paste, pecans, and other goodness. These anytime cookies from a different website, are extremely versatile. Dried fruit and nuts are a staple, but they are the perfect cookie to substitute other fruits, nuts, carob chips, or . . . ? Let your imagination go wild. This seven ingredient coconut flour chocolate chip cookie uses maple syrup as its sweetener. From start to finish, it’s possible to whip out a dozen cookies in 30 minutes. Lastly, where would a cookie section be without a brownie? Jamie Oliver’s kitchen has a purely fruit-sweetened brownie with six ingredients. Incredibly easy to make and even more fun to eat.
This delicious Quick Apricot and Blueberry Snack Cake created by the infamous Clabber Girl, uses only fruit juice concentrate as its sweetener and results in a moist flavorful easy cake. If you’re looking for a traditional carrot cupcake, this one uses sucanat to sweeten the cake and honey for the frosting and is easy to make. Of course, no cake section would be complete without banana bread. Here’s a moist date-sweetened banana bread and an excellent way to use up those extra ripe bananas. Its flavor will not disappoint. Rounding out the cake section is gluten-free date sugar (or palm sugar) sweetened Texas Sheet cake. Full of chocolately goodness, it promises to please every chocolate lover.
With so many options out there, there’s no reason why you should default into refined sugarland. When you look at a recipe that calls for refined sugar, ask yourself what you might substitute instead: honey? maple syrup? fruit concentrate? You’ll find that your body is happier as well as your children’s bodies. You’ll have the possibility of fewer sugar crashes, and letting your body work more optimally. Give it a try. Some sweetness without all of the sugar, but with plenty of sweet.