To Sugar or Not To Sugar...

My last post was about using Agave Nectar, and we get a lot of questions about other types of sugars to use in recipes. There are a lot of types of sugars and sweeteners out there, and it can be confusing which one is the most nutritious. We like to tell our customers that sugar is sugar, no matter what form (syrup, nectar, floral, etc). No matter which type you end up using at home, always use your sweeteners in moderation!

If adding a little bit of sweetener will help you drink your green smoothies, then we encourage using your favorite type of sweetener. A lot of us grew up drinking sweet drinks like apple juice, and we've been conditioned to drink sweet things, so don't feel bad about wanting to add in a little extra sweetener at first! The goal is to use less sweeteners to your morning breakfast smoothie every day, until you don't feel a need to add any at all. This may take a little time getting used to, but it's all about adjusting your taste to more natural foods. 

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Since we've already talked about agave nectar in our last post; here are six other sugar substitutes you can use for your recipes at home:

1. Over-ripe fruit (aka NO sugar, pt 1!)
When you are aiming for a healthier lifestyle, one of the number one recommendations is to cut some sugar out of your diet! Usually my number one recommendation for customers who are looking to make healthier juices is to buy over-ripe fruit from the grocery store. A lot of produce sections will have a little bin of fruit that is about to go bad for real cheap - so not only do you have a healthier juice, but you get to save a little money, as well! Green grapes and pineapple are my personal favorites to use because they are so sweet and juicy when past ripeness; all you have to do is prepare them (like peel the rind off the pineapple and chop it up), throw them in the freezer, and use them as you wish. When you freeze your fruit, you also have an ice substitute! Two for one - it doesn't get better than that!

2. Soaked dates (aka NO sugar, pt 2!)
Another type of natural sugar you can use is dried and pitted dates! We like to buy these in one of those bulk plastic containers; you can find them real cheap at wholesale markets. You can take your dried dates and put them in a mason jar with water and keep it in your fridge - the longer they soak, the more syrupy the water becomes, and you can use both the dates and the syrupy water as a natural sweetener! I like using soaked dates in less fruity recipes, like hot chocolates or coffee drinks. Dates are also a great substitute for sugar in pie fillings or crusts!

3. Honey
Honey has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of things - wounds, sicknesses, sore throats, etc. It is full of enzymes and anti-bacterial properties, so it is considered one of the more nutritious sweeteners out of them all. It is best to buy honey locally; even though it might cost a little more, having a relationship with a local bee keeper is helpful in knowing exactly how the honey is harvested and the conditions of which the bees are raised. Different types of honey have different flavors, so it's fun to experiment which types are best to use in which recipes!

4. Tree Syrups (Maple, Birch, etc.)
During our Alaska trip, we visited the Birch Syrup Farm on our way to Talkeetna, and got to taste different types of foods that were made with birch syrup! They even gave us a small sample bottle to use during the fair, and we made some delicious birch syrup ice creams during our demo. Different tree syrups have their own flavors, so it's great to be able to match them with different recipes. I recommend tree syrups for sweeter bread doughs, blended coffee or chocolate drinks, and ice creams! 

5. Cane Sugar
Cane sugar, which everyone is familiar with, is also a great sweetener to use, especially since it's now widely available in all organic sections, and you can get it raw or white or brown! You can actually use your Vitamix to turn cane sugar and water into simple syrup (which I've found a lot of coffee shops have as a condiment with their creamers and such!) All it takes is 1 cup of cane sugar to 1 cup of water, and you blend it in your Vitamix on high speed until it's smooth. Cane sugar might not be the most ideal type of sugar to use, especially since there's such a wide variety of sweeteners out there, but it does work well when you are looking for a flavorless sugar.

6. Stevia (aka NO sugar, pt 2 1/2!)
Stevia is an herb in the chrysanthemum family, meaning it's an all-natural sweetener with no calories. The aftertaste of stevia is very similar to aspartame, the artificial sugars in diet drinks, so a lot of people confuse the two of being the same and try to avoid consuming it. Unlike aspartame, though, stevia is not made in a lab; it is an herb that is usually sold in a ground up powder form and its history dates back to ancient times. Stevia is 30x sweeter than sugar and does not affect blood sugar, because it is not an actual sugar, it's a plant! I personally don't like the aftertaste, but we have noticed that it does enhance sweetness. So if you aren't crazy about the aftertaste of Stevia, you can mix it in with the sugar of your choice to enhance the flavor, meaning you can cut down the amount of sugar you use without sacrificing the flavor!

What are your favorite types of sweeteners to use in your recipes? Are there any that you like to use that we didn't list? Let us know!