Thursday, April 12, 2012

Natural Sugar - Part 1

Do you remember the series of posts last fall on the dangers of sugar? Many of you asked about sugar alternatives after those posts.  My friend Regina has been experimenting with some natural sugars and agreed to come back and share her research with us.

Regina lives back a long dirt lane with her husband and five children, where she milks goats, tends her large garden, and hosts fancy high teas. I love spending time with Regina, as I always learn something new. Thanks Regina, for sharing with Home Joys for the next several days!

Read Regina's series What is So Wrong with Sugar Part 1, 2, 3, and 4 to get some background information before starting her new series.

Natural Sugar and Spice - CAN Really be Nice!
Guest Post By Regina

Author's note: It is not my intention to make moms feel guilty, or add to their already heavy burden of raising children. I only want to make us aware of what is hidden in our foods, and some options we do have for a healthier change if you so desire. It is not a change that can be made overnight, but I have found a little here and a little there is a great way to start!

Okay, so we don't want to fight our German heritage love for sweets (can always blame the genes), and we're not ready to give up our grandmother's cooking legacy. But we would like to eat healthier, lose a few pounds and stop using our money to fund Tommy's 36 -bags- of-sugar- a-year-addiction.

For a quick recap, research shows that white sugar is empty of any nutrients and minerals. The rise of diabetes, obesity, and other health problems has made us aware of white sugar's effects on us and the alarming amount Americans consume. The average person will eat 170 pounds or more of sugar this year compared to only 10 pounds of sugar annually 200 years ago.

How do we begin this journey, this seemingly impossible goal- to consume less sugar? To change our eating habits and way of cooking can be overwhelming. I know it was for me! But after learning how excess sugar affects us, and knowing I was responsible for what my family ate, it was a change I had to at least consider. At first, it was very confusing with the variety of natural sweeteners available. But after researching, getting advice from friends, and trial and error, I realized how simple and easy it was to cut out sugar. So what are a few options?

Honey is natural and in its raw form, which means it is not pasteurized, contains many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. That makes it not just a sweetener but an actual food that our bodies will recognize and be able to use. (Sugar has no nutrients.) It's also been discovered that honey is a powerful antioxidant and may increase calcium absorption. (Sugar causes calcium leakage out of our bones.) Studies have shown that honey does not make blood sugar rise and fall as suddenly as white processed sugar does. 
Honey has more calories per teaspoon than sugar (21 vs 16), but honey is sweeter than sugar, so less is needed. Honey adds moisture to baking and gives a wonderful flavor. You can replace sugar with honey in pizza dough, breads, cookies, baked goods, drinks, and soups.

Purchase raw honey from your local apiarist (beekeeper) from June through October. Honey sold after October is heated to prevent crystallizing. When honey is heated at a high temperature, the healthy enzymes are killed. Because of this, if you are using honey only in baking, there is no need to buy raw honey. Commercially bottled honey will have the nutrients and enzymes killed because it was pasteurized to keep the honey liquid. Commercial honey may also be mixed with corn syrup and the honey may have come from another country. Bottled honey purchased at a local apiarist is pure honey and is heated at the minimum heat needed to preserve it. Because of this, it may still contain some enzymes. 
How can you always have raw honey on hand (so you don't need to buy the bottled), and how can you keep from crystallizing? My beekeeper-friend gave me this idea: purchase several gallons of raw honey in the summer, divide it into quart containers and freeze. Freezing honey will not kill the enzymes and will keep it in liquid form.

Maple syrup is also considered a food, is minimally processed, and is high in manganese, zinc and other vitamins. Compared to honey, maple syrup is lower in sodium and is suitable for low-sodium diets. Maple syrup has 15 times more calcium than honey. It is sweeter than sugar and more flavorful.

Next time we'll look at some other natural sugars options.


  1. This is great. We have been using honey more and more in our lives. The other day at work I saw one of my coworkers put honey in his coffee and I was really surprised. He told me that he was out of sugar one day a few years ago and he used the honey and ever since he has done it. He says it makes the coffee taste better. I haven't tried it yet, I don't drink much coffee but the next time I have a cup I'm going to try it.


  2. We use honey and maple sugar almost exclusively now. We love both of them in all our baked goods. However we still I've 1/4 to 1/2 cup cane sugar in our sweet tea. I having been trying to get away from sweetening our tea with it but have yet to find a solution. My husband says no to unsweetened tea, so any suggestions? We don't like the taste of stevia in our tea either.
    This k you so much for this series

  3. What is the general rule of thumb for conversion from sugar to honey in recipes?


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