Too much refined white sugar is bad for you. We are reminded of that daily. But, where do you turn for the sweetness we all crave? What is life without desert? Many health-conscious people turn to honey when they give up refined white sugar. Honey is sweet and totally natural. But, where do you turn if you are vegan? Being vegan is a life choice concerned as much about the treatment of animals as being healthy, Bees might make honey without human interference, but they don’t make it for us. What then can you use as a vegan to bring a little sweetness into your diet?
Sweet Leaf, or stevia, is a plant. You could easily grow it in your herb garden. For less adventurous people you can find it in powdered form, or liquid extract in most stores. Make sure that there is no fillers added, as some brands add fillers to make it more like sugar. Stevia will measure like sugar, so it will be easier to use in familiar recipes.
Molasses is a great alternative for refined white sugar. The taste is unique and works well for baking. Among its many advantages, molasses is high in iron something vegans might have trouble getting enough of. It also contains magnesium and B vitamins.
Pure maple syrup makes an excellent sweetener for baking. Do not confuse maple flavored pancake syrup for pure maple syrup. One is good for you, the other is just high fructose corn syrup pretending to be.
Unrefined, or raw sugar can be used much the same way as refined white sugar. Raw sugar is a little like sand and taste a little like molasses. Raw sugar is less sweet but works well in drinks or smoothies.
Blue agave is another choice for a healthy sweetener. It has a low glycemic index rating so it is good for diabetics. It is sweeter than sugar so you will need to use about half as much. It is derived from the agave tequilana plant, yes the plant that tequila comes from. There is some controversy about how healthy it really is, since it has a high fructose content by weight.
It may take a little taste testing, and label reading but finding a good substitute for refined white sugar is possible. You might find that you need more than just one. What works in drinks might not give a good result when baking. It is important in a healthy life style to find foods that are not just healthy but also tasty. With a little trial and error, you can find the one, or ones, that work for you.
About Hamish McLaren
Hamish McLaren is the founder of Hamish McLaren’s Vegan Recipes, a digital publication in which the longtime vegan enthusiast provides step-by-step instructions for preparing many of his favorite vegan recipes. Mr. McLaren’s digital publication also offers access to in-depth vegan restaurant reviews as well as interviews with innovative vegan chefs and restaurateurs.