Use natural sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth...

...while making anything you cook healthier. Natural sugar substitutes are any ingredient that gives the sweet taste of sugar, but with more nutritional and health benefits.

Maybe it's just us, but once we started really looking into health and nutrition, we now cringe at the thought of using refined white sugar. Studies have suggested links between the intake of refined sugars and behavioral problems in children, including ADHD symptoms , violence, and allergies. Is it any wonder that as our diet uses more and more refined and artificial ingredients, that the incidence of problems such as ADHD keeps rising?

We decided early on to use as natural of ingredients as possible, which meant finding a substitute for refined sugars. Not the modern artificial substitutes, but something less refined, more natural.

Substituting Sucanat for Sugar

Sucanat is our favorite natural sugar substitute.

Sucanat and refined white sugar start as the same product, sugar cane, which is high in many vitamins and minerals. The refining process removes all measurable traces of those vitamins and minerals from white sugar, leaving us with a nutritionally devoid product whose sole purpose is to be sweet.

Sucanat, on the other hand, is not refined. Sugar cane juice is dried until it crystallizes. Sucanat retains the vitamins and minerals of the original sugar cane, and is in a far more natural form than refined sugar.

Sucanat looks and smells a bit like brown sugar. To the taste, though, it's a great substitute for refined white sugar. It is sweeter than refined white sugar, though, so cut the amount down by about one-third in your recipes. So if a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, only use two-thirds cup of sucanat.

We usually cut the sugar in recipes way down, though, because most recipes ask for way too much sugar.

Substituting Honey for Sugar

Honey can also be used in some situations as a natural sugar substitute.

Sweetening tea is one place where honey shines. You get the sweetness you're looking for in your tea along with the honey flavor.

Going along with our theme of using as natural organic food as possible, we use raw organic honey. Raw honey is naturally solid and translucent. You should not be able to see through it, but light will come through it. Clear honey is not raw!

Raw organic honey will generally have bits of the comb on the top of it. If you don't like those bits, just dig below them to get to the pure honey for your tea, and save the bits of comb for baking.

When using raw honey as a substitute for sugar in a recipe, cut the amount down by one-half. So if a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, only use half a cup of raw honey.

Substituting Maple Syrup or Fruit for Sugar

Maple syrup is a another great natural sugar substitute in something like oatmeal. We use organic maple syrup, of course, for the best flavor. It's best to drizzle the syrup on the oatmeal, rather than to just dump in a bunch, to retain the essential flavor of the maple syrup. When you stir it in, you also lose some of the punch of maple syrup flavor, but it's still sweet, so try it both ways and see what you like best.

You can also use maple syrup as a substitute for sugar in baking, at a one to one ratio.

Fresh fruit can also be a great sweetener. Those bananas that are too ripe to eat straight can be sliced into oatmeal. They'll mash down and mix with the oatmeal to give it a sweet banana taste. If you cook the bananas with the oatmeal, the oatmeal turns out extra creamy and just as sweet.

You can use fresh bananas as a substitute for sugar in some baking, too, at a one to one ratio. If your bananas are not very ripe, add in some maple syrup to add a bit more sweet taste.

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