Which natural sweetener is best?
I get asked this question a lot. Honey, maple syrup, agave, dates, rice malt syrup… the options are endless.
To be honest, I don’t think there is much of a difference, really. The various sugars may be different in their effect, but in the end- it’s sugar.
Especially when people are putting large amounts of honey in their tea every day or eating ‘healthy’ desserts every night when they would otherwise have nothing and are happy to delude themselves that this is a healthy habit.
All the sweetened treats on my blog are designed to be just that. A treat. Depending on your goals or lifestyle, a treat for you might be every day or it might be once a fortnight.
In my opinion there is not really one that is superior over the other. When I bake or cook with these sweeteners I tend to use honey or dates. Why? Purely because I think they taste the best and the human intervention of these products is relatively low.
Take rice malt syrup as an example. Sure rice malt syrup might be fructose free, which is great if you have an intolerance to fructose, but at the end of the day it is an incredibly processed food (as is Agave syrup).
However in saying that, if I was to be baking something, and I only had rice malt syrup in my cupboard I would happily use it, and that is because for me, the use of these sweeteners is not that often and it is what you do most of the time not sometimes that makes a difference for your health (hey, if you’re idea of an occasional treat is brownies stuffed with white flour and sugar because that is something that you genuinely truly enjoy... be my guest!).
This might have you thinking why bother with natural sweeteners at all? Natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, honey & fruit do have some health benefits in the way that they are packaged up with nutrients and antioxidants. Thereforereplacing refined sugar with natural sweeteners is likely to be of benefit to your health, however adding natural sweeteners because they are ‘healthy’ will not.
Many people tend to look at foods with a black or white approach. Good vs. bad, clean vs. unclean, when in reality there is a lot of grey. Instead of spending your time grouping foods into these categories, it is more important to take note of the frequency & quantities at which you enjoy these foods.
As you begin to reduce your overall consumption of sugar your taste buds will adapt and therefore you will require less and less sweetness over time. Therefore instead of worrying about what sweetener you should be using, focus on reducing your intake of sugar over all, and over time you may not need any at all. But in the mean time, or for when you do decide to treat yourself, go for whatever you will most enjoy- it is a treat after all.