Sugar Alternatives and Artificial Sweeteners

They're not health food per se, but a number of sugar alternatives have nutritional value beyond what you get from refined sugar cane.


| October/November 2006



assorted sugar alternatives

An assortment of sugar alternatives: maple syrup, barley malt, naturally milled sugar, honey, date sugar, brown rice syrup, and molasses.


Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer

Health food stores offer a multitude of sugar alternatives. Although these sweeteners are natural, that doesn’t mean you should consume more. But many do offer a few health advantages, as well as more interesting flavors than refined table sugar.

Amasake: A delicate liquid sweetener made by inoculating cooked sweet rice with another fermented rice called koji. It can be used as a base for custards, puddings and drinks or to lend a mild sweetness and moist texture to baked goods.

Barley malt syrup: Whole grain barley is soaked and sprouted, activating enzymes that convert carbohydrates into sugars. The sprouted grain is then cured and processed into syrup, which contains some potassium. About the consistency of molasses, but much lighter in flavor, this rich brown sweetener works well in breads, cakes, muffins and barbecue sauces.

Brown rice syrup: Similar to barley malt syrup, but milder in flavor, rice syrup is made by fermenting cooked brown rice with sprouted barley grain. The enzymes in the sprouted barley convert rice starches into sugar. Rice syrup can be used interchangeably with honey.

Date sugar: A true fruit sugar, date sugar is nothing more than ground dried dates. The resulting powder contains small amounts of several vitamins and minerals.

Fruit juice concentrate: When it comes down to it, fruit juice concentrate is very similar in chemical composition to regular sugar — it’s mostly sucrose along with some fructose. Even though they’re just fruit, concentrates aren’t as good for you as fresh fruit because the sugars are intensified while the fiber is left behind.





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