2.14.10 Sweet On You

Sugars 790 xxx
dark muscovado, demerara and jaggery         photo by george billard
I must confess, I have something of a sweet tooth. I can remember giggling over a box of See's candies with my (diabetic!) grandfather as we stuffed our mouths with chocolate. But I now know sugar is not really good for me. It causes inflammation which I experience as joint aches, and it makes my skin break out. Why? Refined sugar raises the insulin level in your blood and this depresses the immune system. This, in turn, compromises your ability to fight disease. It can cause weight gain since insulin promotes the storage of fat. Refined sugar contains no vitamins or minerals so in order for it to be metabolized it draws on the body's reserve of vitamins and minerals. When these reserves are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher LDLs (harmful cholesterol) and promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around the organs. Sugar consumption is also associated with copper deficiency, periodontal disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease, pathological changes to the liver and pancreas, hormonal imbalance, fluid retention, headaches, and on and on. Do you need more reasons to decrease your sugar intake? I’m not telling you to never again enjoy something sweet, but to consider eradicating white sugar in favor of these healthier options. These, too, should be eaten in moderation (yes, that again!)...
Sweeteners 790 xxx
agave nectar, molasses, honey, date syrup and maple syrup    photo by george billard
AGAVE NECTARAlso called agave syrup, this sweetener is made from the agave plant, a succulent related to the yucca from which tequila is also made. It has a very low glycemic value (27, as compared to 92 for table sugar or 83 for honey). Agave contains saponins, which have anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties. It also contains inulin, a type of fiber that may be effective in weight loss because of its low impact on blood sugar and its ability to increase satiety and decrease appetite. Inulin is also associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and increasing the absorption of nutrients, such as isoflavones, calcium and magnesium. Because of its neutral flavor, you can use agave as an all-purpose sweetener, substituting it just about everywhere, including in baking.BLACKSTRAP MOLASSESThis viscous, virtually-black liquid is a beneficial byproduct of the process of refining sugarcane into table sugar. It has a strong, almost bittersweet flavor you may recognize from its traditional uses in baked beans and gingerbread. It’s rich in iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium.DATE SYRUPRich in iron and vitamin C, this dark brown syrup provides natural sugar that is easily digested. Use it as you would maple syrup or honey—in baking, drizzled over oatmeal or yoghurt, in your smoothies, etc.DEMERARA SUGARSometimes called “turbinado”, this pale golden sugar has a large, crunchy crystal. Produced mainly in Mauritius, it is minimally processed without any of the harmful acids, bleaching agents and preservatives found in white table sugar. I love it sprinkled over cookies, cakes or banana bread before baking so it forms a wonderful crackling layer.HONEYBesides having a wonderfully complex flavor, honey is rich in nutrition. In its raw version, it contains enzymes from the bees that make it much easier to digest. It has a somewhat lower glycemic index and contains vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.JAGGERYThis unrefined whole sugar—also known as gur in India or panela in Mexico—contains potassium, iron and magnesium of the sugarcane juice from which it is made. It has a lower glycemic index, meaning that is absorbed more slowly by the body. Endorsed by Ayurveda practitioners and by Ghandi himself. Try this in your chai.MAPLE SYRUPThis viscous amber liquid with its earthy sweet taste is made from the boiled sap of the maple tree. It’s an excellent source of manganese and zinc so it supports the heart and the immune system, and is also good for the prostate. Try a teaspoon of this stirred into your bourbon on the rocks.MUSCOVADO SUGARThis minimally refined cane sugar (sometimes labeled Barbados or “m---” sugar) has the coarse grain and molasses flavor of what we typically call “brown sugar.” That type of brown sugar, however is just fully processed white sugar with some molasses added back in. This kind is often processed using coconut milk and lime juice to remove impurities, though these do not leave any flavor behind. Its taste is strong and rich. Like other minimally processed sugars, it retains the potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron of the sugarcane plant. Use it wherever you might use brown sugar, or even to replace white sugar.RAPADURA SUGARThis unrefined sugar is prized for its natural caramel flavor and fine-grain texture. Unlike other sugars, it is not separated from the molasses stream during squeeze-dried processing and thus retains a high percentage of nutrients from the sugar cane.


Always happy to talk about healthier benefits to something sweet...do you use Muscovado when you bake? Do you need to change the proportions from white sugar? Thanks Laura! xo Ann
Ann on February 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm —
Great information, thank you!!!
Suzinn on February 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm —
You can substitute muscovado (available in light or dark versions) anywhere a recipe calls for brown sugar. Use rapadura as a replacement for white sugar, in the same proportions, knowing that it will impart a hint of color, a slightly earthier flavor and a bit more moisture.
laura on February 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm —
I'll give it a try!
Ann on February 15, 2010 at 5:45 am —
What about agave? Does that get used in the same proportions as sugar in a baking recipe?
Lisa on February 15, 2010 at 6:50 am —
Use 2/3 cup agave for each cup of granulated sugar and reduce other liquids in the recipe by a quarter to a third. Agave syrup may cause baked items to brown more quickly, so reduce oven temperatures by 25°F and increase baking time slightly. It might call for a little experimentation the first time around. Honey and maple syrup can be replaced by agave in equal proportions.
laura on February 15, 2010 at 7:01 am —
We just bought some muscovado sugar and it's delicious off the spoon. Can't wait for Jeff to make homemade cinnamon rolls with it!
Suzinn on February 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm —
Let me know how they turn out!
laura on February 17, 2010 at 7:23 pm —