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In the theme of our Sugar free September Challenge, I wanted to give you the run down on the natural sweeteners I like and don’t like. Here they are!

RAW HONEY – Honey is my sweetener of choice. It does have a very high fructose content and if you need to quit sugar all together for health reasons then I would recommend something different. But bees are amazing! Bee’s make the world go round; without bee’s there would be no life! Honey is a medicinal food. It is filled with amino acids and nutrients, and enzymes that actually help us to break down sugar and B complex vitamins. It is antibacterial and antiviral which is why it is known to kick off colds and flu’s and respiratory infections because it contains so many vitamins and minerals. It is a very powerful food that is packed with lots of good stuff!  It can be used externally also to speed up the healing process of wounds and it has been linked with preventing cancer by hunting free radicals. Its increases calcium absorption, prevents anemia, helps arthritic joints when teamed up with apple cider vinegar, contains natural antibiotics, the list really goes on and on.  All this talk about honey being so great, keep in mind it still caries quite a lot of natural forming fructose that will still raise your blood sugar levels so only use sparingly. Raw honey is to be only used in raw recipes; if you cook it, all the nutrients will go so you may as well have used table sugar!
When I talk about honey, I am not talking about the stuff in the supermarket… That is a no no! We want RAW unfiltered HONEY. The honey that is in the supermarket has mostly been pasteurised; this means it is flash heated. When something is flash heated, it changes the enzymes and in honeys case, turns it into pure adulterated refined sugar syrup. It is so sad how something so amazingly beneficial can be turned into such a useless item. Raw honey ideally has been taken straight from the beehive and into the jar… no messing around! Where do you find raw unadulterated honey? Look in your health food shop or local farmers market or you can purchase a great one from us by clicking here. It’s not too hard to come by and when you do find it, always read the labels!!! Even if the label says organic it doesn’t mean it is raw.
FRUITS – Whole Raw and Stewed fruits make for great sweeteners! When you consume a piece of fruit it contains so many great nutrients that the body needs; All these vitamins, minerals and fibre help us to digest the sugars. 
They are natural! They are sweet! They are whole! Use them where possible!

DATES – Oh how I love cooking with dates! Yes dates are a fruit also high in fructose but they are great because they are high in nutrients and packed with fibre. When you use dates you are using the whole food. Nothing refined. You are getting all the nutrients they provide to help digest the sugar at a slower rate… Organic Medjool dates are amazing and the only sort to buy. They are great to relieve constipation, as well as helping prevent cardiovascular disease. They are great to add to any desert, smoothies or as a sweet treat.

MAPLE SYRUP – Maple syrup is full of lots of beneficial minerals, like zinc for your immune system and magnesium for energy production. Beware though; most of the products being sold as maple syrup are chemical laden sugar syrup dressed up in disguise. Read the labels! Make sure it is the real deal. Real maple syrup is the sap gathered from the maple tree. Maple syrup also has high amounts of natural occurring sugars so only use sparingly.

STEVIA – Stevia is the latest sugar free sweetener being talked about everywhere. In saying that it is not new, it is a very sweet herb native to South America with many health benefits that’s been around forever. It was originally used in medicines and has only recently been approved for everyday consumption. It is a great alternative to anything containing sugar for diabetics, Candida, or Cancer or your just worried about your blood sugar. It is super sweet, approximately 300 times sweeter than conventional sugar so you only need a very small amount. This herb has absolutely no effect on blood sugar. It comes in liquid, powder or pill form… If I use it I only use the liquid form. To make something into a white powder it has to be highly processed so try to stick with the liquid, you use less and it’s way sweeter. We sell a very pure Stevia is our shop that you only need 3 drops to be as sweet as 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of stevia to be the same as 1 whole cup of sugar. Click here to check it out. Stevia has been shown to lower blood pressure, aid with gum disease and tooth decay. Increase energy levels and mental acuity. Digestive aid, and reduce gas stomach acidity.  It is also known to contribute to Healing skin conditions including acne, tightens skin, improves wrinkles, dermatitis, eczema and scratches.
XYLITOL – Like stevia, xylitol does not feed Candida or cancer. It is a white crystal powder that can be used in tea, coffee, and to sweeten up your recipes but in too high doses it creates a laxative effect. Xylitol is a bit of a magic dust. It naturally forms in our bodies throughout our daily metabolism. It’s a naturally occurring carbohydrate in fibrous fruit and vegetables that your body does not require insulin to metabolise it. Unlike sugar, it is actually good for your teeth and if you read the back of a lot of natural toothpastes you will find it in the ingredients list. Xylitol is anti-microbial which means it prevents the growth of bacteria, unlike all other forms of sugar which cause the overgrowth of bacteria and fungi. Xylitol is a healer, not like sugar which causes damage. In saying this, xylitol should not be overused.
COCONUT SUGAR – Coconut sugar is another new one coming out in a lot of Raw chocolates. Coconut is a wonder food and coconut sugar has minimal effect on blood sugar levels. It is the evaporated nectar from the coconut.

BARLEY MALT SYRUP – Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener that is derived from barley. It tends to cause lower spikes in glucose levels because it is made from complex carbs, this is gentle to the metabolism. It is not as sweet as sugar but can be a good alternative.

MOLASSES – Molasses is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Molasses is processed in such a way that it retains its minerals and vitamins.

RAPADURA SUGAR – Organic Rapadura sugar is unrefined sugar. It can be found in your local health food or organic store. It is created by evaporating sugar cane juice and it is believed to still hold most of its nutrients as the molasses has not been removed like other table sugars.

AGAVE NECTAR – Oh Agave! Well, this has been one of the latest fads in the health food scene! We were all fooled, me included. We were all made out to believe it was the bee’s knees’ and the absolute best sugar alternative but now have been made aware that it is so highly processed that we may as well be using the evil high fructose corn syrup. It is made from the nectar of the Mexican agave plant and is a super sweet syrupy liquid a bit like honey consistency. The processing destroys all the health cred and diminishes all the nutrient value. It has just had far too much great marketing… So in short = STAY AWAY FROM IT!

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS – STAY AWAY! That’s all I can say. Artificial sweeteners are an additive and a mixture of chemicals that are detrimental to the body. Your body doesn’t know how to digest this stuff…STEER CLEAR!
What is your favourite refined sugar alternative?
Cass xo
September 12, 2013