Agave, Maple Syrup, Honey and Stevia Contain Vitamins and Minerals
Natural sugar substitutes offer nutritional alternatives to artificial sweeteners and refined sugar.
While artificial sweeteners may save on calories when compared to refined white sugar, they offer little to no nutritional value. In addition, there is so much controversy surrounding the safety of artificial sugar substitutes that it’s best to find more natural sweeteners. There are safe and natural sweeteners that contain nutrients the body needs.
Agave syrup is approximately 25 to 30 percent sweeter than sugar and has trace amounts of minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Agave ranks low on the Glycemic Index, meaning it does not affect blood sugar and insulin levels as much as regular sugar. Agave is a good natural sweetener for beverages and baking.
Blackstrap Molasses is approximately 65 percent as sweet as sugar and can be used in both cooking and baking. Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese and copper, and also contains iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin B6.
Maple syrup is most widely known as a topping for pancakes and waffles, but it’s also a natural sweetener that can be used in baking and is a good source of magnesium and zinc. Maple syrup is about 60 percent as sweet as sugar. Maple syrup can cause blood sugar levels to rise, so those with diabetes should use it sparingly.
Honey is a natural sweetener that has powerful disease-protecting antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Honey is 25 to 50 percent sweeter than sugar and can be used in cooking, baking, and beverages. As with maple syrup, honey can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and should be used sparingly by those with diabetes. (Note: Do not give honey to children under one year of age as it may put younger children at risk for botulism.)
Stevia can be found in leaf, liquid, and powder form. Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is low in calories and may help lower blood sugar levels, thereby making it safe for diabetics. The liquid and powdered form of stevia are easily dissolvable, so both are good for sweetening hot or cold beverages. The Stevia leaf has been found to contain iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Although these natural alternatives to sugar provide nutritional value and are safer to use than artificial sweeteners, they still should be used in moderation and in combination with a healthy diet.