Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sweet Talk!

When I learned how to cook, if I wanted to add a touch of sweetness, I would reach for the bowl of white sugar. I didn’t think of the impact on my blood sugar or health, and I certainly didn’t think about how my sugar was made. I will always have a sweet tooth, but I try to incorporate healthier sweeteners into my life. It can be daunting, however, trying to decide which sweetener to use. Here is a short primer of a few of the great ones available.

White sugar is pure carbohydrate, 99.5% sucrose. It is stripped of all its natural components: water, minerals and vitamins. These empty calories provide absolutely no nutritional benefit. However, natural sweeteners that have been concentrated by means of dehydration or boiling still contain minerals and other nutrients. When sugar has been extracted from the juice of the beet or cane plant, a strong tasting black syrup (known as molasses) remains. When white sugar is made, the molasses are entirely removed, whereas brown sugars retain varying amounts of this natural syrup. The more molasses in brown sugar, the stickier the crystals, the darker the color and the stronger the flavor.

Raw Sugar
Raw Sugar is essentially the product at the point before the molasses is removed (what’s left after sugarcane has been processed and refined).

Turbinado Sugar
This sugar is a raw sugar which has been partially processed, removing some of the surface molasses. It is a blond color with a mild brown sugar flavor.

Muscovado Sugar
Muscovado is a type of unrefined sugar with a strong molasses flavor. Unlike most other brown sugars, which are made by adding molasses to refined white sugar, muscovado takes its flavor and color from the source sugar-cane juice. It is more unprocessed than Turbinado Sugar.

Sucanat retains its full molasses content and flavor. It is essentially pure dried (dehydrated) sugar cane juice. Sucanat is generally accepted as a substitute for brown sugar.

Organic Cane Juice
An organic product, evaporated cane juice is sugar that does not go through the final stages of purification and whitening by chemicals. It is 85% to 95% sucrose, compared to 99% to 100% for regular sugar.

A simple sugar found in honey and in fruit. It is much sweeter than sucrose (table sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets). A teaspoon of granulated fructose has about the same number of calories as a teaspoon of granulated sugar, but fructose is roughly twice as sweet.

Pure Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. It is a naturally occurring 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. the same sweetness as sugar (sucrose) but with 40% fewer calories and none of the negative tooth decay or insulin release effects of sugar.

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