You Are At: AllSands Home > Food > Natural sugar substitutes
In today's health conscious world, many people are searching for natural sources of sugar substitution. Sugar has been blamed for many health problems and medical conditions, from diabetes to obesity to cancer. Sugar is a stimulant that can throw off your body's delicate chemistry, and should always be used with caution. Better yet, throw it out altogether, and get used to the many delicious and healthful alternatives to sugar.

First of all, if you are trying to avoid processed sugar, you must start reading ingredient labels! Sugar, often listed as sucrose, fructose or corn syrup, is a major ingredient in many foods and food items that you would never guess! There is a vast amount of sugar in peanut butter, ketchup, spaghetti sauces, canned ravioli, and fruit drinks, to name just a few. Often, even that healthy-looking bran cereal and non-frosted corn flakes contain lots of sugar. Disappointed? Read the labels-you may be surprised.

Buying everything sugar-free isn't necessarily the answer. Sometimes the sugar substitute can have more harmful effects than eating the processed sugar. Saccharin has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats, and aspartame (or Nutra-Sweet) has not been problem-free. If you are serious about cutting down your processed sugar intake, be smart and use the most natural sources available.

When baking, there are many natural sugar substitutes that are readily available at your local grocery store. Pure maple syrup (not the maple "flavored" syrups) and honey are absolutely 100% sugar-free. Make sure they're pure. Molasses will also suffice instead of processed sugar, but because of its strong flavor, be sure you don't mind the taste before you use it. Barley malt is a thick, medium brown syrup that is a wonderful substitute for refined white sugar. It comes from the grain barley, and it very sweet and mild. Rice syrup is a little lighter and thinner than barley malt and (of course) comes from brown rice. Each of these products can be put into a recipe just as you would sugar. You might need to decrease the amount somewhat, especially if you don't want your batter or dough to be too liquid. With the healthy climate that exists in cuisine today, there are literally hundreds of cookbooks available that contain recipes that use these products rather than processed, refined sugar.

Fruit juice has long been a wonderful alternative to sugar. When using fruit juice, make sure there is no added sugar in the juice. Look for the words "100% pure," or "100% juice." Sometimes manufacturers trick unwary consumers into thinking their product is 100% juice by adding the words "100% natural." Sugar, even processed, refined sugar is natural. Make sure all you have in your hand is juice, and nothing more.

Sometimes you want a little something sweet on cereal or oatmeal. Try fruit or raisins, or a swirl of maple syrup. You won't miss the sugar! You can also puree fruit-any kind of berry works well, or peaches-and mix it into your cereal. Once you start looking for other options, it's fun to experiment and try many different things.