Sweeteners 101

Ever since we started our 100 Days of Real Food pledge it seems like we have been getting a lot of questions about sugar and other sweeteners. Can’t we have sugar? Isn’t it natural? Yes, I suppose it is technically “natural” since it is made from the sugar cane plant, but it is also a highly processed version of this plant similar to how white flour is made from the wheat plant. If we are going to start classifying things in this manner we could also technically say high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “natural” since it is made from corn. And despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, according to Michal Pollan, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.

A sweetener like honey can also be considered natural and somewhat “processed”, although the work is done by bees out in nature as opposed to in a factory. All of these (as well as other sweeteners) are high in energy and low in nutrients, although an alternative like honey or maple syrup might be slightly better in the nutrition department. According to Michael Pollan the moral of this story is that “sugar is sugar” and “organic sugar is sugar too.” In processed food there are “now some forty types of sugar used” including:

barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane juice, corn sweetener, dextrin, dextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, invert sugar, polydextrose, sucrose, turbinado sugar

There are also the sweeteners you can find in the grocery store baking aisle such as:

Splenda, Equal, agave syrup, corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, Sweet-n-Low, brown sugar

No matter what kind of sugar you decide to use we think there are a couple of key takeaways:

  • Consume any and all types of sugar in moderation mainly trying to reserve them for special occasions.
  • When it comes to store-bought foods avoid those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Pollan.
  • Given the choice go with a natural option like honey or even white sugar as opposed to the artificial stuff like aspartame (or Splenda).

As far as our 100 Days of Real Food rules go, we chose honey and 100% maple syrup as acceptable choices because they are made in nature and less often found in highly processed foods. This rule has resulted in us having to make from scratch anything we eat that contains a sweetener. Trust me when I tell you, I have searched high and low for a store-bought product containing 5 or less ingredients and honey or maple syrup as the sweetener. One may exist, but I have not found it. So this rule greatly helps us not only reduce, but also regulate our consumption of “sweets” since we have to make everything ourselves.

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159 thoughts on “Sweeteners 101”

  1. I was curious on sugar because while the guidelines say honey and pure maple syrup are acceptable, some of the dessert recipes contain brown sugar or regular sugar. How does that fit in to the guidelines?

    1. Hi Kasey,
      Lisa tries to use honey and maple syrup as much as possible as her sweeteners when cooking, but it’s also about balance and treating yourself every now and then. – Nicole

  2. I’m wondering about other natural sweeteners that are made similarly to honey and maple syrup like coconut palm syrup and sorghum syrup. Are these acceptable for the pledge?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Technically, for the pledge, the only sweeteners approved are honey and maple because they are unprocessed.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Stevia in its pur form is fine but many on the market also contain artificial sweeteners.

  3. We live in the south and are getting questions from skeptical family members who are asking about sweeteners like sorgum and molasses. From my understanding these are boiled just like maple syrup(to thicken). I would appreciate your thoughts on these.

  4. What about organic jaggery? I just heard about it and it (organically produced) sounds like a tropical equivalent of maple syrup (tap the sap, boil it down). I’m quite intrigued since I don’t always like the taste of maple or honey for everything. I love brown sugar so I’m trying to find a good alternative for it in baking. Thanks!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi. Honestly, that was anew sugar term for me. :) For pledge purposes, we stick with honey and maple. Outside of the pledge, you have to decide what option works best for you while keeping the sugar to a minimum. It does look like it is one of the lesser processed forms.

  5. I need a sweetener in my coffee. I had switched to stevia, the white refined kind, but read that the high heat and high amount of processing made it not such a great choice, so I switched back to sugar. What is a good, whole food, clean sweetener for coffee?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Kristi. Lisa often uses maple syrup. My coffee sweetener of choice is a small amount of coconut palm sugar.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Netty. For pledge purposes, only honey and maple syrup are approved. Outside of the pledge, we look at any added sugar as sugar. Some may be slightly higher in some nutrients and minerals but we look at sugar as sugar no matter the form. I personally use coconut palm sugar but I use it very sparingly. ;)

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Debbie. Molasses is not something we use as a sweetener. For pledge purposes only maple syrup and honey are permitted. Outside of the pledge, molasses might be considered slightly more processed but it is better than refined sugars and has a slightly better nutrient profile. It it has a pretty strong taste, however, and is not as versatile as honey and maple. ~Amy

  6. I am overwhelmed in the honey section at the grocery store, clover? wildflower? raw? organic? How do I know I’m buying the “right” honey?

  7. Hi! I use sorghum often. If you aren’t familiar, it is made pretty much exactly like maple syrup. What are the thoughts on this? Thanks!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Amy. I’m not all that familiar with sorghum as a sweetener though I do use sorghum flour for gluten free baking. As a sweetener, it certainly stands above sugar nutritionally. :)

  8. Hello!

    I am new to this and have a lot of questions, especially about sugars! Do you think that 100% organic blue agave is an acceptable sweetener to use?

  9. What are your thoughts on molasses? I have access to homegrown sugar cane and molasses (produced right down the road) and wonder how I would substitute it for maple syrup?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Stacy. Lisa pretty much sticks to honey and maple syrup, so that is not a sub that we’ve tried. Molasses has a pretty distinctive flavor so is a little less all purpose as a sweetener but it is the most nutrient dense out of all of them.:)

  10. Just curious. If I grew my own sugar cane and hand cranked the juice out of it. Would that be considered a “real food”? We just saw a video on how to do it. when I was little my gpa would cut chunks of sugar cane and let us chew on it as a natural candy. Any thoughts?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Certainly that is a step up from table sugar! :) It is important to keep in mind that sugar is sugar and we need to limit our consumption of it. ~Amy

  11. How do you substitute brown sugar in recipes? I have a favorite recipe that calls for 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Any suggestions how to change the brown sugar to healthier version in my baked goods?

  12. Hi there! Love your blog and all the wonderful advice and ideas. Question about honey. What type, specifically, do you use? I’m assuming raw honey but I want to make certain before I attempt the sandwich bread recipe. Farmer’s market tomorrow and I’m pretty sure they have a honey stand. Thanks!

  13. out of curiosity, has anyone tried dehydrating maple syrup for use when you need a dry sugar? I haven’t tried it, but while I was making oatmeal this morning, I noticed that there was some dried syrup at the top of the bottle, and began wondering whether or not that would work. it just seems that all the unprocessed sugars are liquid, and most baking recipes call for a dry sugar….

  14. I started out with one question and now, after reading the comment above me, I have two! Both of these may be really dumb questions, but here goes:
    -I didn’t know there was a difference between raw honey and processed honey?? If I get it from a farmer does that mean it’s raw and from the store processed?
    -Does Lisa use any kind of granulated sugar/brown cane sugar, etc at all or does she still only stick to honey and maple syrup?
    On another note, I am attempting to recommit to real foods after reading 1/3 of the way through the book Salt, Sugar, Fat. It’s quite an interesting read!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Laura. There are no dumb questions here. :) Raw honey will specify that it is raw honey. If you have doubts, ask the farmer. Lisa, on occasion, will use organic granulated sugar but it doesn’t happen often. :) And yes, that is a great book! ~Amy

      1. So if I were going to occasionally use sugar, organic granulated would be the best option instead of raw, etc? Also, what is the difference between raw honey and just regular honey (that I get from a farmer)?

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi again. Because Lisa uses it so infrequently, she doesn’t worry about the form so much. But, there is nothing preventing you from buying raw sugar if that is what you prefer. Raw honey is not heated and this ensures that the vitamins, living enzymes and other nutritional elements stay in tact.

  15. What is your opinion on raw honey versus processed honey? Is one preferable or better than the other? Is it assumed that one or the other is being used in the recipes provided on the website?

      1. Just to double-clarify, please Amy….so raw local honey is ok (even preferred) in the real recipes here on your website? Wanted to make sure I didn’t need to take an extra step before adding it to the recipe. Thank you so much!

  16. We only use “Sweetleaf Stevia liquid” only two ingredients: purified water & organic stevia leaf. Very healthy according to various reputable sources not like the powdered versions at all. We
    purchase at local health food store in Charlotte or online at Amazon.com.

  17. Did anyone have a chance to look into that “Monk fruit” alternative? I’m curious about both the “In the Raw” or “Nectresse” form and the “luo han guo”/liquid form. As my niece is diabetic, I’m wondering if this is a better option than some of the sweeteners that we currently use.

    Thanks!

  18. Today at a local Kroger I found “unprocessed, organic brown cane sugar. Is this acceptable on the pledge?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Melissa. The only sweeteners allowed during the pledge are honey and maple syrup. Outside of the pledge, we encourage you to limit your consumption of sugar (regardless of type) as much as possible but it is not prohibited. :) Good luck. ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi. No, we’ve have not tried these. The ingredient list is a winner. And, no organic is recommended with many items but not required. ~Amy

  19. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Noelle. Sucanat is minimally refined and would not be appropriate during the pledge. Sucanat, coconut palm sugar, and muscovado while better sugar choices should otherwise be used in moderation. ~Amy

  20. I recently learned about a sweetener on Dr. Oz called Monk Fruit in the Raw. The box reads the ingredients as dextrose and monk fruit extract. Would this be an acceptable alternative sweetener according to the pledge?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lauren. I’ve no real knowledge of this product. I will look into it out of curiosity. However, on the pledge honey and maple syrup are the only sweeteners that should be used. Best of luck. ~Amy

  21. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Tracey. Xylitol is extracted from corn husks and hardwood and is certainly processed/refined. It boasts some health benefits but the jury is still out. It can also be uncomfortable to digest. There are many real food alternatives if you need a dry ingredient. Have you tried coconut palm sugar: http://foodbabe.com/2011/12/19/ditch-refined-sugar/? Best of luck. ~Amy

  22. I am trying to find a dry substitute for sugar for homemade premade mixes. I have tried sucanat, but my daughter is not a fan. My sister-in-law mentioned xylitol but I’m finding mixed reviews in my research? Is it considered refined? Can it be used as a substitute?

  23. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Tonya. Cane sugar is refined. We try to avoid refined sugars whenever possible. ~Amy

      1. I really don’t understand why maple syrup is okay but maple sugar is “refined” when maple sugar is made simply from boiling it a few more minutes than maple syrup.

        I was also wondering why you consider molasses not to be a “real food” since it is made from a very similar process as maple syrup.

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi Crystal. Outside of the rules, other forms of sugar are okay as long as sugar, in general, is used in great moderation. I use coconut palm sugar to sweeten my morning coffee as well as molasses and sucanat from time to time. The pledge rules are meant to encompass whole foods and only the least processed forms of ingredients. Lisa sticks with honey and maple syrup except for rare occasion. ~Amy

      3. I understand that. It seems to be the “canned” answer for when anyone asks anything about sweeteners. I was just hoping that a more direct question might yield a more specific answer but apparently not. I was just trying to figure out why sorghum/molasses is considered processed while maple syrup is considered whole food when they both go through a very similar process of boiling off water to get the sugary syrup leftover. Wondering if it is a random/arbitrary selection or if there was reasoning behind it, but I understand that you aren’t necessarily privy to that information yourself. I just like to fully research things and not take one person’s opinion, when there is no documentation or research to back it up. I thought Lisa may have reasons for her selections.

      4. Crystal – Thanks for your inquiry. Part of the reason we were satisfied with only those 2 sweetener options is because sweeteners in general should be limited so we were okay with limiting the options as much as possible. Yes, in the end “added sugar is sugar” and if you start comparing similar options under a microscope it becomes hard to decide where to draw the line – but we just had to draw that line somewhere. I didn’t do a deep dive research project on all the different options because that wasn’t really the point. I hope that helps.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Mandy. I am really not that familiar with liquid stevia. I do know the white powder form in which it is sold in the stores is pretty processed, so, I’m not sure how the liquid version differs. Jill

  24. Do you have a standard replacement ratio? For example, I have a banana bread recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of sugar. Do you replace that with a half cup of honey/maple syrup? Quarter cup?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jessica. I don’t have a standard replacement. You may want to try and do an internet search to see if you can come up with what an appropriate substitution ratio might be. Jill

    2. Hi!
      While reading How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman I came across this conversion for sugar to honey in baking:
      1. Reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey.
      2. For every cup of honey, add1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to balance the honey’s acidity.
      3. When substituting in quick breads, cookies, and cakes, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over browning.

      Also keep in mind that honey is 25 percent sweeter than sugar, so you can use it more sparingly.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Nicole. Yes, stevia is derived from a plant, but, the process of getting it to the form in which it is consumed is why we choose not to use it. According to some research, the leaves are dried out and then they undergo a water extraction process. The extract then goes through a purification process which includes bleaching as the natural color is actually brown. I hope this helps to clarify why we would not consider it to be a natural sweetener. Jill

  25. I am enjoying your site which I have just discovered on Pinterest. Regarding “sugars” and “synthetic sweeteners”, I agree on discontinuing usage of the chemical type replacements, and using a product such as Stevia is not only effective in recipes, but also quite healthy. It is a plant derivative and offers quite a list of health benefits. As a wellness coach for Beachbody/Shakeology, I am pleased to announce that Stevia and natural sweeteners such as cacao are the only ones found in Shakeology products. This is a better way to sweeten things other than sugar, and definitely chemicals are never acceptable.

  26. What are your thoughts on coconut palm sugar crystals or liquid? It seems to be less processed and I’ve read that it has quite a bit of potassium, etc, just in the little research I’ve done.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Heather. I heard about the coconut palm sugar for the first time reading on the FoodBabe’s blog (www.foodbabe.com). Here is an excerpt about what she says about it. I hope this is helpful. Jill
      “Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, my #1 choice for sweeteners. It’s nectar is gathered directly from the coconut tree flower off palm trees. Coconut palm sugar is completely unrefined and not bleached like typical refined white sugar, helping to preserve all of its teeming vitamins and minerals. It is naturally high in amino acids – has 10,000 times more potassium, 20 times more magnesium and 20 times more iron than conventional sugar. Coconut palm sugar has half the glycemic index compared to regular cane sugar – a huge bonus to keep blood sugar stable and for those who are diabetic.”

      1. Coconut sugar (in liquid form) and maple syrup have the same amount of processing. But between coconut sugar and palm sugar which has least processing? And what would be the best price raw honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar (liquid form)?
        Baking treats will require some sort of sweetener even in small amounts. I find this the hardest part of eating real food deciding what is really the best solution for ingredients when there seem to be so many choices that are equal.

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

        Hi Sherry. Lisa had posted this response to a reader’s question on coconut sugar a while back…
        Hi there – I actually recently posted this statement on facebook and I think it applies to your question as well! “These are my two basic rules when it comes to sweeteners:
        1. Avoid the artificial stuff…as Michael Pollan says “Innovation in food is bad” and I believe him.
        2. No matter what sweetener you choose (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, raw sugar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, etc.) it should all be consumed in moderation. Just because some less processed sweeteners contain trace nutrients it does not give us the green light to turn up the bottle. Bottom line: Added sugar is added sugar.”
        I can’t really comment on your price comment as I’m guessing that will vary based upon geography. Good luck. Jill

    2. I know this is an old comment but just in case someone is reading through I thought I’d put this info out there. Coconut sugar is not a sustainable resource. As the demand for coconut sugar goes up, coconut oil will become harder to find and much, much more expensive. Coconut sugar just not a very good choice. We use raw honey, organic maple syrup and I’m just now experimenting with unsulfered molasses. Here is a good article:

      http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

  27. I know that we need to reduce the amount of sugar we eat, so that is a given. My question is about honey. I had thought about switching to honey but I keep hearing in all the news about most of the honey sold in stores does not contain pollen therefore you have to wonder what it really is? It sounds like if you can get it from a local source like a farmers market the tests are fine, but most of the honey sold in store is questionable. So what are your thoughts. I have used less processed cane sugar instead of honey for that reason and tried to reduce the amount we use, but wondering if honey would still be better.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      The reason why honey is “better” than some of the refined sweeteners is because it contains trace nutrients and was minimally processed in nature. You are right though it’s important to get good quality honey with no extra additives if you can.

  28. What do you think about coconut sugar? I saw some at Whole Foods, and according to wikipedia it is natural and full of vitamins/nutrients.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Hi there – I actually recently posted this statement on facebook and I think it applies to your question as well! “These are my two basic rules when it comes to sweeteners:
      1. Avoid the artificial stuff…as Michael Pollan says “Innovation in food is bad” and I believe him.
      2. No matter what sweetener you choose (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, raw sugar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, etc.) it should all be consumed in moderation. Just because some less processed sweeteners contain trace nutrients it does not give us the green light to turn up the bottle. Bottom line: Added sugar is added sugar.”

    2. I know this is an old comment but just in case someone is reading through I thought I’d put this info out there. Coconut sugar is not a sustainable resource. As the demand for coconut sugar goes up, coconut oil will become harder to find and much, much more expensive. Coconut sugar just not a very good choice. We use raw honey, organic maple syrup and I;m just now experimenting with unsulfered molasses. Here is a good article:

      http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

  29. I can not use sugar substitutes, they give me “Rushing to the ER migraines, that I wouldn’t wish on my enemy”. I have been hesitant about using honey, but with the recipes you have provided I think honey would be a definite do for me. I absolutely love maple syrup, although it is quite expensive in Texas, but I will tell you that processed Maple Pecan and Butter Pecan ice creams have always been my favorite and I will be buying the ingredients, except the pecans we have pecan trees around our house. I crack, bag and freeze my own pecans every year. I look forward to preparing your recipe tonight. I also like to mix it up occasionly and use walnuts in place of pecans.

  30. Thanks for replying, I was just curious. We recently finished our 10 pledge and it was super hard at first but towards the end it was actually really simple. We’ve been really enjoying all your recipes and tips, it’s amazing how weird people think we are for avoiding processed foods. I am so glad to have your site as a major resource, thanks so much for all you do it’s making a huge difference for so many people! :)

  31. Just a quick question, why don’t you endorse unsulfered molasses or black strap molasses (both are good)? It’s got a lot of minerals and is a healthy option as well. Just wondered. :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      We are able to do everything we need with honey and maple syrup…and they are slightly less processed. The bottom line with sweeteners is that “sugar is sugar” no matter which one you choose.

  32. Hi. Yes Lisa replys:
    100 Days of Real Food
    March 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm · Reply
    I looked it up the other day and doesn’t look very “real food” to me…Michael Pollan says “innovation in food is bad” and I am pretty sure it’s not something our ancestors were eating!

    I hope this helps. I’m now reading m pollens book!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      LeAnn – That is a relatively new sweetener that I need to research…but I am learning toward “no” as far as eating it.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I looked it up the other day and doesn’t look very “real food” to me…Michael Pollan says “innovation in food is bad” and I am pretty sure it’s not something our ancestors were eating!

  33. I’ve been trying to find a raw organic honey to use for my family. Trader Joes sells ‘Raw Organic Honey’ that they say they filter and whip a bit….any thoughts on this??
    I am loving your blog! If you compiled all of your recipes in a book, I would buy one for every person I know!!! Such a phenomenal resource!

  34. Wow! What a great resource! Thank you for all your work on this blog! So, there was a question about xylitol that a few comments ago, and I was wondering the same thing – what about xylitol?

    Thanks in advance for your time!

  35. Thanks for another informative web site. The place else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal method? I’ve a undertaking that I am simply now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

  36. Wow, I love your blog. My husband heard about your site and wrote it down for me and I am not kidding, other then getting up to make my meals and water , I have sat here reading for the last almost eight hours. I read both 100 days of posts and the health advantages, have written down some recipes and now I am reading about the sweetners. I have to admit I have been a big time user of aspartame and splenda for close to thirty years , first aspartame and then splenda as it became available. I have been using stevia and thought it was better, I even have some of the Trader Joe stuff too. Had my mother in law mail to me from Calif, no Trader Joes in the Dallas area at t his time, but here it might happen soon !! I cannot wait !
    I have been working on getting the diet soda out of my diet and after years of a 2 liter bottle a day I can say I am not drinking it every day and after reading this blog and all your test results, will stick with just water from now on. I have been drinking mostly water for weeks now. Tea with honey will be the other drink I allow myself.
    I am prediabetic and my cholesterol is not what it should be and I have over a hundred pounds to lose, and my husband is not far behind me. I do believe this is something we can do as we already eat lots of homemade black beans and brown rice and whole wheat but too much of other stuff we should not.
    Thanks so much for sharing with us all, I am very excited and plan to get us signed up for our first ten day by the end of the week when I can go shopping on pay day !!
    We live in a small town an hour from Dallas and there is NO where to buy much organic,Just some in a local HEB grocery store, but if we drive up to Dallas we have a lot, so it is something we may have to do once a week to eat the way we need to.
    I will be reading a lot more here and trying to learn from all the wonderful posters as well.
    Thanks so much,
    Stephanie

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Wow, thanks so much for your comment. I wish you both the best of luck with your transition to real food!! :)

  37. I am wondering if you use raw honey or “regular” honey? I have seen raw honey at the store but I have never bought it. Just curious. And thank you for all your effort on this blog. It has inspired me to make healthier meals for my family and I love your recipes.

      1. Does the honey have to be unpasteurized to be a healthy sweetener? Is unpasteurized honey safe for children as soon as they turn 1? Thanks.

      2. Raw honey is not safe for any children under the age of 2. They usually have the warning on their labels.

    1. I agree -Sarah. Agave has gotten such a hype lately. But. As a rule of thumb everything in moderation :). Thanks for the article I tried telling some friends it is not as great as what people think

    2. wow, how easily fooled we are….thanks for the link to the article. I am terribly addicted to sugar. That is the hardest part of the whole food challenge for me…..

  38. Oh no! where is xylitol? It has a low glycemic index and has added health benefits for your teeth (prevents decay, and is talked about to help repair damaged enamel, I don’t know the facts on this though)

  39. I enjoy my coffee with milk and sugar- which I have been using Truvia. Do you have a suggestion that would be better? Thanks!

  40. How do you convert your existing recipes for cakes, cookies, etc using maple syrup (which is obscenely expensive) or honey? Is it one-to-one or is they a method to the madness?

  41. I have been using a vegan, organic stevia from Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles. The only ingredient is organic stevia. If you are in the area that has a Trader Joe’s, I would highly recommend this product. It tastes great and there are no calories or carbs.

  42. Hi. I know this is an older post, but I have a question. I would like to try the 100 day pledge but I am wondering about the “sugar” aspect. I am vegan and therefore don’t like to use white cane sugar (not a problem), but I also don’t use honey. I do, however, use Sucanat and Agave, along with maple syrup. Agave is a low gluten natural product made from the agave plant, so I’m wondering as I don’t use honey, if it is okay if I use the agave. It is very similar in texture to honey but does not increase the insulin levels. And I use Sucanat very sparingly. What are your thoughts? Thanks. Love your site.

  43. You can take your stevia leaves and use a mortar and pestle to grind them into a paste, it works for me. Sometimes I just take a leaf or two and pop them in a big jug of tea, let it sit for a bit and it gives it a nice little sweet too. You can also buy it off the shelf, yes it is processed but there’s definitely under 5 ingredients in it and it’s waaaaay better for you than sugar, aspartame, or saccharine.
    It tastes a bit like aspartame to me, which is good because that’s what I grew up on with both my parents being diabetic. I recently found out that aspartame can cause serious problems with liver function, and a multitude of other little health problems, so discovering stevia was a huge thing for me.

  44. I was going to dry some of it in my dehydrator and use some of it as a raw leaf. I could use the raw leaf for making juices(lemonade/iced tea) or in hot tea. I heard you can use it in baking but I will have to do some research on that.

  45. I was in the nursery store on the weekend and found a Stevia plant. So now I am growing my own sugar. I’m thinking that this suring would qualify for the 100 days of real food. Right?

  46. Very helpful stuff – I’ve been trying to cut out sugars and artificial sweeteners. I too am curious about stevia as that has become my sweetener of choice. Also, what about agave nectar?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I would choose agave over stevia. They have both been around for a long time, but stevia is still banned in some countries and was only recently approved in the U.S. And as Michael Pollan says…innovation in food is bad!

  47. Do you drink coffee? If so, do you take it black? Or did you have to make the switch to tea, with honey if necessary?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I drink my version of a “mocha” which is 1 shot of espresso, 3/4 cup hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup. It took me a little while to transition from my old white chocolate mochas to these, but now I love them! My husband drinks his coffee with a little milk only.

  48. What about molasses? Would you consider it as an acceptable sweetener? I thought it would be a good substitute for brown sugar but I’m new to this…help?

    1. Molasses is sugar cane juice that has been boiled so I would say it is definitely more processed than something like honey or pure maple syrup. Pretty much all sweeteners are the same though in regards to being rather high in calories and low in nutrients therefore all of them should be used in moderation (whether they are highly processed or not).

      1. I realize this is an old post but I just read it now. I’m just wondering why you’re objecting to molasses because it’s been boiled, and yet you’re ok with maple syrup. Do you use some kind of special maple syrup that hasn’t been boiled?

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

        Hi Irene. Maple syrup is made from the natural sap of the maple tree and then heated. To make molasses on the other hand, the cane of a sugar plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves and the juice is extracted usually by crushing or mashing, but also by cutting. The juice is then boiled to concentrate it. Depending on the type of molasses being produced, there could be up to 3 different boiling processes. So, as you can see, just by the nature of how it is produced, it is much more processed. I hope that helps. Jill

  49. What about Sucanat? It’s dehydrated cane juice, more like coarse grains of sand than fine sugar. This is a sweetener that is often called for in the baked “treats” in my Clean Eating magazine.

    1. Based on my research Sucanat appears to be slightly more processed than honey and maple syrup (which are “processed” in nature) and a little less processed than white sugar. So I guess it would fall somewhere in-between as far as the amount of processing goes. I will say that whether it is this product or maple syrup or raw sugar or refined sugar that all sweeteners are basically high in calories and low in nutrients and should all be used in moderation no matter how processed they are though. Here is a little more detail of how Sucanat is made: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucanat

    2. Based on my research Sucanat appears to be slightly more processed than honey and maple syrup (which are “processed” in nature) and a little less processed than white sugar. So I guess it would fall somewhere in-between as far as the amount of processing goes. I will say that whether it is this product or maple syrup or raw sugar or refined sugar that all sweeteners are basically high in calories and low in nutrients and should all be used in moderation no matter how processed they are though. Here is a little more detail of how Sucanat is made: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucanat

  50. I’ve been doing all of our starch baking from scratch but have been baking with organic evaporated cane juice. This is a no no on your list however. How does the honey change the baking of things like muffins/waffles/breads? What about rapadura? I’d love some insight!

    1. I have never used cane juice and it is a “no-no” because it is refined and therefore very similar to sugar. It is also on the “no” list because it can be found in a lot of store-bought processed foods. Since I have never used it I am not 100% sure of the consistency although I imagine since it is called “juice” it must be somewhat of a liquid. I think using honey instead would change things in some recipes, but not all. In recipes that just call for a small amount of sugar I have substituted honey (which is obviously a very different consistency from sugar) and had no issues. So I think those recipes would work just fine it is the ones that call for larger amounts (like sweets) where it would probably be more trial and error for you to substitute.

  51. I’ve been wondering about “raw” sugar. Is that still just considered “sugar” and not any better than the white sugar?

    1. Raw sugar is actually a little less processed than the typical white sugar so therefore it does have a “trace” amount of nutrients. So I suppose it would be slightly better, but either way it is still very much a sweetener that overall is high in energy and low in nutrients. So it should be treated just like any other sweetener including white sugar, brown sugar, honey, etc. I hope that helps!

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