Monk Fruit - a Non-Caloric Sweetener:
Monk fruit is my favorite zero-calorie sweetener. I love the taste and use it in many of my recipes. Monk fruit, or luo han guo fruit, sugar is 150 - 200 times sweeter than cane sugar. Monk fruit has been used for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia including some parts of Thailand and China. Monk fruit contains beneficial antioxidants called mogrosides. Buddhist monks in the 13th century were the first to cultivate the fruit, which is the reason for its name. Monk Fruit Sweetener is also diabetic-friendly and has proven not to raise insulin or blood sugar. I can't say enough about it - it is hands down my favorite sweetener to use when I'm watching my sugar intake.
Stevia - a Non-Caloric Sweetener:
I use stevia in a lot in my recipes but I also have grown the plant and love to eat the leaves of the stevia plant. It does not raise your blood sugar and doesn't have any calories. Certain brands, including Sweetleaf Stevia Powder, can also have a prebiotic (inulin) in it which will help your good bacteria to grow. This past year I discovered something about stevia that might affect a few people. My daughter Holli started noticing that whenever she had stevia she would get a stuffy nose and cystic acne. On my quest to find out why, I discovered that stevia is a part of the ragweed family and can cause allergic reactions in those who struggle with ragweed. It doesn't seem to bother me or the rest of my family. However, I now only use monk fruit sweetener for Holli when we want a non-caloric sweetener.
Maple syrup has many qualities I love in a sweetener. It is loaded with antioxidants and lots of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and vitamins. 100% real maple syrup is sourced straight from tree sap. It goes through very minimal processing before it is packaged and bottled. Maple syrup is heat stable, so you can use it in cooking. I love to use it in smoothies or desserts or baked goods.
Local raw unpasteurized honey is another sweetener I love to use. Honey is the earliest sweetener known to mankind and was used in traditional medicine in many ancient cultures. Honey has many powerful antioxidants like polyphenols, which have been shown to help combat cancer and promote heart health. It is also great for fighting off sickness since it also still contains bee pollen which has been shown to boost the immune system. Honey also possesses natural antibacterial qualities which are used to protect the beehive from infections. Egyptians used honey as a natural antibiotic and skin protectant. Honey contains hydrogen peroxide and has a low pH level. This works to pull moisture away from bacteria, causing the harmful bacteria to get dehydrated and die off. But that's not all - honey is a prebiotic, too! Honey contains oligosaccharides that can promote the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria which can help make your good bacteria grow and multiply. Combining the antimicrobial components and the prebiotics together can act synergistically against certain pathogens and make your good gut flora flourish.
Sucanat is natural cane sugar that is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules. Sucanat retains its natural molasses which is what gives it a richer taste and also contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, and chromium. The molasses flavor changes the way Sucanat affects the taste of a recipe so I mostly use coconut sugar since I think it has more benefits and tastes better too.
Coconut sugar comes from coconut tree blossom nectar. One of my favorite things about this sweetener is that it doesn't spike blood sugar as much as other natural sweeteners due to its low glycemic index and minimal processing. It also contains B vitamins, potassium, chloride, and other vitamins, minerals and enzymes that aid in slower absorption into the bloodstream. I have seen and witnessed these many benefits. My blood sugar does much better with coconut sugar than most other natural sweeteners. My favorite thing about coconut sugar is the prebiotic it contains. Inulin, a type of dietary fiber that is a huge prebiotic) has the ability to promote the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria which have been known to help restore the good bacteria in the gut and also boost your immunity.
These types of sweeteners occurs naturally in plants such as fruits and vegetables. Sugar alcohols (also known as polyols), do not contain ethanol so they are not the same thing as an alcoholic beverage. There are several sugar alcohols, like, erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol, and they're often used as sugar substitutes because they don't raise blood sugar. However, some of them can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea so I really only use erythritol since its the easiest sugar alcohol to digest and it's fermented too. One thing to note, if you have SIBO or IBS I do not recommend sugar alcohols since they're absorbed in the small intestine which can cause problems for those with an imbalance in this area.
Blackstrap molasses comes from sugar cane which is mashed to create juice and then boiled once to create cane syrup. A second boiling creates the molasses. Then it is boiled a third time and the dark viscous liquid emerges known as blackstrap molasses. It has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product and it has many vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and selenium. It has a low glycemic impact and helps to slow how the body breaks down and absorbs glucose. It has a strong taste so can't be used in every recipe, but I do love it in bread. Always buy blackstrap molasses, since the triple boiling and sugar extraction process results in blackstrap molasses being a more nutritionally dense sweetener than plain or "second" molasses.