The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
Let’s get something straight: we should all strive to reduce the amount of added sugar in our daily meals and snacks. Swapping one sugar for another won’t help you achieve your health goals if you don’t work on minimizing sugar in the first place.
With that disclaimer in place, some sugars are more natural and have less of an impact on your blood sugar. It’s helpful to think of these six Fx-approved sweeteners as upgraded choices with added benefits.
1. Coconut Nectar
Coconut nectar is the sap from the flowers of the coconut palm tree. It even preserves some of the tree’s nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Inulin is a fiber unique to coconut nectar, which may be responsible for its lower glycemic index compared to other liquid sweeteners. Instead of coconut, it has an earthy sweetness, which works well in baking. You can also use a small amount to sweeten smoothies and oatmeal, or drizzle it over pancakes.
2. Coconut Sugar
Also referred to as coconut palm sugar, this sugar comes from the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm tree with similar nutrients to coconut nectar. With a caramel-like flavor, it can be substituted for equal amounts of white sugar in recipes. Look for it in the baking aisle next to the other sugars.
Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree. Rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium, dates make a wonderful sweetener for smoothies or can be smeared with almond butter and enjoyed as a snack. Because of their subtle caramel flavor and sticky texture, dates are an ideal ingredient in homemade energy bars too! Looking for a 1:1 substitute for white sugar? Make your own date paste by combining one cup of tightly packed dates with 2 oz. of water in a food processor.
4. Blackstrap Molasses
Molasses is the syrup that results when the sugar cane plant is refined into sugar. Blackstrap molasses is the final byproduct of the third boiling cycle in this process, creating a deep and almost bitter flavor. Small amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and about 20% of your daily iron needs can be found in one Tbsp.
5. Pure Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. A decent source of potassium, magnesium and iron, and a very rich source of manganese, maple syrup is still sugar and should be used sparingly. Don’t be fooled by imitation pancake syrups loaded with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. Reach for the real deal—Heinen’s pure organic maple syrup.
6. Raw Honey
Raw honey is unfiltered and unpasteurized. It can be described as honey “as it exists in the hive.” This means it retains all the original vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds (polyphenols) that Mother Nature intended. A bonus of choosing raw over regular is that raw honey has been shown to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.