Vegan Sugars. What’s Worth Being In Your Home? Why One Over The Other, Texture, Taste and Appearance <3

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April 29, 2013 by Living Girl Living Foods

Coconut Nectar? Agave Nectar? Stevia? Maple Syrup? Rapadura? Lakanto?

It feels like there are dozens of vegan sugars out there now, but which one is THE best? 

Each may have its pros and cons. Overall, sugar in processed form ,which all of these are in fact processed unless you use stevia straight from the plant, it is a foreign object to our bodies.

We are used to natural sugar from fruits but foods that have been manipulated into sugar is a different story. A great option is using a dried fruit like a fig or date instead. It will make your product darker, and fig seeds are in my experience impossible to hide visually and texture wise. But this is healthier, cleaner, and easy to process for your digestive system.

Liquid sugars/sweeteners are extremely addicting and tend to trick us. Our bodies and mind have no concept that these calories are being consumed because they are in a liquid or treat.

I am going to try to quickly go over the differences of these sugars, share the ones I believe are a healthier choice, explain the taste and why using one over the other (may be helpful in your recipes).

I will be mentioning the glycemic index with several of these. If you are not familiar with the glycemic index it is a system of measurement that determines the impact carbohydrates have on blood-glucose levels. Carbohydrates that release energy quickly, such as sugar, cause greater fluctuations in blood-glucose levels. Even though carbohydrates with a high glycemic index provide  instant energy, it is quickly diminished and often results in fatigue, discomfort, hunger and wanting/craving more.

A low glycemic index has a ranking of below 55; moderate glycemic index values between 56 and 69; carbohydrates ranked high on the glycemic index scale have values of 70 or above.

Agave Nectar

This liquid sugar product has had loads of buzz around its name these past few years. Companies were caught using high fructose corn syrup when their agave supplies were down, or even to just make their product cheaper while making some serious money. This caused many problems for agave users who switched to this sugar because of health problems like diabetes. They would go to the doctors and find out that there Glycemic Index was up instead of down. There are claims that this product is raw, it is not raw.

 

If you are interested in learning more about agave nectar, in a previous post I go over how this product is made, that is it actually a starch, and it actually causes cravings.

Please check at restaurants, especially raw vegan restaurants about what sugars they use in their foods. This is commonly used in raw recipes, restaurants, ice creams, and so on.

Coconut Nectar

This is the liquid sugar I use in recipes, it is dark in color, made from coconuts, I trust the company and they share how they make their products and where their coconuts, salt for aminos and etc. are sourced from. They carry coconut crystals too! I like that this has the health benefits of coconuts, it has a nice sweetness that does not take over, it is not visibly or taste wise apparent that I am using a dark coconut product either. Coconut nectar can be used in recipes with a 1:1 ratio with liquid sugars/sweeteners. I usually recommend people to try this sugar instead of agave nectar in recipes.

Coconut Nectar is a bit difficult to find in stores. I have had luck at some organic and all natural shops. Search there before buying it online!

Coconut Nectar looks a lot like maple syrup and honey. With a little bit of spices this could be a wonderful maple syrup replacement if you are looking for a raw ingredient. In my previous post about what I recommend keep in your unbaking cabinet I mention this ingredient. This is a low glycemic product ❤

Stevia

This is also another great sugar item to use, and in your local grocery store you can find it in powder, packets, tinctures and flavored tinctures. You can grow Stevia in your yard, using the whole plant-based form is ideal. It has a bitter taste and will take some adjusting with recipes! This is a product that people either love or hate 😉

The concerns with using powdered stevia is that it is processed, and ends up having similar concerns as white sugar.

It is a processed powder that has been removed from the stevia leaf, so similar to white only the sucrose is removed (like sugar cane or sugar beets). The very sweet tasting chemical is a glycoside which is called stevioside with roughly a 10% concentration in the stevia plant leaf. Most white powders contain an extract that is up to 80-90% steviocide. Many of white stevia powders use large quantities of maltodextrin to cut the flavor of stevia extract.

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide a.k.a carbohydrate that is used as an additive to quiet down the flavor of the steviocide also it provides a more even, less clumpy texture. Maltodextrin is typically derived from GMO feed corn using chemicals, bleaching agents and other unnatural processes.

I have read on many forums that people have reported digestive tract discomfort from white powdered stevia. So I’m personally keeping my eyes and ears open to see what findings every day people and researchers share.

There has been almost no negatives studies about white powdered stevia, I can’t help but be worried with how the extraction process  is handled just like any vegetable, fruit, herb, oil or so on.

It is possible to find green stevia powder, usually this is carried at organic grocery stores with a strong herb bulk section. Where I am currently living I can only find this product online. But I would rather grow the stevia myself and grind it at home, this way I have a fresh powder every time and a little less horror/mystery daydreams 😉

Stevia Tinctures are a product I am seeing more often in people’s homes. Typically I see people using one by a company called  Sweet Leaf and the tinctures are called “Sweet Drops.” They do not extract their product with alcohol which is nice. On their labels they say they use natural flavorings, but as I have mentioned before this can mean almost anything. These extracts/tinctures are MUCH sweeter than sugar and should be used in small amounts. Adding a drop to a smoothie, dessert or beverage is its most common use.

In 2009 NBC News wrote an interesting article about this ingredient raising the question if this product is really all that healthy.

Maple Syrup

This is made from the boiled sap of a maple tree, thus not raw. It provides a unique flavor and is used in many raw or vegan restaurants as an alternative sugar in desserts. Since its flavor is so unique it does not work well for most recipes but if you are going for a breakfast treat and few desserts.

Typically this works well in replacing cane sugar in dessert recipes. One teaspoon of  maple syrup has 11 calories, 99% carbohydrates and 1% protein. There does not seem to be any major benefit from using maple syrup nutritionally.

The glycemic index database states that pure maple syrup has a glycemic index value of 54, while flavored maple syrup as a glycemic index value of 68. This is higher than most honey if anyone is curious. Maple syrup is on the moderate to high glycemic level so please consider using this in moderation.

Rapadura

In making your own kombucha recipes I typically see this sugar recommended. It is not raw because it is made from evaporated cane sugar. Though this is a better option than traditional white sugar, just like all of these sugars mentioned because these are at least whole foods based. I am use to seeing this sugar as a brown sugar replacement in crackers, baked goods and desserts.

This sugar is extremely high on the glycemic index so please using sparingly, with moderation, or try to stay away from this sugar completely.

Lakanto

I’m not going to lie, I just don’t like this sugar. I had never heard of it until culinary school. I’ve had a taste of it before and it reminded me too much of processed sweeteners like white stevia and traditional white sugar. Lakanto does have more of a traditional white sugar taste, look, and texture. There is something about this product that makes me worried. May be the fact that it is made out of corn? That not that many people have heard of it? Or the erythritol?

It has a nearly zero calorie level and somehow also is at the zero level on the glycemic index. Creepy O_O

Lakanto is also called erythritol. Erythritol is large amounts erythritol can cause digestive issues and discomfort like xylitol. It is a sugar alcohol :-/ but has been fermented unlike xylitol.

People seem to be in love with this product since it has zero calories and is a zero on the glycemic index. It has the same ratio as traditional white sugar, making it easier with following recipes. Also Lakanto is made from two natural ingredients; Non-GMO erythritol (from corn) and the extract of the luo han guo fruit. 

However, Lakanto is wicked expensive.

I have heard of it possibly having conflicts with prescription drugs.

It gives me the hebejebes.

But wait, there are sugars that are not vegan?

I guess this would depend on who you are speaking to, just like many vegans do not agree if honey it vegan or not.

Cane sugar goes through a bone char as part of it’s filtering process, it whitens the sugar. It is deemed Kosher Pareve, which, according to Jewish dietary laws, means that it contains no meat or milk in any form as an ingredient. A number of vegans disagree with this perspective. Brown sugar (consider rapadura instead) goes through a kind of similar bone char filtering so this is also not vegetarian/vegan.

Beet sugar is vegetarian/vegan though! All of the sugars I have mentioned in this post are also 🙂

I hope this helps anyone who has been feeling confused about sugars. Friday I posted my review of Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss and had some friends who were very concerned with sugars. When all is said and done, using a fruit, dried fruit, whole plant-based source is the ideal way to go. All of these sugars have been processed in some way or another, and that’s not natural for our bodies.

Much love ❤ and raw power 😉

Jess

 

 

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One thought on “Vegan Sugars. What’s Worth Being In Your Home? Why One Over The Other, Texture, Taste and Appearance <3

  1. Right away I am ready to do my breakfast, afterward having
    my breakfast coming over again to read further news.

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