Safe Sweetener Guide

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We finally had some nice weather this weekend, and all my 2-year-old wanted was a popsicle. I could have been prepared and made some with fruit juice the day before, but I hadn’t, so I headed to the closest grocery store so he could have his fix (okay, maybe I wanted one, too). I could not believe how difficult it was to actually find a brand that did not have artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors! One brand proudly boasted “NO ARTIFICIAL COLORS” in big red letters, and on the bottom of the box in tiny letters it said, “Contains artificial flavors.” WHAT!!??!!  Even worse, when I read the ingredients, the second item was sorbitol, a sugar substitute that has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and other similar gastrointestinal conditions.  I thought to myself, why do they need to add all this garbage to something obviously targeted towards kids?

After 15 minutes, I finally found one that contained just fruit juice and plain old sugar. I know that sugar isn’t the best thing for you either, but given the choice between sugar and something chemically derived, I will take sugar any day. However, if anyone knows of any yummy summer treats that have just pure juice and are “kid friendly,” pass on the information, please!

In the meantime, here is a quick, guide to safe sweeteners for those who need it.

Honey:  Twice as sweet as refined sugar, contains 35% protein, as well as vitamin B complex, C, D and E.

Maple Syrup:  This sticky sweetener is boiled down in big vats, from tree sap. Buy Grade C (least refined) for the most flavor and minerals.

Sucanat:  From sugarcane, it is processed to retain a higher content of mineral salts, vitamins and other trace elements.

Molasses:  This sweetener is actually a by-product of the cane sugar refining process. It releases serotonin in the brain (serotonin is a feel-good hormone).

Stevia:  More than 300 times sweeter than sugar, and calorie-free, this sweetener can be used very sparingly. Using too much of it can make things bitter.

Date Sugar:  This is a great alternative to brown sugar, and it also contains fiber and minerals.

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May 2011
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