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HONEY AND OTHER SWEETENERS
by Sue Becker
There are many reasons why refined white sugar is harmful for you. It tends to promote the growth of disease causing bacteria and is so devoid of nutritional value of its own, it actually robs your body of valuable nutrients to even metabolize it. It promotes the production of adrenaline, which explains the affect of hyperactivity it causes in many children. The health of our family has greatly improved with the significant reduction of white sugar in our diets. Brown sugar has no more nutritional value than white.
We use raw, unpasteurized honey for our baking and sweetening. Honey is sugar, but is natural and unrefined, and contains a host of nutrients and enzymes that have a multitude of beneficial attributes. Honey consists of numerous types of sugars, but will not cause the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar levels as does white sugar.
The varieties or flavors of honey are determined by the kind of flowers from which the bees gathered nectar. We carry six different varieties of honey.
Wild Flower honey is produced from the nectar of what ever flowers are in bloom. It is a dark honey with a strong flavor. It is usually less expensive and therefore excellent for use in bread baking or to eat. Its flavor is usually too strong to substitute for sugar in recipes such as pies or icing.
Gallberry honey comes from the gallberry flower and is common in southern Georgia. It is a dark, stronger flavored honey also.
Orange Blossom honey comes from the blossom of the orange trees and has a very distinctive flavor. It is has a medium color and flavor. I personally enjoy the flavor of Orange Blossom honey, especially for sweetening herbal teas or eating on bread.
Clover honey is perhaps the most popular honey. It comes, of course, from the nectar of the clover flower. It is a light, very mild and very sweet honey. Clover honey, because of its high sucrose content, tends to crystallize more readily than other honeys but this does not harm the nutritional value. Heat the container of honey in a pot of very warm water to liquefy it again.
Tupelo honey is a very mild, nicely flavored honey. We enjoy using it for sweetening where we don't especially want to taste a honey flavor, such as in apple or pumpkin pie, or cream cheese icing, real whipping cream, or yogurt. It comes from the Tupelo flower which grows in the Florida pan-handle and the deep South. It is higher in a sugar called levulose and lower in sucrose. Levulose is assimilated more slowly by the body and can therefore be tolerated by diabetics. Tupelo honey will not crystallize.
Sage honey has all the qualities of Tupelo only a little milder and sweeter. It comes from the west from the nectar of the blossom of the Sage bush.
Honey has many redeeming nutritional properties and can be stored for a long time without any loss nutritionally. Crystallization does not affect the nutritional value of the honey and can simply be warmed to melt back down. To melt back down once crystallized, place the jug of honey in a large pot with enough hot tap water to cover the honey in the jug. Place on stove on the lowest heat setting. This will be just hot enough to keep the water warm but should not melt the jug. Let warm until honey is entirely melted down. You may also place the jug of honey in a warm place in direct sunlight, such as in a car or in a window.
Sucanat is a sweetener made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. The juice is then dehydrated and powdered. Nothing is added and only the water is removed. Sucanat is, of course, sugar but contains many important minerals and vitamins absent completely from refined white sugar. Sucanat makes an excellent brown sugar substitute, especially for streusel type toppings, for which honey doesn't work at all. It is excellent on oatmeal, adding a rich flavor, and also works really well in cookie recipes. I still prefer, however, to use honey if it will work in the recipe. Sucanat has a mild molasses flavor and is not so sweet as white sugar.
Fructose has no more nutritive value than sucrose. It is assimilated by the body a little more slowly than sucrose but is still a refined sugar, devoid of any other nutrients.
NutraSweet (Aspartame) is a very dangerous sugar substitute. Aspartame is made from methyl alcohol and two amino acids that occur naturally in food. Methyl alcohol occurs naturally in cereal grains, but the antidote ethyl alcohol is present also. In aspartame, methyl alcohol exists alone and is potentially toxic. Symptoms of methyl alcohol poisoning include seizures, blackouts, headaches, memory loss, blindness, nausea, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Maple syrup is a natural sugar but the heating process used to obtain the proper consistency destroys much of its nutritional value. It should therefore be used in moderation.
Molasses is a by-product of the refining process of table sugar. Blackstrap molasses is the only form that contains any substantial amount of nutrients; 1 tablespoon has 14% of the U.S. RDA of calcium and 28% of iron.
In recipes such as bread dough with only a small amount of sugar in proportion to flour, I substitute the same amount of honey for the sugar called for.
In recipes where large amounts of sugar are called for in proportion to flour, such as cakes, cookies, brownies, or quick breads I substitute ¼-½ the honey for the sugar called for.
Example: Recipes for Banana or Zucchini Bread usually call for 2 cups of sugar; I use ½ cup honey.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs. The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual.