The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 13, 2013

Amanda Stone: Sugar substitutes bad stuff

JOPLIN, Mo. — There's a white powdery substance out there that many of us are addicted to. It may have a hold of you right now, giving you energy spikes that you can't imagine living without. You know what I'm talking about: sweet, white, sparkling sugar.

Maybe you're breathing a sigh of relief right now because you use the synthetic substitutes. That is some bad stuff. Sugar is bleached and stripped of all its redeemable qualities, but at least it comes from an actual plant. Sugar substitutes that come in little pastel-colored packets are chemicals. True, they have few or no calories, but you would be doing yourself a favor if you weaned yourself off the stuff. We get used to the taste of sweetness, but our brains don't know how to process it. Its negative nutritional value leaves us feeling like we need more. You know what that leads to.

I'm not some crazed sugar hater. I love sweet stuff, just like the next lady. But there are lots of ways to get your sweets fix without using processed white sugar or artificial sweeteners. Real maple syrup, honey and agave nectar are all great natural ways to sweeten your coffee, tea, oatmeal and baked goods. Sucanat is the best sugar replacement for baking, because it's real sugar and can be used in the same amounts as brown or white sugar. Don't be intimidated by its fancy name; Sucanat is simply a brand name that means SUgarCAne NATural. It is unrefined, dried sugar cane juice that retains its molasses content.

Stevia is at the top of my list for sweetness. It's close to my heart, because it's an herb that you can grow in your own garden. Stevia is super sweet -- about 30 times sweeter than sugar. Grow it, dry the leaves, then grind them into a fine powder or make simple syrup. You can buy Stevia at health food stores in liquid or powder form. Use it sparingly.

The moral of the story is this: Use moderation with sweet stuff, regardless of the form it takes. "Natural" doesn't mean that you should eat more -- it's still sugar, and sugar is already in lots of food. It goes by the name of molasses, evaporated cane juice, syrup, honey, corn sweetener and anything ending with "ose".

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. What a perfect opportunity for you to show your family love by making them a sweet treat that's healthy, too. Yes, these recipes are all chocolate, because that's what Valentine's Day means to me. Use the following guide if you want to use natural ingredients in place of sugar next time you prepare your favorite dessert.

Honey: 3/4 cup=1 cup sugar. Agave nectar: 2/3 cup=1 cup sugar. Pure maple syrup: 3/4 cup=1 cup sugar. Sucanat: 1 cup=1 cup sugar.

Stevia: Depends on what form you use. Read directions, because this stuff is crazy sweet.


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