Do you have a sweet tooth and always crave for something sweet? If your diet always involves refined sugar that lacks all the necessary vitamins and minerals, think for a moment. There are other healthier substitutes for refined or table sugar that you can use.
Sweeteners from Sugarcane
Sugarcane is one of the most popular sources of refined sugar or what we commonly call table sugar. It undergoes a series of complex processes that cause most of its vitamins and minerals to be lost in the process. Typically, the refined sugar is stripped off of most if not all of the vitamins and minerals that are naturally present in sugarcane.
The fewer the processes involved, the more minerals and vitamins present in sugarcane are retained. That is why apart from the refined sugar, several types of sweeteners from sugarcane are now available. These sugarcane sweeteners undergo fewer processing, so they have more nutritional value than refined sugar:
1. Rapadura – It is a Portuguese name meaning unrefined sugarcane juice. It is perhaps one of the least refined of all sugarcane sweeteners. It is a product of cooking the juice extracted from sugarcane until it becomes very concentrated, then dried in a mold and granulated. Because of the simplicity of the process involved, rapadura still contains most of the vitamins and minerals present in sugarcane. Rapadura is an excellent sweetener for baked products such as brownies and cakes and for sweet beverages such as coffee. Use rapadura in the same proportion as refined sugar.
- Minerals: such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus
- Vitamins: A and traces of B complex such as B1, B2, B6
- Others: sucrose, 15 calories per tablespoon
2. Blackstrap Molasses – This is considered the most nutritious molasses as it contains a significant amount of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. It is a product of the third boiling of sugarcane juice. It has a very strong sweet flavor so if you use it to substitute refined sugar, use a smaller portion.
However, the major drawback of ordinary blackstrap molasses is that it could also have traces of pesticides present in sugarcane. It is safer to buy organic blackstrap molasses rather than the ordinary ones.
- Minerals: manganese, iron, copper, calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium
- Vitamins: B6, riboflavin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid
- Others: calories
3. Sucanat (sugarcane natural) – This sugarcane sweetener is made by heating and cooling the sugarcane juice until crystals are formed. Compared to refined sugar, it contains a lesser amount of sucrose and has a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. You can use Sucanat in the same proportion as refined sugar.
- Minerals: Rich source of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium
- Vitamins: A and B
4. Turbinado – Many people confuse turbinado with sucanat, but in reality they are very different. Turbinado has a lighter color than sucanat and less molasses as a result of more complex process. It can replace brown sugar in the same proportion.
- Minerals: potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron
- Others: carbohydrates
These are some of the sweeteners from sugarcane that are better substitutes for refined sugar. Although they are considered healthier options, their consumption must always be in moderation.
In part 2 of this article, other non-sugarcane substitutes will be discussed.