I have been trying to use natural sweeteners for some time now. There are a few different natural sweeteners that that I use, and I have found that I like to use them for different things because they all have unique tastes.
Here are just a few ideas that I will share with you, and if you have good ideas, I would love to hear!
Stevia: a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green Stevia rebaudiana plant have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar.
There is no caloric intake and it does not affect blood glucose levels. Stevia can come in both powder and liquid form. Sometimes the liquid can have different flavors, like those pictured above. Personally, I've only used the orange and vanilla. USE: I use Stevia to sweeten drinks like fresh squeezed lemonade, herbal teas, and vanilla water. It sounds weird, but you can just add a tiny drop to a glass of water to just give a wee bit of flavor instead of using crystal light or something like that. Because it is so sweet, you just have to use a little.
Agave Nectar: Organic and 100% pure. Made from the Agave Salmiana that grows in the high desert regions of central Mexico. It can be used in place of honey, corn syrup & maple syrup. It can be substituted for sugar in most recipes. Agave is sweeter than sugar, so generally 2/3 cups of agave replace 1 cup of sugar. Experiment to taste.
Agave nectar has a low glycemic index of 32. Compare to 58 for honey and 64 for table sugar. Agave has the same calories as honey, but as most folks find it to be sweeter less is needed. In such a case, less calories are consumed.
USE: I use Agave all the time. Perfect for green smoothies, fruit smoothies, oatmeal in the morning, homemade granola, basically anything! My cousin Amber shared with me a great tip that I've been using lately. For syrup use 1/2 real maple syrup and 1/2 agave nectar. It makes a very yummy and healthy syrup. It even passed the kid test. My kids had a hard time with the strong taste of real maple syrup, so I think just adding agave it mellows and balances, making it pretty good. You can experiment with the flavored agave syrups too.
Xylitol : an all natural sweetener that is healthier than sugar. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than processed sugar, 75% less carb intake. Looks and tastes like sugar. use in 1 to 1 ratio like sugar.
USE: Great for tea, coffee, sweetening any sugar free drink (i like that passion herbal lemonade from Starbucks- sugar free, then sweeten it yourself with a natural sweetener). Also good on cereal or oatmeal, or a bowl of berries with milk.
I love learning about health and nutrition. There is just so much to learn, it is exciting! I am really trying to make some good choices and changes for me and my family. If you have other ideas for uses of these sweeteners, please share!