A Vegan's Look At Sugar Alternatives

Nov 2, 2011 12:01 pm

Which sweeteners should you choose?

Honey
Photo: Thien Gretchen on Flickr
Unlike honey, agave syrup is highly processed.
 

I'm addicted to sugar in all its forms except candy, as my parents did not give it to us as kids (shocking, I know). I have a thing for all sweet things in the natural world — orange juice, jams, pie, ice-"cream," etc. Studies say that sugar is the bodies’ first addiction; there is evidence that one mother's breast is said to deliver sweeter milk than the other. I’ve been told I had a preference.

As a chef who is all grown up I still crave sugar (and breast), and as a vegan I have had an above-average experience with different ways to induce this high. On this day, when most of us are still bouncing off the wall from a sugary Halloween high that would make a meth head look at you cross, I thought it would be nice to take a walk down the glycemic index. So unravel another JollyFingerButterRanchNLater and read on. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil your candy fun.

Honey
Now why would a vegan be talking about honey, you ask? Well, honey was the primary sweetener of choice for vegetarians, and I ate plenty of it growing up. You have to remember, I predate PETA, and my parents were doing what they knew was better than processed sugar in the pink and white box. Once we became aware of "honeygate," we switched to maple syrup for a while and almost effectively ended my sweet addiction. Maple lemonade is just wrong! I know honey production has changed today, but I don't buy honey or use it any recipes, although I have eaten it socially.

Agave
There is a lot of controversy about agave—it’s constantly in all the tabloids and on TMZ at all the parties hooking up with random celebs. But turns out agave is… kind of a skank. Despite what you have probably heard, agave is not a natural sweetener. It is highly processed, and made in the same fashion as (gasp!) high fructose corn syrup. It is, however, low in the glycemic index so ideal for diabetics. Soooo if you want to be seen with agave it’s up to you.

Coconut Palm Sugar
This is the new kid on the block. It's similar to brown sugar in that it's low on the glycemic index with caramel notes and no heavy coconut taste. This new jack is pretty big in countries like India, the early adapters have hopped on this bandwagon as an alternative to agave (skank!) and processed sugar. It’s hard to find, but if you want it just ask a cool person—they know.

Cane Sugar
If you are baking it’s difficult to just sub sugar with a liquid sweetener because then you get a “gooey” muffin, and who likes a gooey muffin? Exactly. Cane sugar is refined not as much as white sugar but for a purist, in some (small) circles it's not cool to use it.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Do you live under a rock? This stuff is bad. I can’t even begin to rant on this, so I will let Michael Pollan do the honors for you, here.

Maltodextrin
This is like crack and meth and corn syrup combined. Bad. Just don’t. Don’t believe me? Fine! Check it out here.

That’s my 2 cents on that.


Read the previous installment of Feed the Vegan on Food Republic.

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