Thursday, October 13, 2011

Using High Antioxidant Sweeteners for Baking

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Sugar, as everyone knows, is a source of empty calories.  That means that it has no nutrition other than calories -- no vitamins, minerals, or protein.

Sugar also has practically no antioxidants.  A high antioxidant diet may prevent asthma, cancer, diabetes, and maybe even diseases like autism or inflammatory bowel disease

Some alternative sweeteners are extremely high in antioxidants.  If you substitute these sweeteners for sugar, your muffin or bread will be much higher in antioxidants.

Before I begin, I want to begin this article with 2 warnings. 

No Sweeter Than Fruit
Sweet tastes will make your child crave more sweet foods.  It will also make healthy foods like vegetables less appealing.

Only use sweeteners as a minor ingredient in otherwise healthy foods.  A rule of thumb is that the baked item should taste no sweeter than fruit.  Fresh fruit should be the sweetest thing that your child eats.  Otherwise, the threshold for what she considers sweet will start to go up, and mildly sweet foods like carrots won't taste sweet enough.

Most recipes will taste just as good if you cut the amount of sweetener in half, or even by two-thirds.  Sugar usually doesn't affect the chemistry of baking.  Don't reduce the amount of sweetener in yeasted breads because the sweetener is used by the yeast as a food source.

Not for Babies
Even mildly sweet tastes may teach your baby to like sweeter foods later on.  Wait until your baby is 2 years old or more before feeding her even mildly sweet baked goods.

Syrupy sweeteners, like honey, molasses, barley malt syrup, maple syrup, or brown rice syrup shouldn't be given to babies because of the risk of botulism.  Toddlers have a well-developed immune system so syrupy sweeteners won't be a problem for them.

High Antioxidant Sweeteners

These sweeteners are extremely high in antioxidants:
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Dark molasses
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Date sugar
  • Buckwheat honey
(For a complete list, see this article)

 Blackstrap and Dark Molasses
These sweeteners can be substituted for any recipe that calls for honey.  To substitute for sugar, follow these guidelines for honey. 

Molasses has a very strong taste -- wonderful, but strong.  You may want to combine it with a milder sweetener to cut its taste.

It has approximately 400 times the antioxidant value of sugar.

Barley Malt Syrup
This sweetener has a pleasant malty taste.  It may be difficult to find, but you can find it at Whole Foods or other natural food stores.  It can also be purchased online

It has approximately 200 times the antioxidant value of sugar.

Date Sugar
Date sugar is dried, ground up dates.  It is mild and pleasant tasting.  It does not taste extremely sweet so you may need to add more of it than you would the syrup sweeteners.

You can find date sugar in natural food stores or international food stores, as well as online.

It has approximately 400 times the antioxidant value of sugar.

Buckwheat Honey
The antioxidant value of honey can vary widely depending on what plant it was made from. Buckwheat honey has the highest antioxidant value of any standard honey.

Buckwheat honey is a strong, but pleasant-tasting honey.  Its flavor may overpower a recipe, so make sure the other ingredients have strong flavors as well.

Buckwheat honey has been found to increase the antioxidant value of plasma, which shows that the antioxidants are absorbed into the bloodstream.  This is important, as some high-antioxidant chemicals aren't easily absorbed.

Buckwheat honey, like all honey, can also help fight viruses and bacteria.

Other Ingredients Should Be Healthy

The other ingredients in a muffin or bread also contribute to the antioxidant value.  Whole grain flours are much higher in antioxidants than refined flours.  You can substitute some buckwheat flour, which is extremely high in antioxidants like rutin.

Add grated vegetables like carrots and zucchini or mashed vegetables like sweet potato or pumpkin to the baked product.

Learning to Like Healthy Sweeteners

Healthy, high-antioxidant sweeteners tend to have their own tastes -- ranging from medium to strong.  Refined sugar is used by manufacturers because it has no taste of its own.

If you teach your child to like these healthy sweeteners by giving them to her when she's young, she will love them for the rest of her life.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on amazon.com.

Related Articles

AGEs -- Another Reason to Stop Giving Kids Processed Food 
When Sugar Becomes Love

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