Natural Sweeteners – Part 2 of 2

Natural Sweeteners – Part 2 of 2
By Johnathan Zamora

If you missed part 1, please click here.

Natural sweeteners have been used for thousands of years – dating back from the Aztec Indians of Mexico to the ancient Egyptians.  These natural compounds are used for a variety of purposes and not just for adding sweetness to foods.  Their applications range from providing moisture to baked items, slowing food spoilage and providing nutritional benefits as well.  The three natural sweeteners we will explore are honey, maple syrup and agave nectar.  In this second report, I will discuss the nutritional benefits associated with these sweeteners and how they can help you add value to your diet.

Raw Honey – (50 calories per tablespoon)

This sweet substance has been used in a wide variety of applications for thousands of years back to 2,100 B.C. where it was praised for its anti-viral, anti-microbial properties.
Honey has been found to raise levels of antioxidant compounds in the human body.  At the University of California, Davis, 25 study participants were fed four tablespoons of honey for 29 consecutive days in addition to their regular diets.  Blood samples were drawn during given intervals after eating the honey – the result: a direct link between the consumption of honey and an increase in the test subjects antioxidant levels.

Fit Chef Tip: Try adding a tablespoon of honey to your Greek yogurt and toss in a handful of blueberries.  This food combination provides excellent protein sources, naturally increasing your energy levels and strengthens your body’s defenses against free radicals.  An all around guilt free mini meal!

Maple Syrup – (52 calories per tablespoon)

This sweetener is not only great on protein pancakes, but also packs a powerful nutritional punch.  Maple syrup contains both manganese and zinc, two compounds that boost your body’s health.
Manganese is a trace mineral essential for converting food to useable energy and for increasing natural antioxidant defenses.  This means that in addition to providing a great sweet taste, maple syrup can help your body repair free radical damage, which has been shown to naturally slow the aging process.
Maple syrup also contains zinc, a compound that not only acts as an antioxidant but helps keep inflammation in check by supporting the body’s natural healing properties.  This sweet substance also acts as nutritional insurance for your immune system, working together with manganese to help keep you healthy.

Fit Chef Tip: Mix 1 Tbs. of maple syrup into your oatmeal together with 1 ounce of walnuts.  The combination of complex carbohydrates and heart healthy fats is just what you need to start to the day.  Adding a quick shot of maple syrup into the gives you a bowl full of goodness that will help your body function at its best.

Agave nectar – (60 calories per tablespoon)

Agave nectar, the product of the Blue agave cactus plant, which thrives in the volcanic soil of southern Mexico, has been used for thousands of years as a sweetener dating as far back as the Aztec culture.  Agave nectar is made by extracting the sap, filtering the impurities then heating it at a low temperature.  This process breaks the carbohydrates down into sugars.  The taste is comparable to honey, and in fact, this sweetener is beginning to gain popularity for its clean taste and variety of uses.
This compound boasts a host of nutritional benefits as well, from having a low Glycemic Index load, making it a great natural sweetener for diabetics to providing anti-microbial protection against harmful bacteria.  The low GI level means that there is a much lower insulin spike after consuming Agave nectar as opposed to raw sugar or honey.  For those who are sensitive to the “sugar rush” or dreaded “sugar crash”, agave nectar looks to be a great choice for getting your sweet fix without the side effects.

Fit Chef Tip: Try this quick, high protein smoothie!  Combine 1 cup skim milk, 1 Tbs. Agave nectar, 1 scoop vanilla ProV60 protein powder and a handful of frozen strawberries.  Blend for 1 minute or until smooth and enjoy!

While natural sweeteners do provide health benefits, they still contain calories.  Please keep this in mind and be sure to make adjustments in your diet should you choose to include these sweeteners on a daily basis.

Johnathan Zamora
The Fit Chef

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3 Responses for Natural Sweeteners – Part 2 of 2

  1. amy

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    September 7, 2010 6:45 pm

    Great article! My favorite natural sweetener is hands down stevia! If you have not tried the liquid form – it is great. A little goes a long way. I have also heard it has great alkaline properties.

  2. Dravid

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    September 10, 2011 12:41 pm

    Natvia (http://natvia.com/) is another natural Sweetener which do not have any side effects 100% natural, 95% fewer calories than sugar, low glycemic index low carbohydrates, no saccharin. no sucrose Fructose free tooth friendly

  3. Natural sweetener

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    February 9, 2013 2:30 am

    Small bits of content which are explained in details, helps me understand about it, Thanks.