If your New Year’s resolution includes making wiser (and healthier) food choices, Coombs Family Farms has a few sweet tips for you. A great way to rid your diet of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, and chemical additives is to switch to the wonderful world of natural sweeteners. Best of all, the switch is easy to make and delicious!
The sweet round up
There are four go-to natural sweetener essentials that are easy to stock in your kitchen pantry: real maple syrup, maple sugar, molasses, and honey. Once you get to know these powerhouse ingredients, we won’t have to convince you to make the switch!
First and foremost, throw away any imitation table syrups you might have lurking in your cupboards. This is NOT the maple syrup we are discussing. For all-natural (and delicious) maple syrup, look for the 100% pure or organic maple syrup varieties. Whether you like the delicate flavor of Grade A Amber Color Rich Taste maple syrup for your morning berries, or prefer Grade A Dark Color Robust Taste maple syrup for your homemade waffles, real maple syrup has you covered. Chances are you’ll probably need a couple grades on hand depending on your syrup mood!
Pure maple syrup is loaded with polyphenols, plant-based compounds that work as antioxidants. Antioxidants help delay or prevent diseases caused by free radicals, such as cancer or diabetes. Best of all, maple syrup contains over 54 antioxidants!
Take a pass on the white sugar. Made from expelling the water from maple syrup, maple sugar is an extremely delicious 100% natural alternative sweetener. It’s perfect in baked goods, marinades, or in coffee. Plus, since maple sugar is sweeter, you’ll only need about ½ to ¾ cup of Coombs Family Farms Maple Sugar in place of 1-cup cane sugar.
Molasses is the dark, gooey, and sweet syrup-like substance produced during the extraction of sugars from sugarcane and sugar beets. Just as with real 100% pure maple syrup, there are different types – Light, Dark, and Black Strap. A general rule to remember is the lighter the color, the higher the sugar content. The different varietals of molasses are produced after each boiling cycle, so the syrup becomes less sugary and achieves a more viscous texture after each boil. Light molasses are produced after the first boil; Dark after the second; and Black Strap after the third.
To reap maximum health benefits look for Black Strap Molasses. With a very deep color and spicy flavor, this darkest molasses has the least amount of sugar and the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals. While it’s most commonly known for iron content, Black Strap Molasses also contains calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The story of honey goes way back. The ancient Egyptians not only made offerings of honey to their gods, but they also used it as an embalming fluid, and a dressing for wounds. While many people swear by honey for its holistic remedy powers as well as its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, honey is simply a wonderful natural sweetener! Just like molasses, darker is better. As the hue deepens, the honey tends to have better antioxidant and antibacterial power. Most people tend to like the darker varieties for its more robust flavor, too.
Just as with maple sugar, a little honey goes a long way – especially since a tablespoon of honey has more carbohydrates and calories than granulated white or brown sugar. However, it’s not just about the calories. Honey, especially local honey, can be great for you. Some studies suggest that local honey may even help reduce their sensitivity to seasonal allergies.
The versatility of keeping it simple
Now, let’s move onto the fun stuff. Here’s how to use your natural sweeteners:
Molasses: Use your Black Strap Molasses in your kitchen for tasty baked goods like homemade breads and cookies. This ingredient will also turn standard ole’ baked beans into something of which you won’t be able to get enough! If you make your own spirits, consider using dark molasses for your rum or dark stouts.
Honey: Instead of sugar, put honey in your teas and hot water for that delicious subtle sweetness. Some studies suggest that honey may be more effective than medicine in alleviating a mild cough or sore throat. Please note: while honey is excellent for adults and children, it should not be given to children under the age of one. Because infants lack the developed immune system necessary to defend itself against infection, and spores from botulism bacteria can be found in dust and soil that may make their way into honey, pediatricians strongly caution against feeding honey to children under the age of one.
Maple sugar: Because of its versatility, maple sugar can be used in any or all of your favorite recipes! Just remember, you’ll only need about ½ to ¾ cup of Coombs Family Farms Maple Sugar in place of 1-cup cane sugar.
Real maple syrup: 100% pure maple syrup not only packs a punch with flavor, it also delivers a huge dose of healthy benefits your way! With its 20 compounds linked to human health, real maple syrup has antioxidants that are believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties. It’s also loaded with calcium and potassium.
Where can you use maple syrup? The better question is, where can’t you use it? Our Online Kitchen is packed with a variety of maple-inspired recipes, but here’s a quick run-down of categories made better by maple:
• Appetizers (i.e. soups)
• Baked Goods (i.e. blueberry pancakes, muffins)
• Beverages (i.e. Mom’s Maple Eggnog)
• Breakfast & Brunch (i.e. peach fritters OR just put it atop of granola!)
• Desserts (i.e. cheesecake)
• Dressings & Sauces (i.e. barbecue sauce)
• Main Dishes (i.e. pork ribs)
• Side Dishes (i.e. glazed Brussels sprouts)
• Snacks (i.e. spiced almonds)
The bottom line of natural sweeteners
Be sure to check labels and know your products. The sweetener industry has become overrun with imposters and artificial ingredients, even when the natural packaging looks legit. Stick with companies you trust and rely on ingredient labels that are transparent.
No matter what your sweet tooth is calling for – whether it’s real maple syrup, honey, or molasses – know that these natural sweeteners are FAR superior to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, and chemical additives. You certainly don’t need to give up on sweetness to be healthy; you just need to choose the smartest and most natural solutions out there. When you can feel good about the ingredient that fulfills your sweet craving, how can you lose?
Natural sweeteners start with Coombs Family Farms!
Now that you know how to live the sweet life in a healthy way, head to our online store for your favorite maple syrup grades in various sizes and packaging options, as well our maple sugar, and maple candy!
If you have any specific questions, give us a call at 888-266-6271 or email us today!