as slow as molasses photo by technicool
Are you avoiding white sugar because it is just empty calories? And using agave, honey, or date sugar because they are less refined and have more nutrition?
You might be surprised by a scientific study named Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar, printed in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association January 2009. It tested the antioxidant levels of many sweeteners.
What was tested?
|agave nectar (light, amber and raw)|
|blue agave nectar|
|brown rice syrup|
|brown rice malt syrup (not gluten free)|
|barley malt syrup (not gluten free)|
|corn syrup (light)|
|maple syrup (100% pure)|
|molasses (dark and black strap)|
|sugar (white, light brown, dark brown, turbinado, raw cane)|
How where they tested?
Sweeteners where purchased from major retailers, health food stores, and online distributors. From one to 53 samples were tested for each sweetener. Honey had the most samples, representing mostly refined clover honey as it is most available.
Results- a few surprises!
In order of antioxidant levels, high to low.
|Sweetener||Relative amount of antioxidants|
|barley malt syrup||xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)|
|brown rice malt syrup||xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)|
|sugar, dark brown||xxxxx|
|100% maple syrup||xxxx|
|sugar, light brown||xxx|
|sugar, raw cane||xx|
|corn syrup, light|
Notes: White sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar had almost no antioxidants.
These are composite results. The study did show some variability of antioxidant levels between samples of the same type of some sweeteners.
My graph is a crude representation of the results.
How does this compare with other foods?
|milk chocolate candy||xxxxxxxxx|
|red wine (merlot)||xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx|
Note: Common serving sizes where compared.
Walnuts where way off this chart. One ounce of walnuts have about twice the antioxidants of one ounce of date sugar.
Can we switcheroo?
It is not possible to use some high antioxidant sweeteners measure for measure in place of white sugar in many recipes. A cup or more of black strap molasses in a cake will not be good. Date sugar is delicious, but will change the flavor, color and texture in recipes with lots of sugar. It is also expensive and not readily available. Some recipes successfully use these sweeteners though.
It is pretty easy to substitute dark brown sugar for white in many recipes. Did you know that brown sugar is simply refined white sugar mixed with molasses? The darker the sugar, the more molasses.
Stir 1 tablespoon molasses into 1 cup of white sugar to make dark brown sugar.
Using averages, the researchers concluded that substituting high antioxidant sweeteners for white sugar can increase the antioxidants consumed as much as having a serving of blueberries. That is because we eat so much sugar.
To much sugar
The average American eats 31 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Yikes!! While it is useful to use high antioxidant sweeteners, it is also important to simply use less sugar. And according to this study, using agave is not much better than white sugar.
Not tested yet
I like sorghum syrup and have used palm sugar too. They were not tested, so I do not know the antioxidant levels of these sweeteners. If anyone has this information, please share.
palm sugar photo by vsimon
The study authors are Katherine M. Phillips, PhD; Monica H. Carlsen, MSc; Rune Blomhoff, PhD.