Friday, March 5, 2010

Raw Vegan Sweeteners

I received an email question from a reader about raw sweeteners.  Here is the email that they sent me and I will answer this question.
Hi Evelyn,
I enjoyed reading your blog and had a couple of questions -- what sweeteners are actually safe if we are wanting to have a 'raw' lifestyle?  I've noticed that many used maple syrup (which is far from raw as much as it is boiled down), or agave, which many say even the 'raw' isn't actually raw.  Is there a sweetener besides raw honey that can really classify?   Also, have you heard of date syrup?  It comes from a steam extraction of dates, but that still seems much less processed than maple syrup and other sweeteners.  I'd love to read an article about this on your blog.
Reader, thank you for complimenting my blog and taking the time to email me your question. You are keeping me on my toes and I appreciate that.  I did a little research and learned a lot.  Here is what I have found. 
**My opinion:  The ideal sweetener would be one that is found in nature, unprocessed.  The best sweetener is always from a natural source (ex. fruit), but we don't live in an ideal world. **
Raw Vegan Sweeteners
  • Agave nectar is sweeter than honey with a low glycemic index, but this may not agree with everyone.  Just because something says it has a low glycemic index doesn't mean that it won't have an effect on you.  It depends on the individual. Some raw food vegans will not use agave and will not recommend it because it is not raw, but there are some companies that do produce raw agave nectar.  Try it for yourself and you be the judge.
  • Carob powder is a sweet chocolate-like powder.  Carob is a better alternative to cacao because this is already naturally sweet and is rich in calcium. Z Natural Foods
  • Coconut palm sugar is not raw, but is a nutritious sweetener.  There are companies that sell organic palm sugar. Organic Palm Sugar
  • Lucuma powder is from an exotic Peruvian fruit, low sugar and tastes like maple syrup. Lucuma Powder
  • Mesquite powder is nutrient rich and has a molasses flavor. Mesquite Powder
  • Raw honey is nutritious, but those who are strict vegans would not even consider honey.
  • Stevia is an herb and the leaves are naturally sweet.  This site does not say that their stevia is raw, but there are some companies that do offer raw stevia.  Stevia
  • Yacon root syrup and powder is a healthy sweetener that helps feed friendly bacteria and will not give you a sugar rush. Tastes like molasses.  Yacon
I haven't heard of date syrup before, but if that is something you'd like to try, go for it.  I may even give it a try myself. I don't get hung up on sweeteners being 100% raw, because I ask myself how often do I use sweeteners? (not much).  Also, is it organic and vegan? (must be)  Is it highly processed? (can't be) That's how I make my decision.

I lean toward vegan sources, but I do use raw organic honey, which some would label me as not being vegan.  Who likes labels?  I know I don't.  I say, find what you like and what works best for you.  Don't let what anyone says sway you one way or the other.  Do what works best for you and always listen to your body.
**The links I provide are from my own research.  I share them because I find them informative.**

Question:  What sweeteners do you like?  If I missed some, then please feel free to share them in your comments.

Have an awesome weekend!

Image Credit:  Wikimedia  
Reference information from: Raw Vegan Source
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