Did traditional cultures include sweeteners in their diet? It is well documented that traditional cultures have used sweeteners in some way and in small amounts. Australia Aboriginals accessed honey from native bee hives, Native Americans tapped into maple syrup from the maple tree, Islanders used coconut sugar and nectar and South Americans extracted the juice from sugar cane drying at low heat to make rapadura sugar.
There’s no denying that human beings are naturally attracted to sweet things. Traditionally if it was sweet it was deemed safe to eat. However, these sweeteners were very hard to access and were consumed on rare occasions depending on availability and accessibility. These cultures didn’t eat baked goods and desserts containing these unrefined sweeteners on a daily basis. Whilst natural unrefined sweeteners do have nutritional value (unlike refined sweeteners) our bodies aren’t designed to have them every day. Thus, when using these sweeteners save them for special occasions. It is not recommended to have them on a daily basis.
The acceptable traditional sweeteners that do have a degree of nutritional value in their real food form are:
Raw honey has NOT been pasteurised, heated or processed. It still contains all the natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes that make it a perfect sweetener. Honey you find on the supermarket shelf has been pasteurised killing off all the beneficial nutrients and leaving you with nothing but refined sugar.
Raw honey is alkaline forming, has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and contains amylase, a plant enzyme from the pollen of flowers. This enzyme helps to break down carbohydrates. So a piece of bread, butter and honey actually makes sense! The raw honey’s enzymes start pre-digestion. You could also add honey to soaked grains and when added to your baking this will also assist pre-digestion. If possible let your bread, or batter sit for about 15 minutes so the enzymes can do their work.
Maple syrup contains high levels of manganese and zinc, minerals which help support the immune system. If you can’t afford organic, from our research Canadian maple syrup is usually a safe option, as chemicals like formaldehyde are not used in the tapping process. We avoid all Maple “Flavoured” Syrups as even though they are less expensive, they are full of artificial sweeteners and refined sugar.
Rapadura is the juice extracted from the sugar cane which is then dehydrated at low heat. Rapadura comes from the Portuguese name referring to a form of raw unrefined sugar cane juice that was formed into a brick. It has also been spelt Raspadura with ‘raspa’ meaning to scrape and ‘duro’ meaning hard referring to the scraping the sugar from the hard brick to use in cooking.
Rapadura is evaporated at a low heat therefore not destroying vitamins and minerals including the polyphenols. Rapadura has also not been separated from the molasses which gives it the deep brown colour and also means the retention of minerals.
Similar to rapadura, coconut sugar is the dehydrated liquid sap from the flower of the coconut palm. Because the sap has been heated at low temperatures coconut sugar also retains its important vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, polyphenols and antioxidants. Coconut sugar also has a lower Glycemic Index than rapadura.
Molasses is the byproduct after making white sugar. After the white sugar is processed and sent off to sit on our supermarket shelves molasses is left retaining all the valuable vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses is the highest and most nutritious grade of molasses and is high in iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium.