When it comes to cooking Paleo diet friendly desserts, most people are a little confused. Chiefly when it comes to what you can use as a sweetener. Some people believe that we shouldn’t use any at all. Whilst others suggest a little won’t harm us.
But why is it they often consider such as being non-compliant?
If you eat them too often, it can cause you to gain weight. Plus, you may well find that your blood glucose levels go up.
Yet it wasn’t until around 50 years ago that the use of sweeteners became more popular. At around the same time, we have seen an increase in the number of people who have become overweight and also become diabetic.
So it makes sense we don’t eat too many sweet things. But never should we be following the same diet that other people do. I am someone who isn’t overweight or diabetic. As a result, I am one of those people who can indulge in using sweeteners.
I do eat sweeteners regularly and have stayed the same weight throughout the last 30 years. But I am someone who exercises regularly (attend HIIT sessions twice a week). I also have a dog that needs walking regularly.
So I am someone who cannot tell you that including sweeteners in your Paleo diet is okay or not. It all depends on your reasons for choosing to follow this lifestyle.
If you want to include a Paleo diet-friendly sweetener in your diet, then you need to read on. I will explain more about the difference between the different ones you can use if you wish.
But What Are Natural Sweeteners?
These are the kind that have not been processed. The ones you will find occur naturally in nature.
Just because it says it is a natural sweetener on the packet, doesn’t mean it is. Most of these undergo a lot of processing and refining. This makes them far from natural.
So What Paleo Diet Friendly Sweeteners Would I Suggest Use?
1. Raw Honey
This is a wonderful natural sweetener. You may even find as some suggest using a locally sourced one will help to reduce hay fever symptoms.
Yes, it is natural, but raw honey can still cause problems with insulin levels in your body. This is because as a food it closely resembles sugar. Within it, you’ll see that around 50% of it is fructose. As for the other 50%, 44% of this is glucose and 1% is sucrose. So limit the amount you use.
Raw honey is the far healthier option because of its high nutrient and enzyme content. Plus, it contains phytonutrients and antioxidants.
In fact, raw honey is considered to be a superfood as it provides us with a number of benefits. But you need to be careful as it is also high in calories and carbs, so you should use it in moderation. Furthermore, it is in fact much sweeter than regular table sugar, so you should keep this in mind when considering using it as a sugar substitute.
Benefits Of Honey
There are a number of potential benefits to be gained from including honey in your diet these days in place of white cane sugar or refined sugar. Some of the potential benefits of including this in your diet occasionally are as follows:
- Impede inflammation
- Help to fight cancer
- Contains very powerful antibacterial properties
- Is a rich source of antioxidants
- Can help heal the gut. In one study it was found that honey helps to promote the growth of good bacteria in a person’s stomach. It also helps to protect the body from damage that can be caused by dangerous mycotoxins.
If you are intending to use honey as a natural sweetener, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of.
- Honey should never be given to babies, as it contains botulinum spores. These are harmless to older people but can prove dangerous to an infant.
- Not all honey is what it seems. If you can, it is best to source your honey locally, say from good health food stores or a farmers’ market. You may want to see if there are any beekeepers close to where you live that you could purchase your supplies from. Finally, you may want to consider purchasing it online.
- As already mentioned, honey is sweeter than regular sugar and can lead to health issues. Those who suffer from Type 1 or 2 diabetes need to be careful and consume it in moderation. If not, it could lead to a spike in their blood sugar levels.
2. Maple Syrup
Again, look for one that is as natural as possible. They extract this sweetener from the sap of the maple tree. In fact, it has been a common ingredient in the diet of Native Americans.
If you are thinking of using this as a Paleo diet-friendly sweetener, there is one thing you need to know of. This has a high carb content and also contains a lot more fructose. As an alternative to syrup when cooking, try Maple water instead. But you may find that it doesn’t offer enough sweet taste in your food.
As you will soon find, this is a choice of sweeteners that those leading a Paleo lifestyle like to use. There are two types of maple syrup you can purchase. Grade A is refined and tastes a lot sweeter, whilst Grade B is much darker in colour and is the one that you’ll find appears on Paleo-approved food lists.
But you need to be careful when it comes to buying this product, as some will have other ingredients added to them. Other ingredients that may be included in these are high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and alternative flavourings. Whereas genuine maple syrup doesn’t need any manufactured ingredients or sweeteners to give it a boost.
Grade B maple syrup is great for using when baking Paleo desserts, pancakes, and much more.
Benefits Of Maple Syrup
It is said that this food contains 54 different compounds that can prove beneficial to us. Of these five are actually only to be found in this approved Paleo diet food. As with most Paleo-friendly sweeteners it is important that you ensure you only purchasing the kind that hasn’t gone through any pasteurization processes. So buy the darker (Grade B) variety whenever possible.
- Contains a total of 24 antioxidants that can help to neutralize free radicals
- Contains zinc that may help to protect against cardiovascular disorders
- The manganese in this particular food helps strengthen a person’s immune system
Of all the Paleo sweeteners people talk about these days, this one is up there. This one comes from a herb and contains no sugar molecules. Therefore, it makes it such a wonderful alternative to sugar.
The problem is that the green leaf stevia isn’t all the common. Instead, you’ll often find it comes in white powder form. As a result, it has been highly processed and refined. Also, you need to be aware that commercially produced stevia, isn’t what it may seem. Some companies to help keep costs down will mix stevia with other types of sweeteners. Important when following Paleo you avoid this stevia sweetener at all costs.
If you want to use Stevia when cooking, then look for it in its most unadulterated form. I would go for stevia extract in liquid extract (glycerin) form. But before buying check the label.
If it contains ingredients such as maltodextrin or erythritol, don’t use it. Both of which can lead to digestive problems. One particular type of stevia sweetener to avoid is called Truvia, as this one contains erythritol.
Luckily these days it is possible to buy both the stevia plants and seeds. There are quite a few places online that sell them these days. Now grow your own and use the stevia leaves from the plant to sweeten not just tea but other foods.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to grow your own, there are some great stevia powders now available. You’ll find that this is the perfect sweetener for you to incorporate into your Paleo meals for occasional consumption.
Benefits Of Stevia
For centuries the natives of Paraguay haven’t only used this plant as a sweetener, but also for treating medical problems. But research revolving around the health benefits of these plants is only just taking place. There is some evidence that shows it is beneficial in a number of ways not only just to help sweeten food. However, there is also quite a bit of controversy revolving around this plant as well.
One of the first studies carried determined that it could lead to some people developing cancer. It is for this reason that the FDA (Food & Drugs Administration) in the USA banned the use of it in foods. But there are plenty of people who came to its defense and cited later studies that found there was no connection between the development of cancer and the stevia plant.
It was in 2008 that the FDA actually designated it as “generally recognized as safe”. This designation is also shared by a wide variety of artificial sweeteners today. But stevia is proving to be the most popular as it is a more natural alternative to refined sugar.
Once the concern over this plant causing cancer was laid to rest, a number of researchers have chosen to carry out further studies. This time they are looking closely at various different kinds of stevia plants to help discover what other health benefits it can offer us.
Some studies have found evidence that it may help with lowering a person’s blood pressure as well as being able potentially to fight against diabetes. However, further studies need to be carried out before this particular plant can be used for medicinal purposes.
Which Sweetener Should You Choose
When you are trying to decide what kind of sweetener to use, it is important you consider some fundamental principles of the Paleo diet regarding the foods you can buy. Whilst all sweeteners contain the same amount of calories (16 in each teaspoon) there are other factors you need to take into consideration.
How It Has Been Processed
Commercial sweeteners that have been highly refined will not provide you with the health benefits that you thought they could. Both artificial sweeteners and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) have been produced in factories. Whereas, sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, molasses, and green leaf stevia undergo far less processing. In fact, with honey, you’ll find very little or no processing of this natural sweetener is needed.
Should You Be Eating Paleo Diet Friendly Sweeteners?
There are some people who believe that many sweeteners are too highly processed and somewhat artificial. This is why some people who choose to follow the Paleo lifestyle choose to omit sweeteners from their diet as they don’t feel they are necessary. They also feel that they can contribute towards us wanting something sweet to eat.
Plus some feel that further research needs to be carried out especially in relation to stevia before they feel it can provide them with health benefits and is safe to consume. Yet there isn’t any evidence at this time to suggest that it can prove harmful to us.
As with most things, I would suggest that you eat these in moderation. If you are trying to lose weight, then don’t smother your Paleo diet friendly pancakes in honey or maple syrup each morning.
Also, it is important that you listen to the way your body reacts when you use such. We are all different, and so much can have a different effect on every one of us.
I hope that this helped to clarify matters a little further about whether to include Paleo diet friendly sweeteners in your diet. It is best to select the one that is readily convenient where you live. This will help to ensure that the one you are using doesn’t contain that many chemicals. Plus, it will also be one that contains plenty of nutrients that your body needs.
Where I live I go for local raw honey. Unfortunately, when it comes to Maple syrup, the only varieties available are the refined kinds. If you have access to maple syrup, make sure you go the Grade B variety. You’ll find that this is a much darker as it contains so many more nutrients.
Along with the 3 Paleo diet friendly sweeteners, I’ve mentioned above, there is another one I love to use regularly when creating sweet or savoury dishes including some that you’ll find in the Paleo Grubs recipe book. But this is a spice and the one I love using regularly is cinnamon. I love to use it when I’m making myself some banana pancakes without the flour. As well as adding some sweetness to this dish, it is very advantageous to my health.