I get a lot of people asking me about alternatives to white sugar. The world of sugar alternatives have recently exploded and there is so much choice that a lot of people don’t know what to choose. Here at Plant Based Alchemy we mainly use yacon.
Many raw chocolatiers choose not to use syrups but we have chosen to mainly use syrups and have spent years developing recipes that allow the chocolate to be tempered with syrup, to ensure the perfect shine and snap. The main reason we have chosen to focus on plant syrups is because they are less processed, so we can make them ourselves from plants we grow.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful yacon. It is a beautiful tuber originally from South America but grows easily here in Wales. It tastes a bit like an apple and crunches like a water chestnut. The tuber can be grated into a salad or cake, roasted or put in a soup. In South America they make ‘Happy Tea’ from the leaves and use it to treat depression. I have tried the tea and I think it would make a great sustainable alternative to tea in the UK. I’m not sure what the tannin levels are in the leaves but it has that tannin bitterness of black tea. If all that wasn’t enough you only have to buy the plant once, as every year you will be given a bounty harvest of tubers and leaves but you also gifted with the baby plants for the following year….the plant that just keeps giving!
You can juice the yacon tubers and reduce it down into a syrup or dehydrate them into crisps. For me yacon allows us to be sustainable in sugar but there are many other uses for the plant as well. Yacon products are suitable for diabetics and full of probiotics. If you fancy having a go of growing your own syrup you can get some tubers from Real Seeds.
Below is a quick summary of some of the amazing options we have from the plant world to inject a sweet taste into your creations:
Yacon Syrup – Originally comes form Peru but it can be easily grown here in the UK, so we can be self sufficient in sweetener. It has a caramel type of taste, which is a lot deeper than many of the other syrups. It is glucose free and it can be used if you have a candida imbalance or blood sugar imbalance. It contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a unique kind of indigestible fructose, perfect for our friendly bacteria in our beautiful colon.
Coconut Sugar / Nectar – This comes from the nectar of the flowers growing in the coconut trees. It has a naturally low Glycaemic Index (G.I.) therefore it releases energy slowly to the body. Make sure you source it sustainably as due to the increase in coconut nectar some of the coconut trees are being heavily harvested and the health of the trees is causing concern. Be aware that coconut nectar ferments easily so it is best kept in the fridge. Coconut sugar/nectar is rich in potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6,
Blackstrap Molasses – This is the by-product of the sugar industry. All of the nutrients that are stripped from the sugar cane are packed into the molasses. It is rich in iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium and selenium and a number of B vitamins.
Maple Syrup – This is made from the sap of the tree. It is rich in calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. The darker the variety the more nutrients it contains.
The following sweeteners are ‘better than’ options. Great to use as a transition from refined sugar but they should only be seen as a stepping-stone to the more pure sources of plant syrups and sugars.
Agave Syrup – This is more widely available but has a higher fructose level than some of the other alternatives. Make sure you source a dark variety as the lighter the colour the more nutrients have been removed through the refining process.
Xylitol – This is a ‘better than’ option but it a lot more processed than simple plant syrup. It is suitable for diabetics. Be aware it is poisonous to dogs…as is chocolate.
Enjoy playing x