Sweeteners Defined

on July 26, 2011
Mark Boughton

Honey or sugar? Raw or white? Agave nectar? Contrary to rumors, there’s very little difference among sweeteners.

  • White (granulated) sugar – 45 calories per tablespoon. “Real” sugar is made from sugar beets and cane. Sugar has never been proven to cause hyperactivity in children.
  • Agave nectar – 60 calories per tablespoon. It comes from the spiky agave plant from which tequila is made. Agave is 90 percent fructose and sweeter than sugar, so you can use less. It comes in a bottle in the sugar section of the supermarket. It’s mild flavor works well in cooking.
  • Maple syrup – 52 calories per tablespoon. Maple syrup has some of the same antioxidant components found in other healthy plant foods; however, fruits and veggies are still the best way to eat your antioxidants.
  • Brown rice syrup – 75 calories per tablespoon. Processed from cooked brown rice, this slightly nutty-tasting syrup weighs more than white sugar but doesn’t taste as sweet. Despite healthy whole-grain beginnings, it has more calories than other sweeteners.
  • Turbinado or raw sugar – 45 calories per tablespoon. Raw sugar is crystallized sugar cane juice. Usually from Hawaii, it is naturally brown in color. We love its crunchy texture, but it doesn’t contain enough minerals to be healthier than white sugar.
  • Honey – 60 calories per tablespoon. Honey is a more concentrated sweetener than sugar, so you can use less. Honey contains antioxidants and, if bought locally, may ward off allergies.

—By Serena Ball

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