How to best substitute refined sugar?

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How to best substitute refined sugar?

Most of you already know the huge addiction to sugar I suffered years ago…I was totally hooked on it and I didn’t know how to stop. I knew it was bad for me, and very harmful for my health in general, but even though I was eating right I could not manage to stop it…I needed it all the time: chocolate, sugar, whatever as long as it was sweet…I wanted it all the time in my veins. 

I was addicted pretty much since I was a baby, when my mum stopped breastfeeding me my dad started adding condensed milk to the baby bottle. That’s how it is nowadays: parents feed their kids horrible stuff with refined sugar in it and children become totally hooked on it maintaining the vice for the rest of their lives…pretty sad in my opinion. The consequences are several: obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, demineralization, blood acidity….let’s say it’s a vice we’d better stop.


I finally managed to stop it (believe me: it is possible! if you need help, don’t hesitate to read this article: The most powerful 7 steps I took to stop eating sugar) and I can tell the feeling of freedom is amazing! One of the things that helped me most was substituting it. When a person stops eating sugar the craving for sweets doesn’t stop from one day to another. At the beginning I wanted something sweet so much! and it was really helpful at the time to find some other ingredients I could use instead of this sugar devil…So today in this article I’d like to let you know the ingredients I most use in my daily cooking to substitute sugar. I know you’ll love it!

1. RICE SYRUP: it’s of no doubt my favorite ingredient to substitute sugar and the one I most use in all my desserts, dressings and some dishes. I love its mild flavor, it’s very soft and not extremely sweet. What I love about rice syrup is that it doesn’t really have a strong taste so it sweetens my desserts perfectly without changing the flavor!

Also it’s a complex carbohydrate, so it’s digested slowly without causing the blood glucose levels to spike up crazily. It’s a sweetener that can be eaten in small doses by diabetics.

Some people don’t like much the fact that it’s a processed product, wondering: What sort of process is taken to turn brown rice in this appealing syrup? This fact makes people questioning how natural this product is. However the process is very simple, it consists on fermenting brown rice using natural enzymes (generally dried sprouted barley), without using any additives or colorants. Through this process the carbohydrates chains are broken into simpler ones (without being as simple as refined sugar), then the liquid is sieved and reduced until obtaining the desired consistency.

One thing to bear in mind if you are gluten intolerant is that even most rice syrups are gluten free, there are some brands that are made with barley enzymes, so in this case the product contains gluten in it. I’d say…read the label thoroughly if you are gluten free!


2. BARLEY SYRUP: I gotta say here that barley syrup is not an ingredient that I use a lot in my desserts, although I always keep a jar in my pantry “just in case”. The reason I don’t use it a lot is its flavor…I love it, but it can be very strong for some people, it remembers to caramel a little bit. I use it once in a while in my vegan flans to substitute the caramel… I think this is the only dessert I’ve used barley syrup in.

Also barley syrup is recommended for those people who suffer from an overloaded liver:  One cup of apple juice sweeten with barley syrup can be very beneficial.


3. MAPLE SYRUP: this is also one of my favorite sweeteners although I don’t use it as much as I use rice syrup. First because its content in sucrose and fructose is quite high, second because it’s got an exceptional flavor that I don’t always want in my desserts, and third because here in Spain Maple syrup is VERY expensive.  

It’s important to read carefully the ingredient label to make sure that it’s pure maple syrup so that it doesn’t contain any other artificial or chemical ingredients. In general the really good ones are sold in natural food stores. In America, for example, it’s very common to see maple syrup full of artificial ingredients in any supermarket, so make sure you buy the right one!

I love its flavor, I think it gives a magic touch to some cookies, muffins and cakes, but as I said, I use it only sporadically. 


4. CONCENTRATED APPLE JUICE: I use it mainly to sweeten my dressings, as it gives a sweet and sour taste at the same time. Also, for same reason, I like using it in oriental dishes in which I love the sweet and sour taste, like sweet and sour noodles or sth like that. I use it too to make a natural sweet and sour sauce (recipe coming soon ;)!)

I have to say here I have never used it yet to sweeten any of my desserts.


5. AMASAKE: it’s of no doubt another one of my favorite sweeteners! I love its neutral flavor, its simplicity…I think it’s a really balance sweetener and so natural…You could even make it at home fermenting brown rice with an enzyme called Koji that breaks down the starches into simpler sugars. 

I love its creamy consistency. I like using it to sweeten my morning porridge, I also have a tablespoon when I wanna have a quick, sweet treat, I use it to sweeten drinks and to sweeten a bunch of desserts.

One thing to keep in mind is that once it’s opened it doesn’t last long in the fridge (about 5 days)! So you gotta make sure to plan cooking something with it before you open it ;). It seems that little by little it’s disappearing from the market so…we’ll have to start making it at home!

Amazake 2 naast elkaar

6. DATES: I love dates, its flavor is really sweet so they are perfect for when you just stop sugar and still crave something sweet. It’s a 100% natural product that has not been treated at all (if it’s organic, of course)…and I like that. However, I don’t like its extreme sweetness sometimes so I don’t use them very often to sweeten my desserts. Also dates grow in tropical places so I don’t think its a product we should always use here in Europe where we don’t require such a expansive energy dates provide.

In my cooking I use them to make energetic bars or energetic balls…so delicious!


If you wish to see a sugar free world, don’t be shy….click, share and spread food consciousness!

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