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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
Publix GreenWise Market

Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Summer 2010

Sweet & Lite

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Stevia and agave nectar can satisfy your sweet tooth and your craving for natural foods.

Like Hollywood, the food world is a mix of familiar faces and rising stars. Table sugar is still a star performer, but a new generation of natural sweeteners is attracting diet-conscious Americans. “There’s a growing trend toward natural foods in general, and alternative sweeteners are a part of that,” says Diana Allen, M.S., author of Natural & Healthy Sweeteners and a clinical nutritionist.

Here are two popular natural sweeteners that, when consumed in moderation, may offer health benefits over table sugar. Check your neighborhood Publix for products made with these sweeteners.
STEVIA
What it is: A natural sweetener estimated to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. It’s extracted from stevia, a shrub native to South America, where it has been used for centuries as both a sweetener and a medicinal herb.

Flavor notes: If you adore licorice, you’ll love stevia—it can have a similar aftertaste. That flavor is less prominent in brands made with rebaudioside A, a purified extract of the stevia plant leaf.

How to use: Check the label for the recommended stevia-to-sugar ratio, since it varies by product, Allen says. Most recipes will taste similar to those made with sugar, although baked goods may be denser and yeast breads might not rise as much. Stevia is available in a variety of forms, including liquid, green powder (essentially the dried, crumbled leaf) and powder mixed with filler (so you can make a one-to-one substitution for sugar). Publix carries several brands, including PureVia, Truvia and Stevia Extract in the Raw.

Health buzz: What makes stevia an A-lister? Zero calories. Plus, Allen says, it doesn’t promote tooth decay since it contains no sugar.
AGAVE NECTAR
What it is: A syrup made from the agave plant, a large succulent native to Mexico. Sound familiar? Agave is the source of tequila too. Look for Madhava brand nectar at Publix.

Flavor notes: They vary with color. Lighter, golden forms simply taste syrupy. Darker, amber ones have a more intense honeylike flavor.

How to use: Agave nectar is trendy in cocktails (margarita, anyone?) as well as teas and smoothies. It’s also popular in the raw food movement, Allen says. Because it’s a liquid, agave nectar works well as a substitute for honey—and since it’s roughly as sweet as honey, you can use equal amounts. Substituting agave nectar for sugar in baking is a bit trickier. Use 2/3 to 3/4 cup of agave nectar to replace each cup of sugar, and reduce other liquids by about one-fourth. You should also lower the oven temperature 25°F.

Health buzz: Agave nectar has a low glycemic index, so moderate amounts shouldn’t cause big spikes in blood sugar. More research is needed to pinpoint the effects of agave on blood sugar. And since the glycemic index value varies from product to product, people with diabetes should talk to their doctor before adding agave to their diet.
THE REAL DEAL
Raw sugar doesn’t have a caloric or glycemic advantage over regular sugar, but it is less refined. The taste resembles brown sugar, and the large crystals add pleasing texture when sprinkled into cereal or over fruit. Here are two types:

Demerara sugar: Raw sugar made in the Demerara area of Guyana. Its large, golden-color crystals have a slight stickiness and a satisfying crunch. Look for the Florida Crystals brand at Publix.

Turbinado sugar: Similar to Demerara but rinsed of some molasses so it is less sticky. It’s spun dry in a turbine (hence the name) and is blond in color. Publix carries the Sugar in the Raw brand.

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