5 sugar free ingredients to add sweetness that may surprise you

It is now widely recognised that reducing sugar is a good idea for your health and your waistline. However, our addiction to sugar is so strong it can feel impossible to kick it until we are presented with a situation whereby we have no alternative.

You don’t have to wait for a health crisis to spring into action. Whether you are looking to eliminate or reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, there are a variety of ingredients that can help to add sweetness without adding a tablespoon of the white stuff and all those extra calories. Most of the raw food sweeteners have some kind of controversy around them – whether it‘s agave, maple syrup, dates, yakon or stevia. Why not try adding some of these ingredients instead?

Coconut milk

The sweetest of all the non-dairy milks, coconut milk, is a great choice to help you eliminate refined sugar. Try adding it to tea or coffee for a sweeter drink…or use it to make chia pudding or porridge instead of nut milk or dairy milk.  For an easy to make at home coconut milk, try this recipe.

Vanilla

Vanilla beans are the fruit pods of the tropical climbing orchid. Whether you are using the bean, powdered vanilla or a good quality extract, vanilla adds a fragrant sweet, creamy, buttery flavour to your food without the sugar. Think ice cream, custard and crème anglaise. Often our craving for sweetness can be satisfied with fragrant vanilla.  To use the bean: using a sharp knife, simply cut it open lengthways from the tip to the base and open it out. Use a teaspoon to scrape out the small black seeds.  You can add the empty pod to a bottle of nut milk to infuse overnight in the fridge.

If you are looking to use bought and ready powdered vanilla, then this is much more potent than vanilla extract, so only use half the amount that you would for vanilla extract. Try adding it to nut milks and creams for some luscious decadence and it can even enhance salad dressings. Plus it contains small amounts of B vitamins which can help with nervous system function.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a sweet spice which can be used in either sweet or savoury dishes. It has been linked to reducing inflammation and can help to regulate blood sugar. Sprinkle on your porridge or add to home made chocolate for a Mexican inspired flavour. This should enable you to cut down on other sugars in the chocolate. Look for Ceylon cinnamon (sometimes called true cinnamon) rather than Cassia cinnamon as it is sweeter and has lower levels of coumarin. Coumarin can lead to liver failure when consumed in high doses.

In Europe, most cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon whereas in North America, the majority of the cinnamon sold is cassia. Do check the provenance of your cinnamon and if you cannot get Ceylon cinnamon, you can substitute with another sweet spice such as ground cardamom instead.

Carrots

Carrots have a natural sweetness, and whilst if you are avoiding sugar for a serious health concern it is best not to juice them, they can be enjoyed grated into a porridge to add a little extra sweetness.  Alternatively, carrot juice can be used instead of sugar or a liquid sweetener to balance the acidity of tomato sauces and to add sweetness to cakes.

Salt

This may sound counterintuitive, but salt helps to draw out the natural flavours of food. Adding a pinch of sea salt will enable you to better taste the natural sweetness in food and to also reduce bitterness.  Choose a good quality sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.

These are just a fraction of the ingredients which can be used to add sweetness instead of sugar. Other sweeteners include carob, mesquite, lucuma and stevia as well as a whole host of other surprising ingredients such as Holy basil.

If you are interested in strategies for reducing the sugars in your life, and also eliminating both gluten and dairy, you may be interested in Nourish Online which starts on January 30th 2017.

Over the last few months, I’ve been gradually eliminating sugar from my diet due to a severe health diagnosis and it has forced me to create delicious sugar-free and low sugar options. I am also trying to keep nuts to a minimum so have also created lots of delicious nut-free recipes too.

If you’re interested in learning some new techniques, ideas and recipes, you can find out more here


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