I wanted to do a small post about living paleo in a world that- seems to me- is dictated by sugar & carbs. Let’s be honest, I L♥VED me some good ole’ refined sugar. Yes, I was totally addicted to anything and everything that contained those sparkly little granules. Here’s the deal my paleo peeps: Anyone who says “I don’t miss sugar” is lying right to your face. You hear me? LYING. Yes, being paleo makes your craving for sugar go wayyy down, but not as much as you might think. Obviously, if I’m out with my friends and they order asmorgasbord of treats, I don’t eat them (I don’t even nibble!). Why? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s will power or that I really have kicked that refined sugar craving. I can look at the dessert, smell it, basque in its essence and be completely content. Thank you, I’m a weirdo & I’m aware. On the other hand, I know that I have delicious, paleo approved goodies waiting for me at home. People: These still have “sugar” in it! Just not the “refined” kind.
In all honesty, I crave dark chocolate all the time. Literally, all the time. What I don’t crave: bread, rolls, and cheese. As a treat for myself at the end of a long day, I have a small plate full of paleo sweets. I don’t think this is really “allowed” per se, but I don’t care. I had a long ass day, so I’m havin’ me some flippin’ chocolate!
Here’s the deal: True paleo’s are supposed to eat paleo approved sweeteners (raw honey, grade B maple syrup, stevia, etc…) in small quantities. Well, that’s hard! And it’s alright to admit that its hard. We all love what we love- no reason to beat up yourself about it. Just make smarter decisions about those things you love to gobble up!
Now to get to “Paleo Approved Sweeteners”: what they are, how they react in your body, and why they are paleo approved
1. Coconut Sugar, Organic: This is argued amongst fellow paleo’s, but it is one of the easiest substitutes to find and most affordable. Coconut sugar is produced from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It has a caramel taste and you can use it in a 1:1 ratio against regular cane sugar. Jane from Jane’s Healthy Kitchen argues that coconut sugar is not paleo because it is high in carbs (95% YIKES). The upside: it is has low glycemic index. Personally, I use coconut sugar seldom. Now, I think I’m going to get rid of it all together because I think there are better options. But it is perfect if you are just getting started and need a replacement that’s easy to substitute and super tasty!
2. Raw Honey: Unprocessed, raw honey is a great paleo substitute. More on the expensive side of the spectrum, but well worth it. They have raw honey at TJ’s (Trader Joes) that I buy all the time. Raw honey is TWICE as sweet as sugar. The downside, it’s super high-carb (85%) and will give you a good blood sugar spike. On the up and up, it is all natural and regarded as a sacred super food!
3. Grade B Real Maple Syrup: Also among the primal argument. Unfortunately, all maple syrups, regardless of grade are almost entirely sucrose. Grade B is richer, darker, more complex, and contains more natural minerals. Personally, I use it all the time. After more research (while writing this post), I might start to switch gears a bit. It is paleo, but only in moderation.
4. Stevia: After researching there is a large difference between the Stevia Leaf and Stevioside/Rebaudioside. The raw, truley untouched stevia should have a greenish color like a leaf. You can even buy a stevia plant and grow it in your backyard on on a windowsill (totally my next spring project!). From this you can make your own stevia powder or syrup. Stevioside/Rebaudioside is when the stevia leaf is processed commercially. Here’s how Jane’s Healthy Kitchen explains the process:
“Typically ethanol or methanol are used as solvents to break the cell walls, and the residue is filtered many times. The result is white refined stevioside powder or liquid, sometimes called Rebaudioside. Industrially refined stevioside is 250 – 300 times sweeter than sugar, with zero carbs, and less aftertaste than raw stevia. Refined stevioside is often sold to the food industry in blends with sugar, artificial sweeteners, and/or other chemicals.”
I buy Stevia from Trader Joe’s (the liquid kind, not the powder– they put rice maltodextrin in it! YUCK) and I think it’s good. Definitely worth using as a substitute. If you wanna be truly paleo try Planetary Herbal Stevia Powder.
5. Natural Chicory Root Fiber: This is 100% paleo! It is a highly concentrated sweetener and is 96% dietary fiber. It is also ZERO calories. Unfortunately, this substitute is a pretty penny. The best brand for this is Just Like Sugar Table Top. Supposedly, it tastes and acts just like regular sugar. It does not effect blood sugar and does not cause weight gain, amazing. I have not tried this yet, but I plan to bite the bullet and pay the $19 buckaroos!
6. Erythritol: This looks and tastes just like sugar. It’s a little frightening! The name is also super weird, so when you first buy it you almost think that there’s no way it could be all natural, but – just our luck- it is! How is it made you ask? By a fermentation process of a plant pulp…think homemade Kombucha. It’s 70% as sweet as sugar so the ratio is a little different: 1 cup of sugar to 1 1/3 cups of erythritol. Zero by Wholesome Sweeteners is great because it has very small granules. Zero is unique because it is pure, non-GMO Erythritol, not a blend with other ingredients. You can buy Zero Erythritol at Whole Foods Markets or online. Check out Swerve too. It’s another erythritol sweetener. It does have other ingredients in it, but it’s still all natural! Check it out at Swerve Sweetener or Amazon.
7. Luo Han Guo: 20 times sweeter than sugar, this Chinese herb is zero-carb and zero-cal’s. FABULOUSNESS! Basically, it’s made from monk fruit. The powder has a similar flavor to chocolate or molasses. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic for the lungs. Ye be warned: in the US, Luo Han Guo is often mixed with other sugar ingredients e.g., dextrose, cane sugar. Here’s two places to buy good quality Luo han Guo: Swanson Health Products & Hold the Carbs.
8. Lakanto: This is a granulated sugar made form both erythritol and luo han gan. Good news, it’s measured cup for cup (1:1 ratio) with regular sugar. zero cals, zero carbs, and zero glycemic. HOLLA! It’s available at Body Ecology. Downside, this stuff is expensiveee. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, I am only the messenger!
Here’s a handy dandy little chart from Jane’s Healthy Kitchen to give you a better scope of the different sweeteners: