In a new study, researchers from Virginia Tech’s Biochemistry Department ranked 12 of the most popular sweeteners according to their antioxidant content. Their results might surprise you.
Which sweetener came in dead last? While you might be tempted to say refined white sugar, you’d be wrong. Brown rice syrup, a darling of nutrition freaks, turned out to be less nutritious. Granted there was not a lot of difference between the two, but refined white sugar had slightly more antioxidant power than brown rice syrup.
But lots of sweeteners tied with white refined sugar for lack of nutrition. Corn syrup was not surprising. But others might leave health nuts a little crazy. For instance, raw organic agave nectar scored just as poorly as white sugar.
Only two of the 12 sweeteners tested showed any significant antioxidant value. Those two had 500 to 600 times more antioxidants than plain sugar. What are they?
Black strap molasses came in at number two. Black strap molasses is the dark, very thick molasses remaining after all of the sugar has been extracted from raw sugar cane. Most people use it to flavor baked beans and gingerbread.
White sugar, corn syrup and other refined sweeteners are stripped of almost all their nutrients. But blackstrap molasses contains significant amounts of health promoting minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
But the number one sweetener in the antioxidant department was date sugar. That might not be surprising because date sugar is not like the other sweeteners. It’s not extracted from anything. It’s just dried dates pulverized into a powder.
Date sugar is very sweet. It clumps and doesn’t melt so it can’t be used in all the ways we use white sugar. Still you can usually substitute it in recipes that call for brown sugar.
Some cooks suggest that you use only two-thirds the amount of date sugar in place of brown or white sugar called for in your recipe. Otherwise the result may taste too sweet.
Look for date sugar in your local health food store or at Amazon.com.
The Virginia Tech researchers recommend replacing your refined sugar with black strap molasses or date sugar. They estimate that we take in about 130 grams per day of refined sugars. Substituting these two sweeteners for your daily sugars could give you the same amount of antioxidants as a serving of berries or nuts.
Keep in mind that the researchers were only looking at antioxidant levels. Honey is still a superfood and medicine and one of the best sweeteners you can use.
Here’s the whole list of sweeteners they tested from best to worst for antioxidant power:
- Date sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- Dark brown sugar
- Light brown sugar
- Raw cane sugar
- Turbinado sugar
- Maple syrup
- Refined white sugar
- Corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Brown rice syrup