Natural (Canadian) Sweeteners

by Josée

We are in the process of removing refined sugars from our diet. Refined sugar is an unhealthy thing to eat and most people already know this, at least on some level. There are many problems with refined sugars but I’m just going to mention two problems in this post:

1) Refined sugar, which comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, has been stripped of all its beneficial minerals and nutrients.

2) In Canada, sugar beets are a genetically modified (GM) crop and Rogers Sugar (Lantic), which most Canadians know of and use, process GM sugar beets.

So, refined sugar is unhealthy, devoid of nutrients and might also have GM products in them. These reasons should really make us want to use a different sweetener. In Canada we have a few sweet options. [heehee… bad pun, sorry].


One day I’d like to keep bees. I even think my Husband would be supportive of this venture (unlike having a dairy cow). Honey is 25% sweeter than refined sugar and it’s full of beneficial nutrients. It can contain a variety of minerals, like potassium, and trace amounts of vitamin C, B, A, D and K (reference). Honey also has healing properties, especially Manuka honey.

I use honey in baking, salad dressing, sauces, tea and slathered on a slice of sourdough bread. This summer I’m going to start experimenting with canning with honey too.

Maple Syrup

If maple syrup is being served in our home there is an unwritten rule that you can and must lick your plate to ensure that none of the delectable sweet syrup is wasted. Of course, we don’t force our guests to lick their plates but they would be welcome to join our plate-licking-shenanigans.

Maple syrup is boiled sap from maple trees. It’s mostly sucrose but also has minerals, like potassium, iron and calcium, and trace amounts of vitamins, B vitamins.

We use maple syrup in oatmeal, yogurt, hot cocoa, pancakes, crepes… off a plate. You get the idea.

Birch Syrup

Many people haven’t heard of birch syrup. It isn’t as popular as maple syrup and it takes much more birch sap to make birch syrup compared to maple syrup. If you thought maple syrup was expensive, birch syrup carries an even higher price.

Birch syrup is mostly fructose, and like maple syrup has minerals like potassium, iron, and calcium as well as magnesium, manganese and zinc, it also has trace vitamins such as vitamin A.

I’ve just started using birch syrup, and not in large quantities because of it’s steep price. It has a different flavour than maple syrup, a more roasted caramel flavour. What I really need is a plot of birch trees to tap… along with some bees… and a cow.

I have a few sweet things for a giveaway, so check back in a day or so…

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Kim Corrigan-Oliver June 16, 2012 - 12:25 am

We are refined sugar free as well, and have been for a long time. Super easy once you get used to it.

Our favourite natural sugar is maple syrup, followed closely by honey. I am with you on the bees, and hoping to have a hive next year…fingers crossed.

We also use coconut sugar in baking sometimes.

Have a lovely weekend.

Kaylana June 17, 2012 - 6:57 am

Oh, if I had a cow too…
A couple of years ago we tapped the numerous birch trees in our yard and made syrup. The mistake was that we did it *inside*. After running the stove for hours and hours, my whole house was sticky, sticky, sticky!
We also did maple too, but we were late on tapping so there wasn't much.
Birch syrup is also good for people with certain types of diabetes since it is made of fructose and glucose with only a small trace of sucrose.


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