Sweeteners & Vanilla

Unsweetened prune compote for digestive regularity. Rice and barley malts, xylitol, raw sugars, palm sugar, fructose and more. Vanilla pods from Uganda and the superb Nielsen-Massey range of genuine Vanilla extracts. Real vanilla is a natural anti-depressant! Go figure.

Sugars and Sweeteners


Complex, unrefined sugars are better than simple, refined sugars.

Simple, refined sugars quickly raise and lower the blood sugar.

This stresses the pancreas; the pancreas puts out insulin to keep the blood sugar even. In time, this balance can be disturbed and diabetes results – the body’s ability to produce insulin is exhausted. Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) is often seen as leading up to diabetes.

Sugars are evaluated in glycemic index (GI) or glycemic load (GL): If you eat a little of a high-glycemic food, the glycemic load is low, but if you eat a lot the glycemic load is high.








Wh Sugar





Br Sugar











Org Molasses





Org Cane Sugar





Barley Malt





Org Rice Malt









Very low




Organic molasses is a different quality altogether than non-organic molasses.

The latter has the fertilizers and pesticides concentrated in the extraction process, thereby cancelling out any health benefits of molasses.

Molasses has a powerful mineral profile; iron and potassium stand out. Potassium balances the excess sodium we have from salt. This allows the cell metabolism to function better. Sweeten tea, or dissolve in hot water.


Barley Malt is a mild sweetener. It has the delicious taste of Milo and Horlicks, minus the white sugar these products contain. It helps bone growth in children and decongests their lungs. Good in porridge or shakes.


Organic Rice Malt Syrup is a superior grain syrup. Good for people with food sensitivities and those who are looking for pure foods, perfect for babies.

Baby food should not be sweeter than the sweetness of freshly baked bread.


Grains are complex sugars. They affect (raise and lower) the blood sugar slowly and evenly. Similarly, vegetables have many of the effects of grains in the body. To prevent sudden raises and drops of blood sugar (predisposes us to hypoglycaemia and diabetes) we should consume vegetables and grains. Even fresh fruit and especially dried fruit affect sensitive individuals adversely. 





*   There are many types of sweeteners that can be used in the kitchen: however they differ both in the processing/refining methods of extraction and in the physiological effect of digestion. Most people are aware of the hazards of eating refined cane sugar, but it is not so obvious which natural sweeteners can be recommended as alternatives.


Sugar is basically a form of carbohydrate. In its complex form, carbohydrates are called disaccharides, polysaccharides, or starches. Polysaccharides are all eventually converted through the digestive process to the monosaccharide, glucose, at which time it either enters the bloodstream or is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver. The rate at which the glucose enters the bloodstream and affects the blood sugar balance is one of the major factors in choosing a sweetener.


Sugar is composed of 99% sucrose - a disaccharide of fructose and glucose. (Fructose, although advertised as a natural "fruit sugar", is actually a product of the chemical refinement of sucrose. The only supposed advantage of fructose is that it does not elevate sugar levels in the blood as dramatically as does glucose nor strain the pancreas as drastically. It is not really a "natural sugar".) There are practically no other elements (vitamins or minerals) which help in the metabolising of sugar. It is absorbed almost immediately through the mouth and stomach and creates a rapid rise in the blood sugar level, followed soon after with a lowered level as the excess glucose is converted to glycogen. If the amount of sugar ingested is large, the result is often an extremely low blood sugar level, or the condition known as hypoglycemia.


The glucose is eventually absorbed by the body cells, where it supplies the energy for cellular metabolism. However, without any complementary vitamins or minerals, absorption of sugar is very difficult, often causing serious health problems.


In order to maintain a smooth, harmonious digestion and absorption of sugar (glucose) the best sweetener is one which is slowly metabolised, contains other nutrients, and is at most 90% sucrose.


Honey is approximately 99% sucrose, although it is a type which converts more fructose than does cane or beet sugar. Since fructose does not create such a radical swing in the blood sugar level, honey is preferred by some people as a sweetener. The 1% of honey which is not sucrose is comprised of enzymes, vitamins and minerals. These other nutrients help somewhat to metabolise the sugars. Besides, bees naturally process honey without the use of industrial techniques. Nevertheless, honey is a very refined sweetener and is not recommended for daily consumption.


Barley malt, sorghum, and maple syrup are also prepared with relatively little processing. These sweeteners contain many other nutrients and have concentrations of between 86% and 98% sucrose. Grade A maple syrup has the highest concentration of sucrose.


Other sweeteners which have relatively low levels of sucrose are raisin puree (raisins cooked with 2 to 3 parts water), amasake, and rice (yinnie) syrup. Amasake is prepared by cooking brown sweet rice without salt in the proportions of 1 part rice to 5 parts water. After the cooked rice cools to around 120 deg. F., one-third to one-half cup of koji is added per cup of uncooked rice and mixed in thoroughly. The rice and koji mixture then incubates for 5 to 12 hours, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity, at 120 deg.F. The amasake is ready when a sweet cloudy liquid separates from the mixture. It can then either be pureed or used as is.


Rice honey or yinnie syrup is prepared by a malting process. Sprouted wheat or barley is mixed into cooked rice or sweet rice which is kept at between 120 to 130 deg.F. The sprouts need to be mashed well and mixed in at a proportion of one-quarter to one-third sprouts to 1 part raw rice. The enzymes in the sprouts begin the breakdown of the carbohydrates in the grain to more simple sugars. This process takes between 5 to 7 hours, after which the grains should be pureed. The syrupy liquid which comes off can be used as is or cooked in a double boiler to a more thick consistency. Thickened, it makes great caramelised popcorn or "candied" apples.


Both these "refined" sweeteners are of exceptionally good quality and will not cause the extremes in body chemistry created by other more refined sugars.


As natural sweeteners malt syrups have a lot going for them. Malt syrups are made from cereal grains which are a main food and cheaply available to all. They are processed into syrup in the same way that enzymatic action in the mouth breaks them down when they are chewed. The sugar contained in malt syrup is mainly maltose, which is less than half as sweet as sucrose. Since it is not as sweet as other sweeteners, there is a tendency to use more. This is not a good idea since some malt syrups contain the same total sugar content as maple syrup. Malt syrups are still concentrated sugars.


Most grains are suitable for malting but barley, wheat and rice are the most popular. Corn cannot actually be malted itself, but its high starch content is valuable when used in conjunction with barley. Barley enzymes reduce the starch in corn to glucose, producing a lighter and sweeter malt syrup. Some malt syrup simply has commercial corn syrup added for extra sweetness. Corn syrup, remember, is industrially refined glucose should not be considered the same quality as the product obtained when malting corn and barley.


The malting process is simple. First the barley is soaked and sprouted. The sprouts contain the enzymes necessary to convert the starches in the grain. The sprouts are often dried and powdered, to be used later in malting other grains. This powder is referred to as malt. Barley and water are mixed together with malt, rice, corn or wheat and heated to about 180 deg.F. Quickly (within 30 to 40 minutes) all the available starch is converted into sugar. This mash is strained and cooked down into a sweet syrup.


Some natural food stores carry three different kinds of malt syrups. They have a 100% barley malt (the least sweet), a 60% barley / 40% corn malt (sweeter and more popular), and a barley and rice malt referred to as rice syrup or rice honey. The rice syrups are available in two types: One is clear and amber-coloured and is made from about 20% barley malt and 80% rice. The other is white and opaque and is made from mostly rice with additional enzymes of the same family as malt added, besides the ones available from the barley. Barley malt is by far the cheapest natural sweetener and has a rich roasted taste that is not overpowering. More expensive are the rice syrups which are lighter in flavour. Malt syrups contain primarily maltose and glucose sugars.


Malt syrups rank high on the list of natural sweeteners. They are from a principal whole food source, processed by enzymatic action that they produce themselves (they need no bees to provide the enzymes), and are made up of the simple sugars that have the least effect upon the body. Their commercial production, however, is quite industrialised even though the process is clean.


Another sweetener similar to malt syrups is amasake. Amasake is made by using koji, which is, usually, rice or barley inoculated with the Aspergillus oryzae mold. This mold contains enzymes of the same family as barley malt. Mixed in water with rice or any other grain, koji turns their starch into sugar. Amasake can be made with any grain, used as a dessert, a drink, or cooked down into a syrup. Other than fruit juice it is the only sweetener that is easy to make at home.


Date sugar is a natural sweetener sometimes available in natural food stores. It is very natural and almost a whole food. Date sugar is a by-product of the date industry; usually the most cosmetically inferior dates and pieces are used. Fresh dates (which are about 60% sugar) are dehydrated to about 2% moisture, then they are simply ground up to make an instant sweetener. Date sugar tastes like dates but not as much as you would expect.


Natural sweeteners, being refined products, seldom have more than infinitesimal amounts of pesticide residue. Preservatives are seldom used in natural sweeteners because sugar is a good preservative itself, and they keep very well even unrefrigerated. Natural sweeteners are delicious and if used in moderation, add a delicious dimension to life. Abused they cause many of the same ills as other sweeteners.


Remember, the sweetest life is the one that is long and healthy.