An Aside: On Uncouth Sweeteners

By uncouth, of course, I mean unrefined. When we started “giving up sugar” I basically considered anything sweet except fruit to be the sugar we needed to give up. I’ve still been avoiding it all in large part, but I have come to make a few distinctions.

Raw honey is yummy. When we were all sick with colds a few weeks ago, I did crack open this stuff. A spoonful of honey helps any sore throat feel better…or maybe just loved. I also used it in small amounts in several batches of whole wheat sourdough English muffins, which of themselves helped solve the school-morning breakfast crisis. Because it’s always a crisis.

Maple syrup is the bees’ knees. Honestly, I do consider this refined sugar. After all—it’s not like we’re pouring maple sap on our pancakes. But I also know it is slightly more nutritive than granulated white sugar, and a good form of manganese, or magnesium, or something. And Dr. Awesome happens to be in love with it. So I have used this to substitute for granulated sugar in some of those morning muffin recipes. Besides my birthday morning toaster waffle breakfast (lovingly prepared by Bear) we have not been using it. I did make pancakes once this whole experiment, and slathered them with Kerrygold and strawberry all-fruit spread. Oh my wow.

Molasses is mo’ ‘licious. (OK, that was a stretch. It might be malicious, depending on whom you ask.) I love the robust flavor of molasses. And it is definitely refined—it is actually a byproduct of the sugar refining process. While bees make honey and maybe a really slow-burning forest fire could make maple syrup (that makes sense, right?) molasses couldn’t exist without the sugar refining process. However, robust and delicious blackstrap molasses also happens to be something like the highest source of non-heme iron on the planet. (Seriously. Read the back of the bottle.) And it turned out after Bitsy’s one-year blood-draw that she is low iron. Guess who else is apparently low iron? Her breastfeeding Mama, number one source of the nursling’s iron stores. Aside from immediately feeling crushing “Mom guilt” (My poor baby! Why haven’t I eaten my liver and kale like a good girl? Or at least kept taking that prenatal vitamin?!) there was also a part of me jumping up and down saying Yippee, molasses cookies for me! Then the pediatrician asked me if I was getting enough calories because “technically you’re still eating for two,” and I almost kissed her. So, blackstrap has come back into our lives. Not in cookie form, but typically as a spoonful on oatmeal. And if you’re not eating other sugar, that typically bitter-tasting blackstrap tastes delightfully sweet. At least when paired with ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, that molasses oatmeal is like a cookie in a bowl. Plus I had a free pass to cool it with a few tablespoons of vitamin C apple juice instead of milk, because the pediatrician told me to. Coo.

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