My attitude on sugars is they are pretty much all equally bad for you (though agave syrup is probably worse because of its high fructose content and I won’t use any of the corn syrups because they’re probably all GMO.) It’s such a shame the sugars all taste so good. To me the only purpose for sugar is taste, so I choose them based on how they work in a recipe. I avoid cane sugar since it is an allergen in our family.
I usually avoid beet sugar as it is a GMO. However, for vegan ice cream beet sugar is the best option I have found. When a nutrition label states one of the ingredients is “sugar” and does not state what type it is, it could be either cane sugar or beet sugar. Which it is will depend on what was cheapest when the product was made. If a bag of sugar is simply titled, “SUGAR,” it too could be from either the cane plant or the beet sugar plant. I called the customer service line for a nationwide chain grocery store. They told me that I could tell what the source of the sugar is by the lot number on the bag. I am not sharing that information here as it could change and I don’t want to give out misinformation. If you have a cane sugar allergy and want to find a source for beet sugar, please call your grocery store’s customer service number to get current information from them.
A crystallized sugar just like white table sugar it can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a white sugar substitute. However, it adds a caramel flavor to foods. This is great when you’re making an apple pie, but it wouldn’t work so well in a meringue. Ground in a coffee grinder it turns into powdered sugar. Mixed with chocolate its flavor does not come through much and it mainly imparts sweetness.
I buy local, raw honey for non-cooked dishes (smoothies and such.) Raw honey is rich in beneficial enzymes. When it is heated over 160 degrees, most of the enzymes are killed. That’s why I use store bought, processed honey for baking and cooking. Processed is usually cheaper and since all the good stuff would get killed when heated, I figure there’s no reason to pay extra for raw stuff then damage it with cooking.
I am careful where I buy my processed honey. A 2011 test showed most processed honeys had the pollen removed. The World Health Organization has ruled that removing pollen from honey makes it impossible to determine the quality and safety of the honey. The test did find that all samples of honey bought from farmer’s markets and natural food stores had appropriate amounts of pollen, so that’s where I buy my baking honey.
I do not buy agave syrup because it contains higher levels of fructose than most other sweeteners. High fructose content may have a negative impact on liver functions. However, this can be a practical solution for a vegan who wants to avoid honey. You can use it 1:1 as a honey substitute.
I mean real maple syrup, not the processed stuff sold in mainstream grocery stores. Maple syrup has a lower fructose content than agave syrup so is not as bad for you. I haven’t used it much because it is more expensive than honey. I do wonder how it will affect the taste of my baked goods. (Though perhaps I should try it.) This is a good alternative to honey for vegans. Substitute 1:1 for honey.