One of the best parts of a raw food diet is guilt-free sweets! It’s so much healthier (and I think tastier) to eat a dessert or smoothie full of fruits than some concoction of highly processed sugars and flours. Plus, the additional fiber will even out the sugar rush and leave you feeling happy and energized for hours.
Dates are one of the best sweeteners, and one of the few that are truly raw. Look for fresh dates that have been ripened on the tree. They come in many varieties, such as Medjool (maple-flavored), Halawy (caramel-flavored), and Deglet Noor (honey-flavored). They’re also rich in fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. One serving of dates is about 1/4 cup.
Figs, raisins, and other dried fruits can also add some flavor and healthy sweetness.
Agave syrup is another popular sweetener among raw foodists. It should be cautioned however, that not all agave syrups are raw. Extracting the nectar requires some degree of heat. However, it is possible to find versions labeled as “raw” because they’re heated to less than 118 degrees. Agave syrup is very sweet, however it’s actually at a fairly low glycemic scale.
Coconut nectar is a relative newcomer to the raw food world. However, it’s been used for thousands of years in South and South-East Asia. It’s low on the glycemic scale, and one of the few truly raw sweeteners available (typically less processed than agave syrups). Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste at all like coconuts!
Maple syrup is definitely not raw… but it is delicious. It’s certainly better than table sugar, and very popular among raw foodists.
Honey is often sold raw, but it’s not vegan. It’s high on the glycemic scale, but is quite good for you, having anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and is high in many vitamins and minerals.