So you’ve figured out that white sugar isn’t your best bet in terms of health. But what’s the best alternative? We’ve filtered through the possibilities and present to you the best natural sugar alternatives so you can stay sweet this summer.
Because of its caloric content and ability to spike blood sugar levels, white sugar consumption leads to weight gain and diabetes. It is devoid of any nutrition and can wreak havoc in your body. Artificial sweeteners – aspartame, saccharin, neotame, acesulfame K, and sucralose –are not much better. They have been linked to neurological disorders and cancer. Not enough research has been conducted on them to deem them overall safe, especially in the long-term, which is reason enough to steer clear.
At the end of the day, it is always more promising to keep your intake as natural and wholesome as possible. Look to Mother Nature for your sweetening agents, and these natural sugar alternatives are what you will find.
Stevia is extracted from stevia leaves and boasts antibacterial properties, contains no carbs or calories, contributes to dental health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and aids in calcium formation to improve bone density. Stevia ranks as perhaps the best alternative to sugar out there with regards to its zero glycemic index. However, when it comes to bulk usage, stevia doesn’t make the grade. While it comes in both powder and liquid form, stevia is 300-times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. It is difficult to match the consistency in baked good with stevia as you are able to achieve with sugar. There are brands out there that mix sugar and stevia together to make white sugar a notch healthier, but to do the sweetener true justice, use it only for sweetening teas, coffees, smoothies, pudding, and other dishes that don’t rely on the texture offered by sugar.
2. Maple Syrup
Packed with vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants, maple syrup makes for a great natural sweetener. In 2010, University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram discovered 34 beneficial compounds in maple syrup, 20 of which play a key role in human health and 5 of which had yet to be discovered by anyone in the world. These compounds help maple syrup to fight cancer, slow aging, beat bloat, and boost the immune system. To reap the most from maple syrup’s marvelous nutritional profile, be sure to purchase a “pure” maple syrup. Grades A and B are generally the best choice for eating, cooking or baking. Use maple syrup as a topping on toast or pancakes, ice cream, and other breakfast or dessert recipes. It can also substitute sugar in baked recipes – 1 cup of sugar can be replaced with 2/3-3/4 cup of maple syrup.
3. Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar is extracted from the buds of coconut trees. It contains iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. It has a low glycemic index. Coconut palm sugar appears brown like brown sugar and has a deeper flavor than regular sugar, adding a distinct and delightful aroma and texture. It can be substituted 1:1 for white or brown sugar. It is excellent for baked goods!
When it comes to honey, you have to be very selective of the brand you choose. No two are the same. Most honeys you encounter at the supermarket are over-processed, which causes them to lose their superpower status, and some aren’t even legally honey to begin with! According to a study, more than three-fourths of honey sold in the U.S. isn’t produced by bees. Raw honey is unheated, pure, unpasteurized and unprocessed. It is extremely alkaline-forming in the body provides a slew of health benefits. Take a spoonful in the morning on an empty stomach and jump start your day with energy from living enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals.
Because of their incredibly nutritional properties and sweetness and caramel-like taste, they are a great addition to your diet in moderation. Dates are rich in calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and magnesium. They fight constipation and improve digestion as well as contribute to heart health. You can soak dates to soften them and then mix them into homemade smoothies, puddings, ice creams, and other desserts. They can also be added to baked goods.
Photo Credit: Uwe Hermann, Hardworkinghippy, Stevecoutts, SingChan, alsjhc, Itinerant Tightwad