The Nitty-Gritty on Healthy Sugar Alternatives & Substitutes a.k.a. Nobody-Said-You-Couldn’t-Curb-Them-Sugar-Cravings-Just-Curb-‘Em-Wisely!
I’ve been getting TONS of questions from you guys about healthier sugar alternatives/substitutes! & I COULD NOT BE HAPPIER that you guys are willing & considering making that switch. You will be so thankful that you did, trust me!
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my top 5, there are a few things I want to mention! (OBVS… I mean, when do I not have a whole freaking rant of introduction to go on? LEZ BE HONEST, HERE).
KEEP IN MIND THAT:
- First things first, you guys NEED to know is that regular sugar is genetically modified & usually comes from GMO beets & corn. This makes it COMPLETELY UNNATURAL & HIGHLY TOXIC to the body. Refined sugar has tons of side effects, including but not limited to diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer & even poor cognitive functioning.
- ALSO, I know it’s hard because
a lot of(most) packaged & processed foods contain artificial sweeteners in order to be able to market themselves as “low sugar” or “sugar-free”, BUT it’s important to make a conscious effort to avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs (I’m talking: aspartame, sucralose & saccharin). While the FDA has deemed these sweeteners “safe”, they have NUMEROUS SIDE EFFECTS, ranging from headaches & migraines, to impairment of liver & kidney function, mood disorders & stomach discomfort & bloating. IMO, they are simply a bad excuse for “food” with no calories, BUT ALSO NO NUTRIENTS. ALL THIS TO SAY: READ YOUR LABELS & dig deeper, if you have to! A lot of the time, these artificial sweeteners will find their way into packaged foods & companies will find ways to conceal them as much as possible so as not to scare consumers away from ingredients’ lists that go on for days or that contain chemicals/products that can hardly be pronounced.
- The substitutes I will be referring to in this post are by no-means “low-calorie” or zero calorie sugar alternatives. They still are &/or contain sugar & carbs, but they’re easier on the body to digest & process, they pack a heck of a lot of health benefits (a main one being ANTIOXIDANTS!) & they’re not processed or refined!
- Regular table sugar ranks at a score of 100 on the glycemic index, whereas the alternatives & substitutes I will be referring to in this post score around 50, which is already HALF the amount of regular sugar.
- QUICK FACT: When a food is lower on the glycemic index, it means that it affects your body in a lesser way & is less likely to cause sudden drops in energy levels &/or increases or spikes in insulin levels, thus increasing the risk for diabetes.
- LASTLY, living healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up sweets entirely; it just means you should replace unhealthy refined sugars & artificial sweeteners with these natural sweeteners WHENEVER POSSIBLE!
OKAY, my intro is ACTUALLY OVER… wasn’t so bad, right?
NOW, LET’S GET RIGHT TO IT.
BTW: These are obviously not the ONLY good & healthy sugar substitutes out there, but they are my top 5 & the ones I use in my kitchen regularly!!
RAW ORGANIC UNPASTEURIZED HONEY
- Contains enzymes, amino-acids, electrolytes, antioxidants & antimicrobial compounds.
- It also contains tons of vitamins & minerals, such as iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, B6, riboflavin & niacin, which together, will help neutralize free radicals & promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
- Good for allergies, especially if you buy it from a LOCAL SOURCE. Local honey will be made from local pollen & in turn, will help your body adapt to the local pollen, which will, as a result, make you naturally immune to it overtime, thus, improving your allergy symptoms.
- FACT: Studies have shown that most honey on supermarket shelves DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY POLLEN. This is why I stress the importance of always going for raw honey.
- ALSO, keep in mind that once it has been pasteurized, honey loses its many health benefits
- 1 tablespoon of honey actually has LESS IMPACT on the glycemic index than a single banana.
- Another thing to consider is that the darker your honey is, the richer the flavour & the greater the health benefits!
- If you have blood sugar issues, are overweight or have diabetes, you should really consider making the switch over to Stevia! It’s an all-natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of a flowering plant. It contains NO SUGAR & therefore, no carbs & does not have the nasty side effects of artificial sweeteners.
- There are many types of stevia out there, so that’s one thing to consider. Ideally, you should get full, green leaf stevia! BUT, another form of stevia that is suitable is stevia that is just ground & part of it is extracted.
- THE IMPORTANT THING TO AVOID IS NOT TO BUY A VERSION THAT IS HIGHLY PROCESSED. Processed versions will contain added chemicals that come from GMO corn or GMO corn derivatives.
- Dates are packed with potassium (Great for flushing our toxins & balancing electrolytes), copper, iron, manganese, magnesium & vitamin B6.
- They are also loaded with fibre, which actually SLOWS DOWN the sugar absorption.
- Dates are not a sugar. they are a food that contains sugar, but also lots of other great things, such an antioxidants, minerals, that help you slowly absorb the sugar regulate the sugar in your body.
- Easily digested & help metabolize protein, fats and carbs.
- They may also help reduce LDL cholesterol & may reduce the risk of stroke & can also give you an energy boost!
- I love using dates as a sweetener in smoothies & almond milk & as a paste to help thicken & add bulk protein & energy balls/bites (Simply process them in your food processor until a pasty consistency is obtained & BOOM!).
- Coconut sugar is unrefined, vegan & non-GMO!
- Basically, the way it’s made is that it’s extracted sap from the blooms of the coconut & heated.
- It’s lower than regular sugar on the glycemic index & a lot easier to digest.
- It also has a very rich mineral content! It’s packed with polyphenols (antioxidants), iron, zinc, calcium, electrolytes, potassium, phosphorus & other phytonutrients.
- What’s great about is is that you can use it in baking in the same ratio as you would sugar! It’s a bit more coarse & resembles brown sugar in terms of texture, but it also adds the most delicious toasty & rich flavour to baked goods!
PURE ORGANIC MAPLE SYRUP
- ALWAYS BUY PURE ORGANIC MAPLE SYRUP! (MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT BUYING CORN SYRUP OR TABLE SYRUP!).
- Maple syrup contains minerals, such as: manganese, calcium, potassium & zinc.
- It’s also super rich in antioxidants (way higher in antioxidant content than table sugar), which means that it neutralizes free radicals & reduces oxidative damage!
- It’s always best to go for darker maple syrup as it will contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups! Maple syrup actually contains up to 24 antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds, which are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation & contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases.
NOW, keep in mind, as I said in the beginning of this post (& Lord knows you’ve gotta scroll up), all of these things are still or still contain sugar & carbs, so you want to use them in moderation. I’M NOT HERE TELLING YOU TO LOAD UP ON THEM ALL DAY, ERRDAY. Like anything when it comes to nutrition, you don’t want to go overboard with using these sweeteners! It’s all about finding a balance.
AND BTW, I’m not perfect!!!! – As I just finished ranting about, Stevia is a great alternative but I use a sweetener for my coffee every morning that comes from stevia leaf extract. Now, that isn’t the best thing in the world, it’s not Stevia in its most natural form & it’s actually a syrup. But I put a drop or two in my coffee every morning. I love the taste that it adds to my coffee & it makes my morning, so I do it. It’s a choice that I make. Yes, I could be adding in the most natural form of Stevia, maple syrup or coconut sugar, which are all healthier alternatives, BUT, something’s gotta give! It’s my little guilty pleasure. You just have to pick & choose what you do & what you’re willing to give up/sacrifice.
ALL THIS TO SAY: Ease into it. Adapt. Buy one or two of the above sweeteners. Try them out & see how you like it/how your body reacts! Play it by ear.
And eventually, you may transition into making these lifestyle changes & choices and you’ll realize that you don’t need or miss the table sugar & that you can perfectly substitute for it with any one of the above!
For baking, cooking, topping for oats, yogurt, cereal, marinades, sauces, they are all great alternatives to regular sugar & provide tons of health benefits!
Anywho, I hope I provided you munchkins with a good overview (It most certainly was not brief, to say the least) & motivated you to try a healthier alternative! It’s all about the little changes & baby steps that you take towards a healthy lifestyle!