Refined sugar contains very little nutritional value, but packs a huge calorie punch. If you have a sweet tooth and want to give up refined sugar, you have a plethora of natural, healthy substitutes to choose from. When looking for sugar substitutes, make sure that you go natural rather than synthetic. While artificial sweeteners may contain fewer calories, they have been linked to cancers and other physical ailments. With these natural sweeteners, you can have your cake, and eat it too!
A whopping 300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia has been utilized as a sweetener in South America for centuries. In Japan, stevia accounts for 41% of the sweetener market and its beginning to garner support in North America too. Stevia is calorie-free and this makes it the perfect substitute for diabetics.
Two 2010 studies not only found that stevia was safe for consumption, but that it had anti-tumor, anti- inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-diarrheal and diuretic benefits to boot.
This is extracted by heating the sap of the coconut palm and reducing it to usable granules. Coconut sugar tastes similar to brown sugar, but with a richer flavour. Coconut sugar is unrefined, so it maintains all of its natural minerals and vitamins including magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and amino acids. Coconut sugar has a naturally low glycemic index so it won’t cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap of maple trees tapped in late winter. The colour and grade of the syrup is determined by the temperature at which the syrup is boiled and the length of time it’s boiled for. Because it’s not refined, it retains its natural minerals and vitamins including calcium, potassium, sodium, and copper.
A 2011 University of Rhode Island study by Dr. Navindra Seeram identified 24 compounds in maple syrup that are beneficial for preventing diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and type two diabetes.
Agave is a succulent desert plant from which tequila is made. To make agave nectar, several different varieties of the plant are harvested and blended together. With a low glycemic rating, agave makes an excellent sugar substitute for those who have blood sugar concerns. It is grown predominantly in Mexico and South Africa and is about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar. Agave Nectar has been used for centuries as a flavouring. Used in teas, smoothies, as a syrup, with cereals, for dips and spreads and any dessert.
Honey that’s been processed is heated and refined and loses much of its nutritional value so stick with raw honey if you are aiming for maximum health benefits. Honey is truly the elixir of life and contains a wealth of vitamins, enzymes and powerful anti-oxidants. It also has valuable anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which is why you don’t need to store it in the fridge!
Raw honey has been shown to stabilize blood pressure and balance sugar levels. It provides relief from pain and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is utilized to treat respiratory conditions and is an expectorant which makes it a popular additive for cold and flu medication.
When in doubt, avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs and opt for natural, unrefined sweeteners instead. Be aware that some sweeteners (like stevia) are much sweeter than refined sugar and you only need to use a very small quantity. You should also go for organic, natural sweeteners that are healthier and more nutritious. Go ahead; toss out your refined sugars today—pretty please without the sugar on top!