Many foods contain added sugar, and we consume it much more than we know. It’s even in the products where we normally wouldn’t expect to find any, such as bread, ketchup, chips, and some smoothies. The problem is that it’s not listed as “sugar” but under other, more subtle names like fructose, sucrose, or corn syrup.
Sugar is used to enhance the flavour of the food we’re eating and it’s addictive, so we always find ourselves craving for more. There are no benefits for our health or body from consuming sugar. White table sugar, as we know it, doesn’t have any nutritional value. It’s processed, so there’s no fibre, protein, and it’s very low in vitamins and minerals. The only thing that it’s high in is calories, but no one wants that, right?
Too much sugar consumption leads to diabetes, higher blood pressure, kidney damage, cardiovascular diseases, fatty liver disease, and weight gain. It causes inflammation in our body which can be the reason for acne, and it speeds up the aging process. Sugar makes the levels of glucose in our blood fluctuate, which means that energy rises and drops quickly. And what our parents always told us is also true – it has a negative impact on our dental health.
But do we need to ditch sugar altogether? How can you live a life without enjoying the sweetness of brownies, doughnuts, ice cream, and other sugary foods? Luckily for us, there are natural sugar substitutes that cause none of the harm processed sugar does and which we can use in order to reduce our sugar intake.
People are using natural sweeteners for various health reasons such as diabetes or to lose weight, but these can also have benefits for people who are otherwise healthy. These sugar substitutes can have calories, but not as much as regular sugar, and they are richer in nutrients. These sweeteners are considered to be natural because they are less processed and are derived from some plants and other foods. That being said, if you’re looking to try a healthy natural sugar alternative, here are all the options you’ll come across.
Stevia is a natural sugar alternative that’s even sweeter than granulated white sugar. It’s made from the extract of the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The sweetness comes from its components of which stevioside and rebaudioside are the most abundant ones.
Stevia is especially effective for weight loss. It’s classified as a zero-calorie sweetener because it’s very low in calories, almost none. It’s suitable for people with diabetes because it doesn’t affect insulin levels. In fact, it may actually lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. One of the antioxidant compounds of stevia is kaempferol, which is said to minimise the risk of cancer in the cells of the pancreas.
Stevia can be found in many products that are sugar-free and comes in the form of powders, tablets, and liquids which are available for purchase in order to be used as natural sugar substitutes at home. You can use Stevia to sweeten your coffee, oats, or tea. If you experiment with baking, you can use it in your recipes, but first, do a little research on what is the best way to substitute sugar with stevia because they don’t have the same properties.
Stevia is a great replacement if you don’t want your children to consume white sugar. It has a unique taste, somewhat bitter, which some people don’t really like. However, since it’s two to three times sweeter than sugar, very little is needed to get that sweet taste.
Monk fruit originates from China and it’s been used in Eastern medicine for many centuries. It’s a small, ball-shaped fruit. Its sweetness comes from the mogrosides, the sweet parts of the fruit which are antioxidants. The natural sweeteners are created from the fruit’s juice, which can be consumed as such, or can be found in the form of a powdered extract. In some products, it can be mixed with other ingredients, so always read the label.
This natural sweetener is much sweeter than sugar, so be careful not to make your beverages or baked goods overly sweet. It contains antioxidants, zero calories, no carbohydrates, and it’s good for regulating our blood sugar.
Xylitol and Erythritol are the most commonly used sugar alcohols. But to be clear, they don’t contain alcohol even though the name might suggest it, so they aren’t intoxicating and are safe for children. They can be found in some vegetables and fruit naturally.
Compared to sugar and other sweeteners, xylitol is one of the healthiest sugar alternatives because it contains a low percentage of calories. It’s widely used and found in chewing gums, some kinds of toothpaste, yogurts, and other sugar-free products. It can be bought in granulated form, which makes it suitable for baking. But you may need to do some changes according to the recipe because it might produce different reactions. Erythritol has even fewer calories than xylitol. They are both safe for diabetics because they don’t raise the sugar levels rapidly.
Be careful because if consumed in great amounts, some people experience discomfort or bloating, and sugar alcohols may serve as laxatives. Regarding our dental health, they don’t cause teeth cavities and are said to taste like sugar but less sweet.
Coconut products like oil and milk have been known for their benefits for a long time. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, gained its fame recently. It’s usually used as a substitute in recipes with brown sugar because they’re similar in flavour. This means that coconut sugar doesn’t taste like regular coconut at all.
It’s high in calories and fructose, so it might not be the best solution if weight loss is your goal. However, if unrefined, it retains the nutrients of the coconut palm from which it’s derived from, such as iron, calcium, zinc, antioxidants, and minerals. It has a low glycemic index, so it doesn’t increase your blood sugar quickly and it’s good for your guts. Coconut sugar is easily accessible and it’s as sweet as sugar, which makes it a natural sugar substitute for baking.
Besides these, there are other natural and healthy sugar substitutes that you can try: