Most people enjoy sweet foods; let’s face it, sugar makes foods taste better. Refined sugar, however, is a health hazard for many Americans. Many studies suggest that the average American consumes as much as 100 hundred pounds of refined sugar every year. Refined sugar or “white sugar,” as it’s more commonly known, is the culprit behind many diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and weight gain. Lowering or eliminating our refined sugar intake is an important step that you can take to improve your health. This article explores 5 natural sweeteners that you can use to indulge your sweet tooth.
1. Raw Honey – Unprocessed honey is possibly one of the best sweetener alternatives available. In its raw, unpasteurized form, it is a live food containing a plethora of phytonutrients, trace minerals, and enzymes. It also doesn’t spoil or lose any nutritional value when stored for prolonged periods in airtight containers. It is a complex sugar made up of many other sugars, but it does not have the same effects on blood sugar levels that white granular does. Fermentation can occur if the honey is left exposed to air, which can cause an unpleasant taste, so be sure to tightly close the lid after each use. Of the sweet things available in nature, raw honey is one of the healthiest, but you shouldn’t overindulge either.
2. Stevia – Stevia is a natural sugar alternative derived from the stevia plant. The sweetness of the plant comes from the steviol glycoside. Stevia in its natural form contains trace minerals and has absolutely no effect on blood pressure or blood glucose response proving that it is safe for use by diabetics. Purdue University’s Dental Science Research Group have concluded that stevia is “significantly” inhibits the development of plaque and may actually help to prevent cavities. Refined extracts of stevia are about 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar.
3. Brown Rice Syrup – Brown rice syrup is made by cooking brown rice in pure filtered water then evaporating most of the water, which results in a naturally sweet syrup. It is an allergen-free sweetener and is also free of gluten and wheat. It is only half as sweet as refined sugar.
4. Turbinado Sugar – Turbinado sugar is used in various parts of the world as a white sugar substitute. It is derived from sugar cane juice and is only partially refined resulting in larger crystals with a distinct golden brown color.
5. Pure Maple Syrup – Many North Americans are already familiar with pure maple syrup, but many of us only use it for breakfast. Maple syrup is a natural sweetener derived from tree sap. It is available in two grades, Grade A and Grade B. Grade A syrups come in three different colors: Light amber, Amber and Dark Amber. The lighter the color the less pronounced the taste. Grade B contains more trace minerals and has the strongest maple flavor. Be very careful to avoid all imitation maple syrups because their chief ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.
Although natural sweeteners are a better alternative, you should still use them in moderation. Many people hear the word “natural” and overindulge because they think they’ve won the sugar lotto. Natural sweeteners still contain sugar, and if you load up on them you’ll be faced with the same health concerns that refined sugar perpetuates, such as candida, lowered immune system, diabetes, tooth decay and weight gain (just to name a few). Remember, moderation is the key to life; a little bit of sweetness goes a long way.