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10 Natural Sweeteners that are Good for You

Check out the first six natural sweeteners that are much better for you than white sugar in part one of a two part series.

stevia_leaf_sugar_sweetener_granules_white_picLet’s just cut to the chase. Refined, white sugar offers no benefits to the body whatsoever. It is damaging to the body and your health. There is no such thing as only having a little bit, because sugar has an insidious secret: the more you have, the more you want. On the other hand, the more you cut sugar from your daily living, the better you will feel. Just ask anyone who has quit eating refined sugar. I guarantee they will tell you that without sugar in their life, they feel much better. According to Dr. Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, sugar is eight times more addictive than the drug cocaine. And the scary thing is most people are addicted to sugar and don’t even realize it.

Replace refined white sugars with natural sweeteners that still offer sweetness and also offer nutrients to your body. Here’s a list of the best natural sweeteners you should be using in moderation(let’s not forget that). All sweeteners should be used in moderation. Too much sugar in the body, even from natural sources, can still deplete health. Consumed in excess, it is believed to be among the leading causes of some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

1. Stevia

Stevia is an herb that grows in North and South America that's 300 times sweeter than sugar.

The best stevia options are as unrefined as possible. Some people are adverse to the taste but are likely using too much, so try and use a little less since it is so sweet. Also, because stevia is so popular now, there are many brands coming out that have formulated a great taste. The downside of stevia’s popularity is that artificial sweetener companies are now marketing blends and mixes as stevia when it is not pure stevia. Always read the labels. Many stevia "blends" contain maltodextrin (usually corn) and other sweeteners. Opt for pure, organic stevia. And if you have a garden, it is very easy to grow! You can buy it in liquid or powder form.

2. Dates, Raisins, Goji Berries, Prunes, Apricots, Figs, Golden Berries, Mulberries

dried_fruit_sweet_chewy_fiber_nutrition_picI love dried fruits because they are naturally sweet, but they also have a lot of fiber which helps prevent huge blood sugar spikes. Dates, goji berries, and mulberries are especially fantastic for smoothies or raw food desserts.

Tip #1:Soak your dried fruit before you use it. Soaking dried fruits in clean water helps hydrate them and makes them easier to blend and also easier to digest. Eating dried fruit without soaking can be dehydrating to the body and more difficult to digest.

Tip #2: Keep the water that you soaked your dried fruit in. Store the water in a mason jar and use it as a syrup to naturally sweeten your chia cereals, oatmeal, or smoothies. Gracious Living Lifestyle never wastes anything! Make sure all your dried fruit is sulfite-free.

3. Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is a low-glycemic, thick-liquid sweetener that tastes like molasses. Yacon is a South American tuber that looks a bit like a potato but tastes more like an apple. With half the calories of sugar and a high concentration of indigestible inulin, yacon is a friendly alternative sweetener for diabetics and those looking to reduce sugar.

4. Lucuma Powder

This low-glycemic sweetener contains many nutrients, including beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. Yellow lucuma powder has a unique, maple-like taste that’s a delight in a variety of recipes. Lucuma powder is made from whole Peruvian lucuma fruit that has been dried at low temperatures and milled into a fine powder.

5. Mesquite Powder

Mesquite powder is a low-glycemic flour rich in protein and micronutrients and comes from ground mesquite pods from the desert mesquite tree (a type of legume tree). Today, most of the mesquite mequite_powder_spoon_table_picflour produced in the world comes from Peru. Although you can use it as a gluten-free flour in place of wheat flour for baked goods, breads, tortillas, you can also use it as a sweetener in your smoothies, cereals, and desserts. Mesquite flour has a sweet, nutty taste. It has a texture like wheat flour, but perhaps a bit more grainy. I love it because it is quite high in protein (about 17% protein) making it more energy sustaining and lower on the glycemic index.

6. Maple Syrup

The main thing that sets maple syrup apart from refined sugar is the fact that it contains a small amount of minerals, especially manganese and zinc. There are several different grades of maple syrup (A & B), depending on the color. Grade B is the darkest, with the strongest maple flavor. Grade B maple syrup is also less processed than Grade A, making it more nutrient-dense. If you’re going to buy maple syrup, then make sure to get real, pure maple syrup, not just maple-flavored syrup which can be loaded with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Keep an eye out for part two where you will get more information on great natural sweetener options!

Brush up on the different kinds of sugars and artificial sweeteners!

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