We all know that refined sugar is bad for us, but what do we do when we want something sweetened?
In this second half of a two-part article, we explore the healthy alternatives to refined sugars.
7. Blackstrap Molasses
Molasses is a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar for mass consumption. The nutrients in which it is concentrated include manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium. Make sure you get un-sulphured, which means it does not have the processing chemical to which many people are sensitive. I love molasses for the high iron and calcium content; however, it’s an acquired taste. Best used for smoothie and dessert recipes inspired by gingerbread.
8. Coconut Sugar and Coconut Syrup
I love coconuts as a nutrient-dense food, but the high fructose keeps it off my top choice as a sweetener. Compared with table and brown sugars, coconut sugar has impressive amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron, as well as antioxidants. Used in moderation, it’s a better choice than refined white sugar.
9. Monk Fruit
Alternately marketed as Lo Han Sweetener, monk fruit has an extract 300 times sweeter than sugar. Rich in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits, one study indicated that monk fruit may offer anti-cancer and anti-diabetic benefits. Look for pure Lo Han Sweetener with no additives.
10. Raw Honey
Strict vegans do not use honey as it does come from a (living) bee. Commercial honey is often treated with an excessive heating process that can destroy some of the critical natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Raw, unprocessed, wild honey is the best option as it’s not only a natural sweetener but also a natural food with health benefits. It contains natural antioxidants, enzymes and minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and selenium. Vitamins found in honey include vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin. In addition, the nutraceuticals contained in honey help neutralize damaging free radical activity. Find a local farmer in your area if you prefer to use organic, raw, honey.
The next two are not my top picks, but they are still better for you than refined white sugar:
11. Erythritol and Xylitol
These are sugar alcohols that will not raise your blood sugar like table sugars; however, according to JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet, if used in high amounts, they can cause digestive distress. Make sure to get 100 percent erythritol or an erythritol/stevia blend. With xylitol, make sure to get birch tree-derived as opposed to corn derived which can be harder to digest.
12. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is typically over processed and contains alarmingly high amounts of fructose, which goes right to your liver. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, excessive amounts of fructose elevate blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL; deplete vitamins and minerals; raise insulin resistance and obesity; and contribute to cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout. Still better than refined white sugar, but not a top pick.
Avoid using artificial sweeteners whenever possible. They are toxic and damaging to the nervous system over time. Research is now showing they impede digestion as well as disrupt blood sugar leading to weight gain.
Avoid refined white sugar or brown sugar as much as possible. They cause acid buildup in your tissues, increase inflammation, and deplete your body of nutrients. Brown sugar is essentially bleached white sugar with some molasses in it.
Experiment with the sweeteners above. If you are increasing your nutrition and getting a fully balanced diet, filled with vitamins and minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll, enzymes, and plant based proteins, to name a few, your desire for sugar starts to fade.
For some people, healthy sweeteners can trigger cravings for more sweet foods. If that's you, learn to appreciate the natural sweetness of vanilla, cinnamon, or cardamom. Use everything in moderation and vary your diet.
Taking L-glutamine has been known to help with sugar cravings. Glutamine helps keep blood sugar levels stable and all neurotransmitters firing strongly to help deter cravings. ~ The Diet Cure by Dr. Julia Ross
If I am craving something sweet, I make a delicious smoothie with stevia-sweetened Sunwarrior protein.
Or I have some of my delicious chocolate protein balls lightly sweetened with my favorite Yacon syrup and other superfoods.