Everybody’s got a sweet tooth. Whether you are a self-proclaimed chocoholic or enjoy fruity desserts, it’s tough to resist the sweet deliciousness of sugar. But with diabetes on the rise, it’s more important than ever to avoid the stuff. Consuming too much over-processed sugar has negative health effects, and it’s not conducive to living a long and healthy life. Are sugar alternatives the answer?
In fact, a natural diet is one of the best things you can do for your body. Much has been discussed about the health benefits of adding more natural seafood into your diet. There are also times when dark chocolate can actually be beneficial to your health–in moderation, of course. So have no fear! You don’t have to completely give up your sweet pleasures. Here are six healthy and all-natural alternatives to sugar. We’re not talking artificial sweeteners.
Honey is perhaps the healthiest (and dare I say tastiest) of your choices. Rightfully so, as it is also the least processed of sweeteners. Add some honey to your cup of tea or coffee, and ditch the sugar or sugar substitute packets.
When shopping for honey, be sure to buy some from a local farm. This way you can be sure that it is completely natural and organic. There is a bit of debate about what is actually in the honey you see at the major grocery stores.
If you’ve never had some real organic maple syrup, you better fix that! Maple syrup is super sweet, which is great for those of us who have a hard time imagining a life without sugar. In order to get maple syrup, a hole is drilled in a maple tree so that the syrup can drip out into a bucket. The syrup is then boiled over high temperature for a long time, to achieve that yummy, sticky goodness we’ve all come to know (and love!).
There are a few different types, or grades, of maple syrup. The grading system varies by country, but in the US, maple syrup is designated as either Grade A or Grade B. Grade A is better for direct consumption, such as in your oatmeal or cereal, whereas Grade B is so dark that it is better used as an ingredient in cooking or baking.
The fresher the vanilla, the better. If you can’t get your hands on an actual vanilla bean, then going for the liquid extract is just fine. Be sure to check out the ingredients and educate yourself on what you’re actually buying. There are several types of vanilla on the market that contain large amounts of high fructose syrup, which is what you want to avoid.
Be careful when you add vanilla to your favorite sweet dishes. A little bit goes a long way with this stuff! And be sure to keep it away from the grandkids – it’s got small traces of alcohol in it, enough to be harmful for the little ones.
Cinnamon offers a different type of sweetness than the other ingredients – it is much more aromatic, and its sweetness is more subtle. Try sprinkling a bit in your coffee or tea, adding it to some delicious sugar-free cookies, or blending it up with a frozen banana for a delicious ‘ice cream.’
Many of you may not have heard of stevia. It comes in a few different forms – in its original leaf form, as a white powder, or as a liquid extract – and is ideal for baking or making large batches of food. A little bit really goes a long way with this sweetener, so add a tiny bit at a time, because it’s easy to go overboard.
This one may seem obvious, but many people don’t think of using fruit as a sweetener. You’ve still got to be careful not to overdo it on the fruit, because too much of all those natural sugars and carbs are not good for your health or your teeth!
Instead of topping ice cream off with a sugary syrup, add some fruit. You can also make a jam with fresh fruit, and throw in some lemon juice and honey. To thicken it up, use gelatin. Or, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative, toss in some chia seeds to thicken your jam to your ideal consistency.
You can still indulge in your sweet tooth by cutting down on the sugar and using sugar alternatives. With a few minor tweaks to your daily lifestyle, both exercise and diet, you can be on your way to a healthier and happier you.
What natural sugar alternatives have you tried?