Sugar is everywhere— from one innocent cookie to that late-night snack, from sodas, cakes, ice creams, doughnuts to almost all processed foods. Excessive sugar consumption harms the metabolism and interferes with the hormones in your body leading to increased calorie intake and ultimately, conditions like weight gain and diabetes among many others.
Although it is difficult to completely eliminate sugar from your diet, you could always make a smarter choice by shifting to natural sugar substitutes instead of using white sugar. Refined sugar is addictive and is associated with some of the most deadly diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Consider the following natural sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth the next time you get cravings.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that’s extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a South American shrub. The leaves of this plant extract are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals. It is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar, so you’ll be needing less for a similar amount of sweetness. Stevioside, the sweet compound in stevia, aids in lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Stevia is a great choice from the realm of calorie-free sweeteners as it’s 100% natural and has no adverse health effects. It is one of the leading natural sugar substitutes considered as a healthier alternative for diabetic patients or for people who are on a weight loss journey, as any stevia extract is extremely low in calories.
2. Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is among the class of unrefined natural sugar substitutes rapidly gaining popularity in the fitness world. It is extracted from the flower buds of the coconut palm tree and consists of a few nutrients, like iron, fibre, zinc, calcium, and potassium. The sugar has a slight caramel taste and boasts of antioxidants as well.
Its glycemic index is lower than that of sugar and has low fructose content. It contains a type of soluble fibre called Inulin that slows digestion, increases satiety, and feeds healthy bacteria in your gut. It can be easily used in numerous ways in regular cooking as a healthy replacement for white or brown sugar, however, it may not the best option for diabetic patients.
Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honey bees in the beehive that has an abundance of beneficial antioxidants. The ones responsible for its antioxidant benefits are phenolic acids and flavonoids. Honey, in its absolute raw form, is unheated, unprocessed, and unpasteurized. It is among the healthiest natural sugar substitutes, easier to digest than regular sugar, and also has some amount of vitamins and minerals. Honey can be exceptionally tasty in smoothies, dips, marinades, and salad dressings. You can add honey to baked goods and add sweetness to your desserts.
4. Date sugar
Dates are rich in minerals, vitamins, calcium, iron, and magnesium, so using a date as a natural sweetener can be a highly nutritious addition to your diet. It is produced from dried dates that are grounded to a fine powder. They have a low glycemic index, which means there is no rapid spike in your blood sugar levels upon consumption, unlike refined sugars, and is one of the best natural sugar substitutes out there. Nicknamed “nature’s candy”, dates also contain a ton of fiber and trace amounts of protein as well. Dates taste great in smoothies, baked items, homemade jams, and salad dressings.
5. Maple syrup
Maple syrup is a thick, sweet fluid that is cooked from the sap of maple trees and contains a host of minerals, like calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Along with minerals, the syrup contains 24 different types of antioxidants, including inflammation-fighting polyphenols. In fact, the darker the syrup, the more antioxidants it contains.
With its distinct flavour, maple syrup is one of the finest natural sugar substitutes for regular sugar or even honey if you’re looking to cut back on your fructose intake. A teaspoon of maple syrup contains 17 calories and 4 grams of sugar. It is still a little higher in calories at the end of the day, so moderation is the key here. You can use it with pancakes, oatmeal, baked stuff, or while making your own muesli or granola. It can also be used in savoury dishes to glaze chicken, salmon, or as salad dressings.
Disclaimer: This content is in no way a substitute for a professional medical opinion. The natural sugar substitutes listed above are some of the healthier options when compared to refined sugar. It is always best to consult a qualified doctor or nutritionist for more information before making any extreme changes in your lifestyle, especially if you have an existing health condition.