Nowadays we find tons of sugar alternatives in the market which makes us wonder if sugar really is unhealthy and harmful. The truth is that the consumption of processed sugar has become the reason for many serious health problems. Studies indicate that it plays a major role in increasing the risk of obesity, cancer, hypertension, cholesterol, heart disease, and even brain problems. It is highly important to be cautious while choosing a suitable sugar alternative, because many of the sweeteners that are widely regarded as healthy are actually toxic to the body. Fortunately there are plenty of sugar substitutes that can satisfy your sugar cravings without causing a negative impact on your health. Read on to know more about these healthy sugar alternatives:
Sweetleaf and Truvia
Sweetleaf and Truvia are natural sugar substitutes that are made from stevia, which is an herb that is up to 40 times sweeter than table sugar. This natural sweetener has zero calories and has low glycemic impact, which means it does not cause significant fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Stevia products, however is not suitable as sugar substitute for baking because they are sweeter than sugar and do not provide the same texture and color.
Maple syrup is obtained from the sap of maple trees. The sap is boiled and then and filtered in sugar houses to make the syrup. Maple syrup is comprised of a high percent (70%) of sucrose and contains a low level of fructose as well. It has been found to contain good amounts of antioxidants, which helps in protecting your body against free radical damage.
Whey low is a sweetener made by combining the three natural sugars – fructose, sucrose, and lactose. Although these three sugars are high in calories, when combined together they work in such a way that they are not fully absorbed by your body. Whey low has a low glycemic index and so it does not affect your blood glucose levels. It is easy to use and its flavor and texture resembles that of sugar.
Molasses is a dark brown viscous byproduct of the refining of sugar cane or sugar beets during the process of sugar manufacture. This sweetener is naturally rich in all the nutrients found in sugar such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. The last press in the refining process produces thick syrup, which we call as the blackstrap molasses. It is packed with minerals, especially iron.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in foods like berries, beets, and corn. It has a sweet taste similar to sugar but the advantage is that it is only partially absorbed by your body. It is low in calories and also has a lower glycemic index. Studies show that Xylitol offers many dental benefits. It has the ability to prevent bacteria from causing plaque which is why it is a common ingredient in candies, sugar free chewing gums, mints, and oral care products.
Natural honey is made by bees from the nectar collected from flowers. The bees break down the nectar into simple sugars, and then store the honey in honeycombs. Raw natural honey is loaded with nutrients such as proteins, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and polyphenols. As such honey is beneficial to your health in many ways. According to studies, honey offers antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, anti-cancer and cardioprotective benefits. Make best use of this healthy sugar substitute. Heating reduces nutrient value of honey which makes it poor choice for sugar substitutes for baking.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in some fruits. It is a low-calorie sweetener that does not cause spikes in your blood glucose or insulin levels. It is absorbed into the body and is eventually excreted from the kidneys in an unchanged form. Studies reveal that erythritol is very safe when compared to the processed sugars. However, too much consumption of this sweetener at a time may cause digestive issues. Although the taste of erythritol is very much similar to that of sugar, it can have a mild aftertaste.
Lo han sweetener
Lo han sweetener is the extract obtained from the monk fruit, a native to China. It is a natural zero calorie sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Lo han is rich in antioxidants and has been used for centuries in China for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. Lo han is one of natural sweetener being considered in research on sweeteners for diabetics.
Yacon syrup is extracted from the Yacon plant, a native to the Andes in South America. It contains a high level of fructooligosaccharides that act as soluble fibers and feed the good bacteria in your intestine. Because of its high soluble sugar content, Yacon syrup can prevent constipation as well as offer various other health benefits. According to one study, this sweetener helped in promoting significant weight loss in women who were overweight. Therefore it has recently become popular as a weight loss supplement. However, as in the case of other sugars, eating too much yacon sweetener at a time can lead to digestive problems.
Coconut palm sugar
Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar is the sap of the coconut palm that has been boiled and dehydrated. It is rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, inositol, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. It also contains good amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanidin. Coconut sugar has less fructose content and a low glycemic impact. It has been named the most sustainable sweetener in the world by The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in the year 2014.
[Read more about benefits of coconut sugar]
Date sugar is a delicious natural sweetener obtained from dehydrated and ground dates. It can be added to beverages, baked goods and desserts. Date sugar is highly pure with no additives and contains high amounts of potassium. Studies reveal that this sweetener has high antioxidant content- more than many of the popular sweeteners found in the market.
[Read more about health benefits of dates]
Next time you bake, try adding applesauce instead of sugar. It helps you cut down sugar, save calories and also maintain your weight. Applesauce is also a great source of fiber and it contains moderate amounts of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients help improve your overall health and fiber helps satiate your appetite and may also lower your risk of conditions like constipation and heart diseases.
Raisins are another replacement for sugar. Being cholesterol free, rich in antioxidants and low in sodium, raisins can be used in cooking as a healthier substitute for sugar. Raisins are also packed with fiber that benefits your digestive system and general well being. To use this dried fruit as a sugar substitute, just blend it and add it to your food items.
Cranberries are super fruits that can add a wonderful sweet taste to your dishes. These berries are rich in nutrition and one of the highest sources of antioxidants. So replacing sugar with cranberries not only satisfies your sweet tooth, but is also beneficial to your health in many ways.
Bananas are a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins like B6 and C. Their natural sweet and subtle flavor makes them an ideal sweetener and a substitute for sugar. Overripe bananas are sweeter and hence are the best to be used for making the puree. You can use a cup of banana puree in the place of a cup of sugar. To prepare the puree, take a few overripe bananas in a food processor and blend well. Add water if necessary to get the required consistency. Bananas, when exposed to air, turn brown very quickly and in order to avoid this, you can use add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to the food processor while making the puree. Adding lemon juice helps to prevent the oxidation process.
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is made by fermenting brown rice with enzymes, which breaks down the sugars. The resulting liquid is further heated until you get the consistency of syrup. Brown rice syrup is a thick, sweet syrup that can be a good replacement for unhealthy sweeteners.
Rapadura sugar is a healthy sugar replacement that is made by processing organic sugar cane. The sugar cane is harvested and then pressed to squeeze out all the juice. The juice purified, filtered and evaporated to get rid of the excess water content. It is then crystallized and the resulting product has a flavor similar to molasses and is rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements and other nutrients. Rapadura is a good quality natural sweetener that can be used to as a healthy alternative to unhealthy refined sugars.
Added sugar can be considered to be one of the most harmful and unhealthy aspect of today’s diet. Sugars are a form of carbohydrates that supplies our bodies with energy. However, too much of sugar consumption may contribute to increase in calorie intake and many health issues, including weight gain. It can also rob your body off of several nutrients. Eating healthy does not mean that you have to give up sweets completely. Side effects of artificial sweeteners are also not uncommon. Instead of avoiding sugars from diet altogether, all you have to do is to replace the artificial sweeteners and unhealthy refined sugars with healthy natural sweeteners.