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I posted previously about the negative effects that sugar has on the body. Check out 8 Toxic Ways Sugar Impacts the Body. As I did with wheat flour and milk, I offer as a follow up a list of healthy alternatives.
Try reaching for one of these 6 natural substitutes for sugar, the next time you need a sweetener.
What Not to Use as Sweeteners
Refined sugar, created through a lengthy process involving chemicals, is not healthy for us. It contributes to poor health and a host of disorders. Plus, the substance is addictive.
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are no better. Although considered safe by the FDA, these sweeteners produce unwanted side effects. Headaches, liver and kidney disorders, mood swings, increased appetite and thymus gland problems are all linked to the use of artificial sweeteners.
High fructose corn syrup, which is present in many packaged foods, is produced primarily from genetically modified corn. The liver metabolizes this fructose quickly, increasing fat in the liver and leading to digestives disorders.
6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar
These tasty alternatives to refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup are natural and actually good for the body.
The coconut is an amazing fruit. From it we get coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut sugar, along with the flesh of the fruit. Coconut sugar, which resembles coarse brown sugar, is high in minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorous. It is also rich in antioxidants.
The sugar comes from sap extracted from the coconut flower. It then goes through a heating and drying process, via evaporation.
Look for this alternative in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. In recipes, swap out refined sugar for coconut sugar on a 1:1 basis. Try these Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, using coconut sugar.
Dried dates are powerful, easily digested fruits. They are high in vitamin B6, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and 70 other bioactive minerals that support digestive, brain and liver health. This amazing food fortifies muscles and nerves and even possesses anti-cancer properties.
Besides enjoying dates as they are, use to sweeten a variety of recipes. Cakes, quick breads, and pie crusts benefit from the addition of dates. Chop them up and soak in water first, to soften. Try out these Apricot Bars made with four ingredients.
These versatile fruits are rich in fiber, potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Because of their sweetness, bananas are great natural substitutes for sugar.
Overripe bananas are sweeter and easier to process. Swap one cup of banana puree for every cup of sugar in a recipe. Simply chop bananas and puree in a blender or food processor, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary. This is a wonderful Blueberry Banana Bread recipe to try.
Raw Organic Honey
Raw honey truly is a superfood. It is high in iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and vitamins B6 and B12. Honey is also rich with enzymes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Raw honey supports the immune system and helps to fight off colds, flus and allergies.
It is important to use raw organic honey, rather than processed. Pasteurized honey loses many of its health benefits. Look for raw organic honey at farmer’s markets or health food stores that purchase from local beekeepers.
Drizzle raw honey over fruit or gluten free oatmeal. Sweeten tea, sauces and curries with it. Or create this wonderful Turmeric Milk using raw honey.
Organic Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is processed from maple trees in the US. Sap is collected from the tree, boiled to evaporate water and then filtered. This natural sweetener contains manganese, calcium, zinc and potassium and it’s rich with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Look for the darker maple syrups, as these are higher in antioxidants.
Use maple syrup in baking, marinades, glazes, sauces and over gluten free pancakes. This steamed apple dessert is a simple yet tasty way to enjoy organic maple syrup.
Organic maple syrup is available in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. Or order online by clicking on photo below.
Stevia is a plant native to South America. Processed from the plant’s leaves, stevia is many times sweeter than sugar. It contains zero calories however, and none of the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners.
However, I offer a caution with stevia. Some people experience an unpleasant aftertaste with it. And some products contain stevia that is processed with chemicals, making it a less than desirable sugar substitute. Read labels.
Look for pure, organic stevia, available as a liquid, dissolvable tablets or in powdered form. Purchase pure organic powdered stevia by clicking on photo below. Because a little stevia goes a long way, when substituting for sugar in recipes other bulking agents such as more flour or fruit puree must be used. I’ve never personally used stevia, so I don’t have a recipe for this one!
Which Natural Substitutes for Sugar Do I Use?
Since becoming plant based, I’ve tried all of the above natural substitutes for sugar, with the exception of stevia. However, I purchase dark chocolate chips sweetened with organic stevia and it’s a good product.
I primarily use coconut sugar and organic maple syrup for baking. Raw honey is perfect to drizzle over fresh berries or add to turmeric milk. Dates add sweetness to pie crusts and fruit bars.
Breaking the Sugar Habit
For me it became important to break the habit of having “sweets” after a meal or with afternoon tea. Nowadays, my snacks are fruits such as apples, watermelon or a bowl of mixed berries. By choice, I reserve baked goods and cookies for celebrations or infrequent treats.
When I do want to try a new recipe or honor a special occasion, it is wonderful to know that healthy and tasty natural substitutes for sugar exist…and I can use them without guilt or ill effects!
Gluten free, refined sugar free pancakes with fruit and organic maple syrup.
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