We hear that sugar is bad for us constantly, but it is still the single handed most addictive and highly consumed ingredient in the average American diet. Why do you think that is?
Well for one, sugar is in just about EVERYTHING! Not only is sugar found in your obvious sources like juices, sodas, cookies and crackers, but it’s also found in just about every processed condiment, breads, and packaged food on the market.
You probably know by now my strong stance on artificial sweeteners and how I fully believe there is absolutely no place for them in your diet. They are just downright dangerous! Side effects from artificial sweeteners range from headaches and migraines to shrunken thymus glands, impairment of liver and kidney function, mood disorders, and cancer. Please don’t be fooled by “Sugar Free,” it is a gimmick used by companies to make us feel better about consuming their products. Artificial sweeteners will do absolutely NOTHING for your health.
What about refined sugar? Well, refined sugars aren’t exactly healthy either. Side effects of refined sugars include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer and even poor cognitive functioning.
So what are we left with? Fortunately, there are natural sweeteners that are healthy and tasty alternatives to refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. These natural sweeteners are even found to be beneficial to our health! Now that’s a sweet deal!
Here are my Top 5 favorite healthy sugar alternatives and what you will find in my pantry at the moment.
1. Pure Raw Honey – Raw honey is a true superfood and one of my favorite natural sweeteners. It’s packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Together, these essential nutrients help to neutralize free radicals while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
2. Maple Syrup – Maple syrup is an outstanding source of manganese, and contains calcium, potassium, and zinc. Rich with antioxidants, this all-natural sweetener helps to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. Select darker, Grade B maple syrups, as they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.
3. Dates – Dates are loaded with potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B6. From the date palm tree, they are easily digested and help to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Evidence shows that dates may help to reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood and may reduce the risk of stroke.
4. Coconut Sugar – Packed with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients, coconut sugar is versatile and now readily available. Coconut sugar is extracted sap from the blooms of the coconut and then heated. Next, through evaporation, we get coconut sugar. PS – I love baking with this and using it to replace brown sugar.
5. Banana Puree – Bananas are rich in fiber and potassium, and a good source of vitamins B6 and C. They are also naturally sweet with a subtle flavor, making them a perfect natural sweetener. I love adding bananas to my oatmeal or smoothies or even many baked recipes to achieve the sweetness without any unwanted ingredients.