The Healthiest Sugar Alternatives
There is a reason sugar has been branded ‘the new nicotine’; animal studies show it is more addictive than cocaine. It is also the number one reason for weight gain – especially around the middle – and has also been linked to increased risk of diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. That said, there is a place for natural sugar in the diet:
‘Small amounts of sugar actually improve your metabolic health,’ says obesity researcher and neurobiologist Stephan Guyunet. ‘The problem is eating refined concentrated sugar.’
The white stuff we call table sugar contains zero nutrients. As a result your body must borrow vitamins and minerals from healthy cells – including chromium, calcium and B-complex vitamins – to metabolize it.
So what should you add to your morning porridge or weekend batch of brownies? Try these natural alternatives:
Coconut Palm Sugar: It’s the most sustainable sweetener in the world, according to The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Coconut Palm sugar has a natural caramel sweetness and is packed with nutrients including vitamins B and C. It also has a relatively low glycemic index (GI), which means your blood sugar won’t rapidly spike when you eat it. The GI of Coconut Palm Sugar is only 35, compared to table sugar, which is 60-65.
Date Syrup: Made simply from dehydrated dates, this is perfect for squeezing on porridge for an extra dose of fibre. Plus, date syrup shows promise for fighting antibacterial infections according to a 2015 study from Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Honey: It has long been praised for its healing powers and in its raw state, honey is rich in antioxidants, enzymes and gut-friendly prebiotics*. Although honey is relatively high in fructose – 40 percent – recent studies suggest that eating honey may even be ‘obesity protective’ .
Maple Syrup Real maple syrup has more than 20 antioxidant compounds that may have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties . It’s also rich in manganese, which is crucial for energy production.
Containing no calories, no carbohydrates, and no fructose – this natural sweetener is a healthy choice. Since stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar a little goes a long way. If you’re baking, two tablespoons of stevia powder converts to one cup of sugar.
*T R Shamala, Y Shri Jyothi, P Saibaba. Stimulatory effect of honey on multiplication of lactic acid bacteria under in vitro and in vivo conditions. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2000 Jun ;30(6):453-5. PMID: 10849275