Overconsumption of sugar can have a negative impact on health. Side effects can include weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, reduced cognitive function, and/or depression. Too much sugar can also negatively impact immune function, the body's ability to fight infection. It slows down the effectiveness of white blood cells ability to ward off infection, increase low grade inflammation, and decreases the ability to target bacteria.1
Sugar is readily added to processed foods and recipes because it tastes good! However, other than its sweet taste and calories, sugar offers no nutritional value. Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners are found in common foods like beverages, cereal, baked goods, yogurt, nuts, condiments, sauces, dressing, and even dried fruit.
Unlike refined or artificial sweeteners, natural sugar sources offer vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and healing properties.
Here are 4 great alternatives:
1. Raw honey is a true superfood and one of nature’s best sweeteners. It is packed with enzymes antioxidants, iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and niacin. These essential nutrients help neutralize free radicals and promote healthy bacteria in the gut.
Honey is a great drizzled over butternut squash, oatmeal, toast, and yogurt.
2. Stevia is a naturally occurring plant grown in South America. The extract from stevia leaves is 200x sweeter than sugar.2 Stevia is available in liquid drops, powder, tablets, and baking blends. It can be substituted for sugar in baked goods and any recipe that calls for sugar. Be sure to reduce the quantity substantially due to the higher sweetness factor. When baking with powdered stevia, the stevia-to-sugar ratio is 1 teaspoon of powdered stevia to 1 cup of sugar. To account for the lost volume by reducing sugar, add fruit puree, yogurt, or roasted squash, to the recipe, or stir in 2 whipped egg whites.
3. Dates come from date palm trees. The delicious fruit is high in potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, and B6. These nutrients help metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Date paste is a fantastic natural sugar substitute. Simply substitute 1 tablespoon of date paste in place of 1 teaspoon of table sugar.
Making date paste is easy.3
- Pit 2 cups of dates
- Soak in hot water until soft
- Remove dates from water and reserve the soaking water
- Put dates and ½ cup of soaking water in a food processor with an S blade
- Blend until smooth and the consistency is like peanut butter
- Add water if necessary
- Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Use in recipes in place of sugar
4. Maple syrup is extracted from the sap of maple trees. High in manganese, calcium potassium, and zinc, maple syrup helps neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.4
Maple syrup is versatile. It can be used in any recipe or as a topping when a little extra sweetness is desired, and easily replaces sugar in marinades, sauces, glazes, dressings, and baked goods. Like honey, maple syrup is great for drizzling over granola, yogurt, or stirred into coffee or tea.
Honey, stevia, dates, and maple syrup offer nutritional benefits that table sugar and artificial sweeteners cannot compete with. However, even natural sweeteners should be consumed in small doses.
Sugar makes foods delicious, which makes life enjoyable. Consume in moderation to keep your sweet tooth and your immune system happy.
Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.