One of the most popular questions I get asked as a Health Coach is “what is the best sweetener and why”. There are so many artificial sweeteners on the market and I always urge that my clients steer clear of any chemicals. There are numerous beautiful, natural sweeteners as an alternative to refined sugar that do not raise blood sugar levels nearly as much as the white stuff, and do not fill your veins with artificial ingredients.
Refined sugar is nearly as addictive as cocaine, if not more, so it is no mystery as to why most Americans crave sugar so intensively. Refined sugar hides by other names such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, malt syrup, barley malt, and more. When reading labels, make sure you recognize that sugar has many other names!
One of the keys to great health is making sure that you keep your blood sugar level as even as possible. This will help to:
- reduce low level inflammation
- keep your hormone levels optimized
- diminish headaches
- balance feelings of hunger
- improve mood
When choosing a natural sweetener, choose one that doesn’t raise your blood sugar so quickly and contains medicinal benefits. There are actually quite a few! That said, keep your sugar consumption of any kind to a minimum for optimal health.
THE TOP 5 NATURAL SWEETENERS
Raw Local Honey
There are a few reasons why you want to make sure that the honey you choose is not only raw, but local to your environment. First, raw honey keeps all of the medicinal enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in tact. Once the honey is pasteurized, all of these medicinal benefits are destroyed. Local is important because by consuming honey produced by local bees, you are building up your immune system to allergens over time by exposing your system to the bee pollen surrounding your environment. Raw local honey is great to use in tea, over oats, and in baking.
Grade B Maple Syrup
There are different grades of maple syrup depending on color. Grade A is the lightest and Grade B is the darkest. All maple syrup contains potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc and iron, however Grade B is richer in flavor therefore in theory less should be used to achieve your desired taste. Replace the volume of white table sugar in baking by half and use maple syrup sparingly. Ensure that the maple syrup you buy is 100% pure.
Stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia plant and has been used for centuries. Stevia has recently gained popularity in the United States as a natural alternative for diabetics. Stevia contains no calories and does not raise blood sugar. However, stevia is extremely sweet, almost 300 times sweeter than sugar, so 1 to 2 drops of pure, liquid Stevia is usually plenty. Stevia is best used for drinks rather than baking as the recipe would need to be seriously adjusted due to the minute volume of stevia used. One note, make sure the stevia you buy is liquid and pure. Brands such as Truvia are the refined processed versions with addiitives and do not contain the health benefits of its pure liquid form.
Whole pitted dates are extremely sweet and a delicious whole-food sweetener. Dates are the fruit of the whole palm tree and because you would eat the date whole, it is extremely low-glycemic as you are also consuming the fiber of the whole fruit. In addition to fiber, dates contain vitamins such as B, A and C, and minerals such as copper, magnesium, and zinc. The best way to consume dates is in a smoothie. Add to your blender as your sweetener with ice, your base, your superfood, and your liquid.
Black Strap Molasses
Black strap molasses is formed when the sugar plant is processed. Usually the molasses is discarded and the refined white stuff is sold to the supermarkets, but did you know that molasses has medicinal benefits? Black strap molasses is the most nutritious of them all. The glycemic load is moderate, is rich in iron, and high in calcium and magnesium. It also contains potassium which is great for helping the kidneys to function better. Buy organic black strap molasses and it is great as a baking substitute.
Have you used any of these as alternatives to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners? What has been your experience?
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