Three Healthier and Natural Alternatives to Sugar
by Karen Rollins Jul 29, 2019
Sugar is bad for you. We all know that from countless studies into how it affects hormones, contributes to obesity, and has even been linked with some of the world’s most deadly illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Sugar also has no nutritional benefits because it contains no protein, essential fats, minerals or vitamins.
It is also highly addictive, prompting the release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain, which is the same response activated by addictive drugs.
So, what can we do to wean ourselves off our high sugar diets? We’ve found three healthier and natural alternatives.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of a shrub which grows in South America.
It’s about 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but doesn’t contain any carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients. In fact, some studies have shown that one of the compounds in stevia, called stevioside, can lower blood sugar and insulin levels and high blood pressure.
You can also bake with stevia and it’s available in powder or liquid form.
It’s been said that the taste of stevia is slightly bitter and similar to menthol so it’s best to try a little to see if you like it first.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material including several fruits and vegetables.
Xylitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute and in ‘sugar-free’ mints, chewing gum and other types of sweets. It contains 2.4 calories per gram, which is 40% fewer calories than sugar and is not linked to high insulin or blood sugar levels.
It is also better for your teeth because unlike sugar it’s not converted in the mouth to acids that cause tooth decay. In fact, one of the health benefits of xylitol is that it increases the body’s absorption of calcium which improves bone density.
However, xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, even in small amounts, so you should store it well out of the reach of canine friends.
Yacon Syrup may be less well known as a sugar alternative than stevia but it’s a great choice if you are looking to control your sweet tooth.
Extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacón plant, which is native to South America, the syrup tastes sweet, has a dark colour and a thick consistency similar to molasses or caramelised sugar.
It contains 40 to 50 per cent fructooligosaccharides, which are a special type of sugar molecule that the human body cannot digest, and that means it has one-third of the calories of regular sugar or about 1.3 calories per gram.
Fructooligosaccharides are found in fruits and vegetables including bananas, garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus.
Yacon syrup can be used in smoothies, desserts, sauces and dressings but it’s not suitable for baking because high temperatures break down the structure of the fructooligosaccharides.
Now you have no excuse not to kick the sugar habit and rather than go cold turkey you can try a healthier and naturally sweet alternative.