Sugar is an important part of energy production in our bodies, but too much of it will do more harm than good. Most people generally don’t consider about how much sugar they eat on a day to-day-basis, but we hear about the negative effects of too much sugar all the time. If you aren’t sure what we mean… too much sugar can cause weight gain, increase rick of heart disease, lead to type 2 diabetes, and a laundry list of other health issues.
Not only is too much sugar bad for you but it can be difficult to find foods that aren’t loaded with sugar. Most processed food has added sugars and plenty of unexpected foods, like peanut butter, have added sugar as well.
Thankfully if you are looking to get healthy and cut out regular sugar there are still plenty of options to get some sweet into your diet. The problem is that like most health foods the market is gull of sugar alternatives and not all of them are actually healthy. From artificial sweeteners to plant based alternatives it can get a little confusing trying to decide which sweetener is best for you.
To help cut down on the confusion here are 6 healthy sugar alternatives that you can feel comfortable adding to your diet!
6 Great alternatives to regular sugar
The first and one of the more popular sugar alternatives is Stevia. Stevia is a natural sugar substitute that comes from the leaves of a plant that is related to chrysanthemum flowers.
Stevia is generally considered on of the healthiest sugar alternatives. By adding Stevia to your diet instead of regular sugar you can avoid the negative side effects of eating too much regular sugar. Stevia is associated with a various benefits over sugar including less calories, a lower risk of cavities over time, and it wont raise blood sugar. In fact, this study showed that when diabetic patients sweetened their tea with stevia, there were no effects on blood glucose, HbA1C, insulin and lipid levels.
Stevia is a great option for people looking to lower their sugar intake, but its also important to note that most sugar alternatives wont taste exactly like sugar so they may take some time to adjust to.
Allulose is a newer sugar alternative that is good for baking and tastes a similar to regular sugar. Allulose can be found from many natural sources in low quantities and has been found in wheat, figs, raisins, and maple syrup.
Allulose is is a monosaccharide, also known as a simple sugar, which means that it is absorbed by the body instead of metabolizing it, so it is almost calorie free. It also has little to no impact on your blood sugar levels meaning it is a safer option for people with diabetes.
Allulose is also less likely to cause digestive issues that are common with artificial sweeteners. However, if consumed in large quantities any artificial or natural sweeteners can lead to digestive or other health issues.
Another good natural sweetener is Erythritol. Erythritol is part of a chemical group called sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols don’t actually contain alcohol, but are a type of sweet carbohydrate. Most sugar alcohol is found in small amounts in nature with higher concentrations in fruits and vegetables.
Erythritol is a safe and lower calorie alternative to regular sugar and almost all of the Erythritol you eat is absorbed into the blood stream and then excreted in urine.
Erythritol is another sweetener that wont spike your blood sugar and insulin levels making it a great option for people with diabetes. Some studies have also shown that Erythritol can help lower your risk of heart disease. Like almost all sugar alternatives too much Ethyritol can lead to digestive issues for some people.
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol that makes a good sweetener. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar free candies and it’s almost as sweet as sugar. Like Erythritol, Xylitol wont spike your blood sugar levels to the same extent as regular sugar. Xylitol is also 3 calories a gram compared to sugars 4 calories a gram.
Xylitol is another good sweetener for baking, but its important to note that it absorbs moisture faster than other sweeteners, so you may need to add extra liquid to your recipes. Xylitol is also good for drinks like coffee or tea and its a good keto friendly option.
Xylitol also has a number of interesting health benefits. A lot of the unwanted bacteria in your body feed on glucose. By replacing glucose from sugar with Xylitol you are essentially starving these bacteria and killing them. This can lead to a decrease in plaque build up significantly reducing tooth decay. It can also reduce the chances of ear infections in children and help fight candida yeast infections!
Its also important to note that Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs! If you decide to give Xylitol a try make sure none of your pets can get their paws on it.
Coconut sugar is another alternative to regular sugar that has gained some popularity over the past few years. Contrary to what you may think it doesn’t come from coconuts themselves, but from coconut tree sap. Once the tree sap is collected it is placed under heat until water evaporates and you are left with a brown granulated sweetener.
Coconut sugar isn’t significantly better than regular table sugar or corn syrup, but it does beat them in some ways. Regular table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have no vital nutrients and therefore provide no value beyond flavor. On the other hand, Coconut sugar retains a portion of the nutrients from its trees.
Coconut sugar contains plenty of minerals including iron, potassium, zinc, and some fatty acids and it even has some fiber. These minerals definitely help the coconut based sweetener edge out regular sugar. However, when it comes to healthy eating whole foods are still a better way of getting important minerals and fiber.
Monk fruit is a natural sweetener that’s made from juicing monk fruits and drying their juice, which results in a concentrated powder that’s left over. Monk fruit contains natural sugars like fructose and glucose, but they aren’t actually used in monk fruit sweetener. Instead, antioxidants called mogrosides provide the intense sweet flavor. In fact, monk fruit sweetener is generally 100-200 times sweeter than table sugar and needs other natural products added to make it less intense.
Monk fruit sweetener contains no calories so by using it instead of another sweetener you can cut down on your daily calorie intake leading to minimal weight loss. Monk fruit also works as an antioxidant and because it has zero calories it wont raise blood sugar levels. Some studies on mice have even found that monk fruit lowered their blood sugar.
Sugar comes in almost everything we eat and it can sometimes be difficult to cut back or find healthy alternatives. By switching to a natural sugar alternative you can make a big difference in your diet. However, its important to remember that sweeteners should still be uses sparingly.
By filling your diet with whole unprocessed foods, and only using natural healthy sweeteners when you need them, you can cut back on artificial sugar consumption. In turn this can lead to long term health benefits and help you avoid issues like heat disease or type 2 diabetes.