There’s no denying that it’s natural to have sweet cravings every now and then, and some of us have a bigger sweet tooth than others. Surely, this means we all face the dilemma of finding the sweet spot to satisfy that sugar rush while not hitting unhealthy sugar levels.
With this in mind, opt for one of these alternatives to add sweetness to your day in a healthy way!
Perhaps one of the most popular alternatives to sugar as a sweetener, stevia is a natural extract from the South American plant stevia rebaudiana.
Lower in calories than normal sugar, stevia also doesn’t cause a massive spike in your blood sugar levels when ingested. Furthermore, stevia is high in protein and has also historically been used to treat stomach problems and diabetes.
Although stevia is capable of sweetening your food and drinks just like sugar, it has been known to have a bitter aftertaste. Despite this, it is perhaps the closest and healthiest sweetener available to replace sugar.
2. Coconut Sugar
Extracted from the sap of the coconut palm, coconut sugar is another natural alternative to cane sugar. Although it has about the same number of calories as regular cane sugar, it has a lower glycemic index and contains higher levels of nutrients; which include iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and antioxidants.
Although coconut sugar is still high in fructose (the main reason regular sugar is unhealthy) and should be treated similarly to cane sugar in terms of servings, it is less refined — and thus slightly healthier — than regular sugar.
Perhaps everyone’s favourite natural sweetener, honey has long been a go-to for health-conscious individuals not just for its taste, but also for its benefits.
Abundant in antioxidants, studies have shown that honey is capable of lowering levels of bad cholesterol and decreasing inflammation and bloat, in addition to aiding digestion and your metabolism.
That being said, not all honey is healthier than regular sugar as there are plenty out there that contain many additives, to the point of being completely fructose. Thus, it is important that when choosing honey as an alternative to sugar that you opt for raw honey with no additives to reap the true benefits of the “nectar of the gods”.
4. Maple Syrup
Famous for being what you drizzle on pancakes, maple syrup is another great alternative sweetener. Made by cooling down the sap of maple trees, it contains plenty of antioxidants and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese.
Although maple syrup has a slightly lower glycemic index than regular sugar, it is overall still very high in sugar. Similar to coconut sugar, maple syrup is a healthier sweetener alternative but should nonetheless be consumed in moderation.
Although molasses is a byproduct of refined sugarcane, it is believed to be a healthier alternative to normal sugar because it is richer in minerals and vitamins. With a decent amount of calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese and selenium, molasses is especially high in iron and low in fat.
As molasses is after all a sugarcane byproduct, it is still high in sugar and will increase your blood sugar levels, albeit not as drastically as regular sugar.
For those looking for a more DIY approach to alternative sweeteners, dates are a great option. Although you can use dates as they are as sweeteners in smoothies or baking (if blending is involved), you can actually make date sugar by baking the dates and leaving them to dry and harden overnight before grinding it down to a powder.
Great for digestion and full of healthy oils, calcium and minerals such as sulphur, iron, potassium and magnesium, it is even said that having a date a day can help with an overall balanced diet.
Though dates are an ideal alternative, they are also calorific so it is important to be mindful of servings; dates pack quite the punch, though, so a little goes a long way!
Sometimes, it is best to simply opt for fruit to sweeten something up. Full of vitamins and minerals, using fruit as a sweetener is doubly beneficial as not only are you consuming natural sugars, you are also getting your fill of fibre for the day.
Whether it’s berries, peaches, apples or bananas, adding fruit to your food can add a whole other dimension to its taste while also satisfying your sweet craving!
Ultimately, these healthier alternatives should be taken as what they are: alternatives. Though they are better than regular sugar, like any food or condiment, sweeteners should be added and consumed in moderation in order to maintain a healthier and balanced diet.