We all have a sweet tooth and love the taste of something sweet every now and then. Actually, some people like it a little bit too much. They like it so much, they put it in their teas, coffees, shakes and even in their vegetable salads!
Truth be told, a daily use of sugar can cause an addiction, such as alcohol or drugs can. Too many people already suffer from a sugar addiction without even noticing it.
However, you have to know that sugar isn’t the healthiest food and the risks that are associated with sugar go far beyond sugar crashes or a cavity in your teeth.
Sugar is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer and impaired brain function. Nutrient-free carbs, such as sugar, use vitamin and mineral reserves during their digestion. They empty the nutrient store of our bodies. That’s when you start to crave more food.
When you start to cut sugar completely out of your diet your taste buds will get much more sensitive. Natural food will tend to taste sweeter. A cucumber will finally have a taste at all. It’s fascinating what sugar can do with your gustatory nerves.
But if you need a little sweet something from time to time, make sure that you know the difference between a good and a bad option.
Basically sweeteners are divided into artificial and natural ones. Let’s discuss those two in more detail.
They are a chemical or synthetic substance, so they are low in calories or calorie-free. They provide a sweet taste that is much sweeter than sugar. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Read on.
Aspartame, a common chemical sweetener, is used in diet soda, like coke, and other low-cal foods. Studies have shown that drinking two diet sodas per day can lead to a 500% greater increase in waist size, because your body more likely holds water.
It’s been scientifically proven that aspartame in high dosages causes health problems, such as headaches. For people suffering from Phenylketonuria (PKU) this sweetener is a absolute no-go. Your body isn’t able to break down phenylalanine, which is a main ingredient of aspartame.
Saccharin provides effectively no energy. But it’s about 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose or table sugar, with a bitter or metallic aftertaste, especially at high concentrations.
The chemicals that are contained in saccharin can cause inflammation, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and heart diseases.
Frankly, stay away from all the chemical and synthetic bullshit und try to look for natural ways to sweeten your meals.
When it comes to a good sweetener make sure it has a decent fructose and glycemic impact.
Maple syrup is the harvested sap of maple trees, which is boiled down and filtered. It’s low in calories and has low fructose levels. Therefore, a high percentage of sucrose, antioxidants and it contains even more minerals than honey.
Make sure that the label reads “100% maple syrup”, avoid “not high in fructose or corn syrup” and “natural maple flavouring”. Many of the compounds in maple syrup are anti-inflammatory, which protects your heart.
Try it in your homemade granola or in your overnight oats. Yum!
When it comes to honey, quality is key. Look for those, that don’t contain corn syrup and don’t rely on caged bees.
While honey does have a higher fructose level, it has a low glycemic index. The high amounts of niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria makes it a must-have in your kitchen!
Enjoy some in your cup of tea or in your hot milk after a stressful day.
Stevia is extracted out of the stevia leaves. Since it’s a low glycemic sweetener and contains zero calories, it won’t affect your blood sugar.
Start with the liquid form. It is easier to overdose the powdered version. If you have the choice, always try to use green stevia over white stevia. Green stevia is a little less processed.
However, there are some people for whom stevia will taste bitter (it’s a genetic thing, impacting roughly 25% of the world’s population). Try it before you buy it. Sadly, Stevia can’t be used for baking.
Brown rice syrup
Brown rice syrup is made by cooking rice with natural enzymes. Because it’s relatively slow-releasing, it does not effect the liver as much as pure glucose.
Hence, it is often used as an important ingredient of protein bars. It contains no fructose, but also no nutrients.
The buttery and nutty flavour is perfect for granola bars or in baked goods.
Coconut palm sugar
In terms of calories, coconut sugar is not really beneficial compared to white sugar. However, it is very low in fructose and has a lower glycemic index, which makes it much healthier than refined sugar.
Coconut sugar is a digestion booster, because it contains inulin. Never heard of inulin? Inulin is a special type of dietary fiber, which acts as a prebiotic.
Make sure that the coconut sugar is pure and doesn’t contain additional white sugar. Enjoy the tropical taste in your morning smoothies and you’ll feel like you are on a vacation.
Date sugar is simply pureed dates, which means you can make it easily yourself. The consistency is treacly, which is great for baking. It’s very sweet, high in potassium and antioxidants. Try it for your cakes or in your smoothies!
My absolute favourite! The sweet taste of the banana is perfect to replace refined white sugar. To make the puree, just add bananas together with a tablespoon of water to a blender and blend it.
Or, if you don’t have a blender, simply smash them with a fork in a bowl. Add water until you reach the desired consistency.
It’s perfect with chocolate pancakes or in porridges.
As you can see, you have lots of opportunities to make the right choices. Keep in mind that sweeteners should always be thought of as treats though.
But if you want to treat yourself, this guide gave you some nice alternatives to try!