This week at Goodness Me!, we’re celebrating SUGAR! Wait—what?! Just kidding! We’re celebrating sugar alternatives, because we all know white sugar isn’t the way to health.
In the last 20 years, we have increased our sugar intake from 26 pounds a year to 180 pounds of sugar per year today. This is not surprising, as sugar takes on many forms, and the sucrose, dextrose, and high-fructose corn syrup now found in a wide variety of foods are making their way into the bellies of the unsuspecting public through processed products and even foods you wouldn’t expect to contain sugar.
However, white refined sugar comes with a whole host of health problems, from obesity and mood swings to skin issues or digestive distress. (To see 146 ways sugar negatively impacts your health, check out our blogs here. And sign up for the email newsletter to get all of our blogs.) We’re getting ready for the holiday season with lots of baking and indulging about to happen… but this year, make some smarter choices when it comes to your sweetener pick. If you can’t have white sugar, what can you have? Let’s look at some healthier sweetener alternatives that are friendlier to the waistline and will still make the holidays sweet!
Janet Jacks does a great job of outlining some sugar alternatives in her best-selling book, Discover the Power of Food. Here’s what she has to say:
Sucanat: Sucanat stands for Sugar Cane Natural, and is literally just dried whole sugar cane juice. No chemicals added, and nothing stripped away. The nutrients of the original plant are still present: only the fibre is removed. It is brown in colour, slightly grainy, and is not as sweet: it has more of a mellow, complex and pleasing sweetness. You can use it cup for cup any way you would sugar, it will “cookie” and “cake”, and as you work towards less sweetness, you likely will be able to reduce the amount you use even more.
Coconut Sugar: Produced from the sap of flower buds of the coconut palm. This sap is dehydrated to produce medium brown crystals that are similar in texture to sucanat. Coconut sugar is gaining popularity because it is unrefined, though still it should be used sparingly. It’s less sweet than sugar and has a similar nutritional profile as sucanat. You can use it any way you would use these other unrefined sugars.
Raw Honey: When raw, honey contains enzymes not present in refined honey. It is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, with certain types capable of tackling H-pylori and other disorders of the digestive tract. External application can heal wounds and burns. It also can be soothing to a cough or throat infection. Honey may not be as nutritious as broccoli or chicken soup, but it is a whole, unrefined sweetener with many beneficial properties.
Maple Syrup: Boiled down from the sap of the maple tree, here is another sweetener with a long history of use. Initial studies at the University of Rhode Island and those by Dr. Desjardin of Lavalle University in Quebec also suggest that maple compounds may inhibit enzymes relevant in type 2 diabetes management. Time will tell. Meanwhile, maple syrup is a natural, unrefined sweetener that still contains all the goodness nature intended.
Stevia: Stevia rebaudiana is a plant that you could grow in your garden. Concentrated from the stevia leaf, stevia extract or powder is an extremely rich sugar substitute which can be used to provide a sweet taste without any calories. It is a natural sweetener that is not made from chemicals and that does not raise blood sugar. You can use stevia to sweeten beverages, smoothies, and desserts.
The Final Word on Sweeteners
When it comes to sweeteners, sucanat, honey, and maple syrup provide enough natural nutrients to look after their own metabolism (and perhaps do a lot more, too). They are not ‘nutrient thieves’. However, they are still sweeteners providing very concentrated carbohydrates. They can still elevate blood sugar, so must be used in small quantities. The best approach? Put your focus more on savoury foods, rather than on sweets. Let treats be just that: an occasional indulgence. And be sure to stay away from artificial sweeteners of all kinds.”
This holiday season, make a decision to swap out the refined white sugar for some healthier alternatives. Shop our healthier sweetener alternatives here! You won’t be compromising on taste or flavour, but you’ll be making a smart decision towards a healthier diet.
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