Healthy Alternatives To Sweet Poison: Part 3

 All the sweeteners we list below are as natural as they are healthy.  These options also come packed with antioxidants and nutrients that are good for us, unlike artificial sweeteners comprised of nothing but chemicals.  And since they are minimally processed, you can also avoid the negative side effects of refined sugar.

1. Stevia
Free of calories and even sweeter than sugar, Stevia is a fantastic alternative to refined and artificial sugars.  It’s naturally derived from a South American shrub, making it the only calorie-free natural sweetener available on the market today. Be cautious when buying Stevia.  Stevia and Truvia are not the same.  Truvia advertises itself as being both “all natural” and “stevia-based.”  While Truvia does contain zero calories, it can hardly be called “all-natural,_ nor can it really be considered “stevia-based.”  It’s comprised of the ingredients erythritol (sugar alcohol), “natural flavorings” and rebiana, a crystallized form of a compound found in the stevia plant.  In the end it’s a smart idea to stick with what we know is natural, like stevia, while also being especially weary of deceptive labelling on food packaging.  

2.  Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is another natural alternative to sugar you should consider.  Not only is it nutritious, but its glycemic index score and fructose content are both low.  Therefore, when you consume coconut sugar, you won’t get the common “buzz followed by a crash” effect that comes with typical refined sugar.  You can use coconut sugar in all your favorite recipes in measurements similar to sugar.  Although it is somewhat coarser than refined sugar, this shouldn’t present any problem.

3. Raw Honey and Maple Syrup
An easy nutrition swap that can make a big difference is substituting honey or maple syrup for refined sugar. Whether you use sugar in cooking or your morning coffee, replacing it with a more nutrient-dense option is an important step to take for your health.Remember, both honey and maple syrup are still forms of sugar, but they come with significantly more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as some fiber, that make them far superior choices to white sugar.

Raw Honey is a fantastic natural sugar alternative.  In addition to being delicious, it also comes with a broad range of health benefits.  Apart from its antibacterial properties, honey is also an excellent source of antioxidants thanks to its pollen content.  In general the darker the honey, the higher its antioxidant value, nutritional content, and overall health benefits.  Resist the temptation to cook with honey.  Doing so will only water down its natural properties.  Instead, drizzle raw honey on yogurt, over sprouted grain toast or on whatever else you please.  You may also want to experiment with using it in your salad dressings.  Hot drinks like coffee and tea taste great with some added honey.  It is suggested that you try waiting a little bit until your beverage is tepid enough for comfortable sipping before you add the honey to avoid diminishing its benefits.   But be careful – you don’t want to diminish raw honey’s beneficial qualities by adding it to liquid that’s too hot.  Honey is a healthy and delicious natural sweetener – just make sure to buy it raw.

Maple syrup offers zinc, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium, and is two-thirds sucrose. In other words, if you replace refined sugar with maple syrup and keep the quantity the same, you will be cutting your sucrose consumption by one-third. When using maple syrup as a replacement, try using less (start with even less than half the amount of sugar) than your recipe calls for. It can be purchased as grade A or B syrup, B contains more minerals and has a stronger flavor, and grade A contains slightly fewer nutrients and has a milder flavor. Grade B is preferable, whenever possible.

4. Molasses
Molasses is created by what’s left behind after sugar cane has been refined into the unhealthy white sugar you’re trying to avoid.  Of all the natural alternatives to sugar, molasses is the most nutrient rich.  More specifically, it delivers a significant amount of vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.  Traditional sugar is produced by heating the top layer to form crystals.  During this refining process, most of the nutritional benefits of sugar are left inside the molasses.  Therefore, instead of getting refined sugar, you’d be better off buying blackstrap molasses.  Since it’s sweeter than sugar, you’ll also end up using less of it over the long term.  

5. Date Sugar
Last on this list is date sugar.  As the name suggests, it’s derived from dried dates after the fruit has been dehydrated and ground to creat a special kind of sugar.  Since the dried dates don’t get processed, it follows that date sugar retains all the nutritional benefits from the raw material.  Additionally, it comes with a rich and sweet flavor, making it one of the best alternatives to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.  You can use date paste for baking.  To make your own, soak some dates in hot water until they soften.  Drain the water into a container and blend the soaked dates until smooth.  Keep adding the soaking liquid until you create the thick, rich paste that you need.  While baking cakes or cookies, try using the date paste as a perfect alternative to refined sugar.  You can also use it to sweeten pies and muffins.

So there you have it – some of the best natural sugar substitutes to satisfy those cravings.  Although you might be trying to live healthy by cutting out added sugar and artificial sweeteners, it doesn’t mean that you completely have to ignore your sweet tooth.  Use the alternatives listed above instead and enjoy the extra benefits they provide.  And of course, you can always just bite into a juicy piece of fruit whenever the cravings hit.  The added fiber is a good thing,  I’ve included a chocolate chip cookie recipe that has no wheat flour or white/brown sugar.  We can follow a healthy life style and eat cookies too!

Chocolate chip cookies 

  • ¾ cup almond flour or almond meal, very firmly packed (about 3 ounces or 100 grams)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour, very firmly packed (about 1 ½ ounces or 43 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Dash cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup real maple syrup (preferably grade B) or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Pour in the melted butter (or coconut oil), maple syrup (or honey) and vanilla extract, and mix thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes in the refrigerator so the coconut flour can absorb some of the excess moisture (or let the dough chill in the fridge for 10+ minutes if you want fat cookies. Scoop dough, one tablespoon at a time, in mounds onto the baking sheet, leaving a couple inches around each cookie.

Bake for about 11 minutes, until golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. The cookies will be fragile when they are warm but will firm up as they cool.

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