Today I’m going to discuss sugar and why you should swap the sugar in your pantry for a natural sugar alternative.
It seems that everyone these days is looking to reduce their sugar consumption or embrace the sugar-free lifestyle. We live in an age of expanding waistlines and over consumption of sugar, so it’s not a surprise that one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “which natural sweetener do you recommend?”
If you tried to ditch your sugar habit in the past, then you already know that quitting sugar is not an easy thing to do. That’s because sugar is incredibly addictive.
So addictive in fact, that studies by the St. Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute show that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine. Scary right? Some people actually have sugar withdrawals and dopamine depletion from eating too much sugar!
Luckily, there are so many natural sweeteners available these days. They taste just as sweet as sugar and provide a viable alternative to sweetening your oatmeal, coffee or post-gym shake in a less processed way. Here are my top picks!
The best sugar alternatives
Honey is a superfood that is high in antibacterial properties. In fact, honey is one of the few natural foods on earth that doesn’t rot. It’s best to use raw or unprocessed honey for higher nutrient and antioxidant content. I love to eat darker honey because it has higher antioxidant value.
Stevia is the only safe calorie-free sweetener that is currently available due to health risks associated with artificial sweeteners. It can be used to sweeten coffee and tea and is a popular sugar alternative in baking.
Pure maple syrup
Not to be confused with “pancake syrup” that’s made with high fructose corn syrup and caramel colouring, real maple syrup is made by boiling the sap of maple trees into a concentrated and sweet syrup. A staple in Canada, maple syrup is a delicious sweetener for use in baking and in homemade ice cream.
Agave nectar comes from the same plant that’s used to make tequila in Mexico. It’s sweeter than table sugar and has a similar consistency to honey and maple syrup. Agave syrup is very sweet and is a good sugar substitute because it’s less processed than regular sugar.
Dates naturally taste very sweet and are a great way to sweeten smoothies and desserts. Dates contain vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium and calcium. I like to use dates in puddings, bars and date balls with nuts and coconut.
Too much of a sweet thing?
Remember that despite being healthier for you, these natural sweeteners are still sweeteners and can be unhealthy when over consumed.
Long-term over consumption of these natural sweeteners does lead to tooth decay and possible health problems (no matter how healthy, organic or natural they are). It’s important to remember that moderation is key!
Why is sugar so addictive?
There’s no denying it: we’re wired to love the sweet life. You can blame our love for sugar on our ancient ancestors.
Scientists say that we’re biologically drawn to sugar because it helps the body store fat. Back when humans hunted woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers for survival, body fat was essential because it helped them survive the cold winters of the Stone Age.
Unfortunately for us, we’re still wired to seek out and crave calorie-rich foods such as sugar. But times have changed and those simpler days of hunting and scavenging are long gone. Humans are now more sedentary than ever before, and we’re also consuming more sugar than ever before in human history.
Things to keep in mind
Try to avoid foods that contain refined or added sugars, and especially sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.
When shopping for food, make sure that you read the labels on the back of packaging before buying. You never know just how much sugar a product has until you read them!
Keep in mind that most “low fat” foods contain incredibly high amounts of sugar. Don’t be fooled by fat-free desserts, low-fat cookies and calorie-counted ready meals. Companies often add hidden sugar to make their products taste better to make up for the lack of flavour.
I think it’s important to eat clean and use sweeteners sparingly. A healthy balanced diet is ideal, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and not many sugary foods and drinks.