I love it when someone asks me to write about a certain topic because that means it’s one that a lot of other people want to know about too….so today’s topic is: S-U-G-A-R!!
To be exact, healthier sugar substitutes. First of all, let’s call out artificial sugar for the junk that it is, and just take that option off of our tables. Research over the last 30 years has shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and promote fat storage and weight gain. How? Artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight because the body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories. Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it's going to receive calories from sugar but when the real sugar doesn't come, your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings. Equal, Sweet-n-Low, Splenda….good-bye.
The goal is to consume as little added sugar throughout the day as possible, so the healthier options I will give you are still sugar and need to be eaten in moderation. It is recommended that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Understanding that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar means our daily limit is around 24 grams. I think it’s safe to say that most of us get WAY more than that.
I’m not a fan of using Agave. Although it comes from a plant and is lower on the glycemic index, it’s very processed, way sweeter than table sugar, and has more calories than table sugar. It’s also high in fructose, so it’s a no-go in my book.
Pure maple syrup is one of my favorites—it’s just sap from maple trees! It’s great for baking, although high in calories and does carry that strong (yet very comforting) flavor. I drizzle this over yogurt or oatmeal. Maple syrup also contains zinc, so it’s great for the winter months when our immune systems are under attack. Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup and is also great for baking.
Honey is my number one sweetener. Sure, it is higher in calories than other natural sweeteners, but it has antibacterial properties and is an immune booster! I love the flavor, and when I use raw, local honey, I believe it helps alleviate seasonal allergies. As a singer, honey soothes my vocal chords, so I put it in my tea, or just take a spoonful before I sing. I bake with honey, but use much less than a recipe calls for since honey is very, very sweet.
Coconut sugar is pretty great, in my opinion, but is also very expensive. It’s lower on the glycemic index that other natural sweeteners and has a milder flavor, making it great for baking, as well as placing in your morning coffee.
Lastly, let’s look at stevia, which comes from the stevia leaf. I used to grow this plant in my garden and can testify to how VERY sweet those leaves are. It’s shocking, really, how sweet stevia tastes, so when using it to bake or sweeten coffee, a little bit goes a long way. It’s also calorie free and won’t spike blood sugar.
Again, use these natural sweeteners in moderation and try to reduce your overall daily sugar intake.