Part 1 of the Change Your Diet, Change Your Life series focuses in on a substance that’s near and dear to most of us – but one that contributes to a host of illnesses from diabetes to adrenal failure to tooth decay.
This offender is so processed that it has absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, it acts as an “anti-nutrient,” robbing your body of precious minerals.
What I’m talking about, of course, is sugar. And if you want to change your diet and change your life, this is the first thing you need to cut back on.
But don’t worry! Your life won’t be devoid of the sweet. We have taste buds targeted for sweet so we obviously are designed to want this flavor. Luckily, God created many healthy sugar choices to consume in moderation, many of which have been around far longer than refined sugar.
My favorite healthy sugar substitutes
These natural sweeteners nourish the body instead of deplete it.
Raw Honey: An enzymatic food filled with nutrition
Beekeepers live longer than anybody else. That’s the rumor, at least. But there may be something to it. Raw honey contains loads of vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and C), minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, sodium chlorine, and sulphur), over 22 amino acids and antioxidants. It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, used to disinfect and heal wounds, scrapes and burns. It also soothes sore throats, coughs, and respiratory conditions.
Unlike other sweeteners, honey is pre-digested and easier on our internal system. When consumed with starches, the enzymes in honey actually help us breakdown complex carbohydrates. Maybe that’s why oatmeal and toast are often paired with honey!
Though honey is a healthy sugar, we have to remember, it’s still a sugar. It’s comprised of glucose and fructose so it’s best to use in small quantities. It is also vital to use raw, unfiltered, unprocessed honey which keeps all of its enzymes, co-factors, vitamin and mineral content alive. Heated honey that is transparent acts similar to the other bad sugars out there.
Honey is a delicious healthy sugar to use in smoothies, teas, cookies, nut bars, granola, fruit salad, yogurt, etc.
Stevia: The sweetest herb of all
This healthy sugar substitute from the sunflower family, native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America, is 300 times sweeter than sugar! Popular in other countries for hundreds of years, stevia is just recently taking off in the States.
Check this out: Stevia doesn’t affect blood sugar levels; it doesn’t feed Candida, and it’s calorie free! And yet, to me, it is a “clean” sweet that doesn’t set up cravings for sugar, carbohydrates, or other substances. There is some controversy about stevia’s safety so be sure to do a little research and decide for yourself.
I use stevia in my yogurt, kefir, oatmeal, cheesecakes, and smoothies. It doesn’t work well in baked goods as in larger quantities, stevia can be bitter.
Stevia comes in several forms. The whole dried leaf, the ground dried leaf which is a funky green powder, a more “refined” stevia that is white, and a liquid form which is more concentrated. Test out the different forms and find one that works for you. I like the liquid form as it blends the best.
When purchasing your stevia, find one that is a pure form as nowadays stevia products are filled with fillers like malodextrin, lactose, glycerin, and alcohol.
Brown Rice Syrup: A slow release healthy sugar
Brown rice syrup is an excellent sweetener since it releases slower in the system like a complex carbohydrate, making it more compatible for people with blood sugar or digestive issues. That’s because unlike honey and other sweeteners, brown rice syrup is made up of mostly maltose and maltotriose, sugars that take up to 2-3 hours to digest.
Brown rice syrup is created from cooked brown rice fermented by enzymes from sprouted barley. It has an earthy, buttery and nutty taste that works well in baked goods, sauces, desserts.
Other good healthy sugar alternatives
Real maple syrup is delicious and rich in flavor as well as an excellent source of manganese, zinc and other antioxidants. Be sure you purchase real, organic maple syrup as many of the commercial brands use formaldehyde in processing.
Date sugar is made up of pulverized dates and is loaded with fiber, potassium and iron. Denser in flavor and texture, it works best as a brown or granulated sugar substitute. It will color your desserts with a brown hue.
How about you?
What are your favorite healthy sugar substitutes?