Last week, I told you about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, so this week, let’s look at some natural alternatives and how you can use them.
First, let’s look at common natural sweeteners that have been used throughout the years as healthy sweeteners. The list includes: raw, unpasteurized honey, barley malt, brown rice syrup, date sugar, raw maple syrup and molasses. These are great sweeteners; however, I’ve found that they all are high calorie sweeteners, and if you eat too much of even the natural sweeteners, you can gain weight and keep insulin levels too high. Additionally, you have to look at how they are processed. When natural foods like honey and maple syrup are heated over 130° F. the enzymes are killed and processing makes them more like processed white sugar. So the thing to look at is not only the type of sugar, but how it’s processed.
Raw, unfiltered honey is twice as sweet as sugar and should be avoided by diabetics, hypoglycemics, and people with Candida. It’s tempting to replace sugar with honey, but honey is still high in calories. Raw honey does however, contain many vitamins and enzymes and has some antibiotic properties. For centuries, honey was used as a medicine to help harmonize the liver, neutralize toxins, and relieve pain. Honey is used to treat sore throats, ulcers, high blood pressure, and constipation. If you don’t have a weight problem or problems with your blood sugar levels, try honey wherever you would normally use sugar. For example, use it on cereal, in baked recipes, and in hot drinks.
Natural, Healthy Sweet Alternatives
There are many natural sweeteners; however, for health and weight loss, my favorite that I recommend are Sucanat, Agave Nectar, Xylitol and Stevia.
Sucanat is one of the best sweeteners to substitute for refined white sugar. Sucanat is natural, raw sugar cane that’s just dried which contains vitamins and minerals. It has a mild molasses flavor. To me it tastes like dry brown sugar. Similar to brown sugar, but healthier, Sucanat is a dried granulated cane juice which contains all the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements from sugar cane. It’s made by squeezing the juice from sugar cane and then evaporating the water. It’s used one-to-one in place of sugar and works great in baked goods like breads and muffins. Buy organic and Fair Trade certified sucanat.
Agave Nectar is a natural sweetener with the lowest glycemic index, which comes from the Agave plant. It is a syrup made from the sap of a large, slow-growing succulent farmed in Mexico. Since Agave Nectar is actually sweeter than table sugar, you can use less of it to sweeten yogurt, fruit, cereals, pancakes or beverages. It has a neutral taste and smooth consistency. Agave Nectar is not low in calories since it has about the same calories as sugar; on the other hand, it’s sweeter, so you need less. It also may not be low on the glycemic index scale, but is still safe for diabetics. It contains no chemicals and is safe and recommended for children. Generally you can use ¾ cup agave nectar to replace one cup of sugar in recipes.
Best Sweeteners for Weight Loss
Xylitol has recently received a lot of press. It’s a natural extract from corn cobs that looks and tastes like sugar. It has one third fewer calories than sugar. Xylitol may help prevent cavities. Research confirms that xylitol use significantly reduces tooth decay and sugar free xylitol chewing gum is a great idea for kids. It also may be used as a sugar alternative for people with Diabetes on the advice of their healthcare professional. A downside is that it’s quite expensive.
Stevia The herb stevia is a wonderful natural sweetener and is used safely by diabetics. Stevia is my favorite natural sweetener because it contains no calories, no artificial chemicals, and no carbohydrates. Stevia is an all-natural herbal sweetener, made from the dried leaves of the stevia plant. It’s 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, yet it doesn’t upset the blood sugar level. That’s why it is successfully used by diabetics. It helps control sugar cravings, and unlike sucrose and fructose, will not feed Candida yeast.
Stevia has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for diabetes among the Guarani Indians of Paraguay. The Japanese consume more stevia than any other country country in the world, and stevia now has wide commercial value in Japan to sweeten toothpaste, soft drinks, chewing gum, frozen desserts, and other foods. The therapeutic use of stevia has been recorded for five centuries by the Guarani Indians. More recently, independent scientific studies have shown that stevia can improve the function of cells required for insulin production in the pancreas.
Everyone, even diabetics and children, can also use it; it won’t promote tooth decay, and it’s great for cooking and baking. We carry stevia in a liquid or powder form. Since one teaspoon of Stevia is generally used to replace one cup of sugar, you might want to buy a Stevia cookbook to get you started in finding healthier recipes.
We have heard that some stevia has a bitter aftertaste. If you have experienced this, please come by and try our Stevia Supreme packets in the blue box. It is sweeter, with no bitter aftertaste and it is a combination of stevia and xylitol. Not all stevia products are the same. I’ve researched a dozen companies and have found one of the safest and most naturally produced stevia companies.
To see our stevia products or to order them, click here. We also have a stevia cookbook which is available on our website, www.lifedesignnutrition.com.