Although sugars are part and parcel of everyone’s diet, they’re actually detrimental to your health, causing such wide-ranging issues as increased risks of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. What’s more, artificial variants processed from GMO-laden corn are even more hazardous. A better means of promoting well-being, then, is to opt for natural, healthier sugar alternatives that provide a low-calorie yet still flavourful option for those with a sweet tooth.
Extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, this most popular of healthier sugar alternatives is estimated to be over 200 times sweeter than granulated sugar but has virtually no calories. This, no doubt, has led to its growing popularity among health fanatics and fitness junkies. Be careful. Some varieties of stevia are actually highly-processed, so make sure you get ones that are labeled organic and non-GMO.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in certain food and beverages such as grapes, peaches, beer and cheese, but it can also be processed into a powdered sweetener. It contains only 0.24kcal per gram and is just 0.7 times as sweet as sugar. The only known side effect to consuming this sugar alternative is that taking large amounts of this compound can cause digestive issues, bloating and gas because our body is unable to digest some of its unique properties.
Natural sweeteners extracted from monk fruit are over 100 times sweeter than sugar, but contains zero calories. Not only does it not spike the body’s insulin levels, it also contains useful anti-oxidants and helps reduce inflammation in the body. It ranks as one of the best healthier sugar alternatives for use in beverages and snacks, especially for those who are on calorie-restricted diets such as keto diet and intermittent fasting.
Although raw organic honey contains a lower glycemic value than sugar, it is much sweeter. It is also contains antibacterial properties and anti-oxidants that fight against free radicals caused by excess sugar in the blood. Though it will not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as refined sweeteners, it does contain 64kcal per tbsp, which is as much as nutritionists would recommend per day.
A popular alternative for baking is unrefined organic non-GMO coconut sugar. It features the same texture as sugar but scores lower on the glycemic index. It also doesn’t cause a spike in insulin levels and helps to avoid that drop in energy that imbibing on refined sugars typically result in. Though it contains 54kcals per tbsp, it also offers high levels of potassium and electrolytes.
A lesser known substitute for sugar in desserts such as cakes and brownies are dates — fruits from palm trees. It is high in fibre and potassium, and helps regulate sugar intake in the body, thereby slowing the body’s absorption of sugar into the body. It contains 20kcal per date and scores low on the glycemic index, making it an ideal alternative for those on raw-food and vegan diets.