Most of the food in our diet includes this rich white goodness – sugar. We consume sugar in a lot of our food stuff and most of it is beyond our knowledge. We are not even aware of the amount of sugar we are consuming daily.
Sugar is associated with several chronic health ailments such as diabetes, obesity, and various other heart diseases. Despite knowing all this, we hardly do anything to restrict our consumption of sugar simply because it has taken its place in most of the food we enjoy.
Why to avoid sugar?
Doctors and dieticians always tell us to keep a watch on our sugar intake. This is because sugar has no nutritional benefit whatsoever. It has no proteins, vitamins, minerals or essential fats. It is a plain carbohydrate that harms our body in several ways in the long run.
Sugar increases the calorie intake and causes weight gain. Sugar also interferes with the metabolism and causes increased fat storage. These factors lead to the risk of obesity.
Sugar causes release of the neurotransmitter, dopamine in the reward centre of the brain which is very similar to the reaction elicited when consumed addictive drugs this explains the sugar cravings and over eating.
Read More: 7 Substitues to Sugar Everyone Must Try
Top 11 Natural Substitutes of Sugar
Now that we know of the various deleterious effects sugar has on our body, avoiding it is just too hard as it has taken its place in most of our food. However what we can do is substitute sugar in our diet. Here are eleven best natural substitutes for sugar:
Stevia is a natural sweetener, extracted from the leaves of a shrub that is native to South America. Stevia is an excellent natural substitute for sugar as it contains zero calories and has not been linked to weight gain.
Also the human studies done, it has been shown that stevia is not associated with any adverse health effects. Moreover, stevia is linked to some health benefits.
Several studies show that stevioside, one of the compounds in stevia, can lower your hypertension. Stevia can also lower blood sugar and insulin levels that are important in fighting diabetes.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with sweetness similar to sugar. It’s extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol contains fewer calories than sugar.
Most of the harmful effects in sugar is due to its high fructose content. However, xylitol contains zero fructose and thus has none of the harmful effects associated with sugar. On the contrary, xylitol is associated with multiple health benefits.
Several studies show that it can improve dental health, increase your body’s absorption of calcium.
However, eating too much of Xylitol can cause digestive side effects like gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Also, xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. It is best to not have it in the house if you own a dog.
Read More: How Much Sugar is Good for Your Kids?
Honey is the thick, golden liquid which is produced by the honey bees. Honey contains very small amounts of vitamins and minerals but is rich in beneficial antioxidants.
High levels of antioxidants in the blood lower risk of diseases. Honey has been shown to improve several risk factors for disease.
Studies have found that eating honey significantly lowers the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and blood triglycerides in individuals with diabetes. It also increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). However, in the same study HbA1c increased which is not good. Also it was found that honey decreased levels of C-reactive protein and homocysteine.
Thus, all these studies showed that honey had slightly less harmful effects than the regular white sugar but is still not completely harmless.
Maple syrup is the thick, sugary liquid made by cooking the sap of maple trees. It contains some amount of minerals and at least 24 different types of antioxidants.
Some studies have shown that maple syrup may have anti-cancer benefits, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Maple syrup however contains sugar which does not have the severe effects regular sugar has on the body but it still is not harmless. So it should be used in moderation.
You can your white sugar in a batch of oatmeal cookies with an equal amount of applesauce. Applesauce derived from the Golden Delicious or Fuji apple is perfect in handing you the much needed sweetness. You can either buy the no-sugar kind of applesauce or just make some of your own at the home.
Much like xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, but it contains even fewer calories. Moreover, it tastes almost exactly like sugar too.
our body does not have the enzymes necessary for the metabolism of erythritol, so most of it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine unchanged. Thus, it has almost nil of the harmful effects that regular sugar does.
More consumption of erythritol is shown to have certain digestive problems in people.
For the raisin lovers, this substitute to sugar is much of a delight. You can blend a cup of raisins in a food processer and this proves to be an amazing alternative to white sugar. Raisins are moreover rich in antioxidants and fiber, and thus are very much healthy.
Dates are rich in antioxidants which are much needed for the body. Dates also have a low glycemic index with subtle sweetness and thus are perfect for brownie batter or the homemade base of granola bars. You can substitute two-third cup of processed dates for one cup of regular sugar.
Brown rice syrup
Brown rice syrup comes from the brown rice. It is more nutritious than white sugar and is an excellent substitute for granola bars and baked breads.
Barley malt extract
Barley malt extract is derived from barley. This dark syrup is similar to molasses and will thus enhance the flavor of any baked treat.
This is a protein-packed syrup is perfect in a pecan or pumpkin pie. The dark syrup’s similar to molasses and will enhance the flavor of any baked treat.
Read More: Health Benefits of Barley in Baby Food
Yacón syrup is a sweetening agent that is extracted from the yacón plant. It is similar to molasses with hints of apple and just half the calories of cane sugar. It’s also sweet similar to honey, so it is excellent in baked goods and raw fruit smoothies.
Sugar is an ingredient that has now taken its place in most of our food. Sugar has no nutritional benefits as it does not have any vitamins, minerals, proteins, or essential fats and is rich in carbohydrates; this causes increase in calories and thus increasing the risk for obesity, diabetes and several heart diseases.
There are several natural substitutes for sugar which are much healthier alternatives and prove to be quite tasty too. This includes, Stevia, Xylitol, erythritol, brown rice syrup, barley malt extract, Yacón syrup, honey, applesauce, maple syrup, raisins, processed dates are a few of those natural substitutes.