Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Let’s just cut to the chase. Refined, white sugar offers no benefits to the body whatsoever. It is damaging to the body and your health. There is no such thing as only having a little bit, because sugar has an insidious secret: the more you have, the more you want. On the other hand, the more you cut sugar from your daily living, the better you will feel. Just ask anyone who has quit eating refined sugar. I guarantee they will tell you that without sugar in their life, they feel much better. According to Dr. Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, sugar is eight times more addictive than the drug cocaine. And the scary thing is most people are addicted to sugar and don’t even realize it.
Replace refined white sugars with natural sweeteners that still offer sweetness and also offer nutrients to your body. Here’s a list of the best natural sweeteners you should be using in moderation(let’s not forget that). All sweeteners should be used in moderation. Too much sugar in the body, even from natural sources, can still deplete health. Consumed in excess, it is believed to be among the leading causes of some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Stevia is an herb that grows in North and South America that’s 300 times sweeter than sugar.
The best stevia options are as unrefined as possible. Some people are adverse to the taste but are likely using too much, so try and use a little less since it is so sweet. Also, because stevia is so popular now, there are many brands coming out that have formulated a great taste. The downside of stevia’s popularity is that artificial sweetener companies are now marketing blends and mixes as stevia when it is not pure stevia. Always read the labels. Many stevia “blends” contain maltodextrin (usually corn) and other sweeteners. Opt for pure, organic stevia. And if you have a garden, it is very easy to grow! You can buy it in liquid or powder form.
2. Dates, Raisins, Goji Berries, Prunes, Apricots, Figs, Golden Berries, Mulberries
I love dried fruits because they are naturally sweet, but they also have a lot of fiber which helps prevent huge blood sugar spikes. Dates, goji berries, and mulberries are especially fantastic for smoothies or raw food desserts.
Tip #1:Soak your dried fruit before you use it. Soaking dried fruits in clean water helps hydrate them and makes them easier to blend and also easier to digest. Eating dried fruit without soaking can be dehydrating to the body and more difficult to digest.
Tip #2: Keep the water that you soaked your dried fruit in. Store the water in a mason jar and use it as a syrup to naturally sweeten your chia cereals, oatmeal, or smoothies. Gracious Living Lifestyle never wastes anything! Make sure all your dried fruit is sulfite-free.
3. Yacon Syrup
Yacon syrup is a low-glycemic, thick-liquid sweetener that tastes like molasses. Yacon is a South American tuber that looks a bit like a potato but tastes more like an apple. With half the calories of sugar and a high concentration of indigestible inulin, yacon is a friendly alternative sweetener for diabetics and those looking to reduce sugar.
4. Lucuma Powder
This low-glycemic sweetener contains many nutrients, including beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. Yellow lucuma powder has a unique, maple-like taste that’s a delight in a variety of recipes. Lucuma powder is made from whole Peruvian lucuma fruit that has been dried at low temperatures and milled into a fine powder.
5. Mesquite Powder
Mesquite powder is a low-glycemic flour rich in protein and micronutrients and comes from ground mesquite pods from the desert mesquite tree (a type of legume tree). Today, most of the mesquite flour produced in the world comes from Peru. Although you can use it as a gluten-free flour in place of wheat flour for baked goods, breads, tortillas, you can also use it as a sweetener in your smoothies, cereals, and desserts. Mesquite flour has a sweet, nutty taste. It has a texture like wheat flour, but perhaps a bit more grainy. I love it because it is quite high in protein (about 17% protein) making it more energy sustaining and lower on the glycemic index.
6. Monk Fruit
Alternately marketed as Lo Han Sweetener or Lakanto, monk fruit has an extract 300 times sweeter than sugar. Rich in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits, one study indicated that monk fruit may offer anti-cancer and anti-diabetic benefits. Look for pure Lo Han Sweetener or Lakanto with no additives.
7. Maple Syrup
The main thing that sets maple syrup apart from refined sugar is the fact that it contains a small amount of minerals, especially manganese and zinc. There are several different grades of maple syrup (A & B), depending on the color. Grade B is the darkest, with the strongest maple flavor. Grade B maple syrup is also less processed than Grade A, making it more nutrient-dense. If you’re going to buy maple syrup, then make sure to get real, pure maple syrup, not just maple-flavored syrup which can be loaded with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
8. Blackstrap Molasses
Molasses is a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar for mass consumption. The nutrients in which it is concentrated include manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium. Make sure you get un-sulphured, which means it does not have the processing chemical to which many people are sensitive. I love molasses for the high iron and calcium content; however, it’s an acquired taste. Best used for smoothie and dessert recipes inspired by gingerbread.
9. Coconut Sugar and Coconut Syrup
I love coconuts as a nutrient-dense food, but the high fructose keeps it off my top choice as a sweetener. Compared with table and brown sugars, coconut sugar has impressive amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron, as well as antioxidants. Used in moderation, it’s a better choice than refined white sugar.
10. Raw Honey
Strict vegans do not use honey as it does come from a (living) bee. Commercial honey is often treated with an excessive heating process that can destroy some of the critical natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Raw, unprocessed, wild honey is the best option as it’s not only a natural sweetener but also a natural food with health benefits. It contains natural antioxidants, enzymes and minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and selenium. Vitamins found in honey include vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin. In addition, the nutraceuticals contained in honey help neutralize damaging free radical activity. Find a local farmer in your area if you prefer to use organic, raw, honey.
The next two are not my top picks, but they are still better for you than refined white sugar:
11. Erythritol and Xylitol
These are sugar alcohols that will not raise your blood sugar like table sugars; however, according to JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet, if used in high amounts, they can cause digestive distress. Make sure to get 100 percent erythritol or an erythritol/stevia blend. With xylitol, make sure to get birch tree-derived as opposed to corn derived which can be harder to digest.
12. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is typically over processed and contains alarmingly high amounts of fructose, which goes right to your liver. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, excessive amounts of fructose elevate blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL; deplete vitamins and minerals; raise insulin resistance and obesity; and contribute to cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout. Still better than refined white sugar, but not a top pick.
Important Tips: Avoid using artificial sweeteners whenever possible. They are toxic and damaging to the nervous system over time. Research is now showing they impede digestion as well as disrupt blood sugar leading to weight gain.
Avoid refined white sugar or brown sugar as much as possible. They cause acid buildup in your tissues, increase inflammation, and deplete your body of nutrients. Brown sugar is essentially bleached white sugar with some molasses in it.
Experiment with the sweeteners above. If you are increasing your nutrition and getting a fully balanced diet, filled with vitamins and minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll, enzymes, and plant based proteins, to name a few, your desire for sugar starts to fade.
For some people, healthy sweeteners can trigger cravings for more sweet foods. If that’s you, learn to appreciate the natural sweetness of vanilla, cinnamon, or cardamom. Use everything in moderation and vary your diet.
Taking L-glutamine has been known to help with sugar cravings. Glutamine helps keep blood sugar levels stable and all neurotransmitters firing strongly to help deter cravings. ~ The Diet Cure by Dr. Julia Ross
If I am craving something sweet, I make a delicious smoothie with stevia-sweetened Sunwarrior protein.
Or I have some of my delicious GLO chocolate protein balls lightly sweetened with my favorite Yacon syrup and other superfoods.