Scientists and doctors have been telling us for years about the dangers of too much sugar. The problem though is that it just tastes so good!
The natural craving for sugar is in part due to the importance of sugar in early human diets. There weren’t many sources of sugar and if early humans found a good fruit tree or bee hive, it could be a huge boost to their survival.
Today, on the other hand, sugar is in everything! Even things that you wouldn’t immediately think of as “sweet” are packed with added sugar – pasta sauces, yogurts, processed meats, etc. Food manufacturers have figured out that we crave sugar and, in order to boost sales, have started hiding sugar in any product they can.
The problem now is that our diets are overloaded with refined, added sugars. This has directly led to increases in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Cutting back on refined white sugar can drastically improve health, both in the short and long term.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up the enjoyment of a sweet treat though. Thankfully there are many healthy sugar alternatives. Whether you are looking for a substitute for your favorite cookie recipe or looking for brands that swap sugar for sugar-free alternatives, these are the ingredients you should keep an eye out for.
The first category of sugar alternatives are those that are nutritive sweeteners. A nutritive sweetener is one that has calories and which can trigger an insulin response in the body. This means they will affect blood sugar and cause a glycemic response.
Plain white sugar is a nutritive sweetener with a glycemic index of 65. This means it has a much higher and direct effect on blood glucose levels. Choosing a nutritive sweetener with a lower glycemic index number is a much healthier alternative as you will avoid a dangerous blood sugar spike. Here are three nutritive sweetener alternatives with glycemic index numbers lower than white table sugar.
The sweetness of dates comes straight from the natural fruit glucose and fructose sugars. Not only do dates have a lower glycemic index of 42, they also offer healthy fiber.
Coconut sugar comes from the nectar of coconut tree blossoms. It has a low glycemic index of 35. Bonus – coconut sugar is a natural source of important vitamins such as potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and phosphorus.
Honey has a lower glycemic index number – 58 – than white sugar. More importantly though, honey contains a higher ratio of fructose which means less of an insulin response and spike compared to white sugar. Honey is also a good source of trace minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.
The second category of healthy white sugar alternatives are those labeled as non-nutritive sweeteners. Non-nutritive sweeteners are usually low or zero calorie. This allows most non-nutritive sweeteners to fall all the way to 0 on the glycemic index scale.
If you are looking to cut calories and carbohydrates or to balance blood sugar more precisely, look for these common non-nutritive sweeteners.
Stevia is a natural sweetener produced from the stems and leaves of a native South American plant. It has a glycemic index of 0 and doesn’t affect insulin levels. It is also very powerful – 200 times sweeter than table sugar – meaning a little goes a long way.
This natural sweetener alternative is also known as Lo Han Guo and is produced from the fruit of a perennial vine native to China and Thailand. It has 0 calories and has a glycemic index of 0 as well.
While the name might make it seem like a chemical alternative, erythritol is also a naturally occurring white sugar alternative found in foods such as mushrooms, melons, and corn. It has a glycemic index of 0 and is considered to have a “neutral, clean” taste that makes it perfect as a white sugar replacement in recipes.
Shopping for Healthier White Sugar Alternatives
At Eric’s Health Food Shoppe we carry a wide range of white sugar alternatives – from natural honey to organic maple syrup to stevia. We also stock many brands and products that have removed the added sugar for healthier and natural sweetener alternatives.