Almost all of us crave for some sweet tasting foods in our everyday lives. However, research shows that eating too much sugar is bad for our health causing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. Artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Saccharin and Sucralose) are further linked to a different set of health problems such as metabolic syndrome and reduced kidney function. So, we need sugar alternatives that are natural, safe and healthy to eat.
Natural sweeteners are plant derivatives that taste just like sugar but contain fewer calories and don’t cause tooth decay. These sugar substitutes also have less impact on blood sugar levels. However, this doesn’t give you permission to go overboard, you should stick to nutritional guidelines by eating lots of fruit and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates then enjoy a little bit of sweet thing.
Here is a list of eight natural and healthy sugar alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth:
Coconut sugar is made by heating the sap from the coconut palm. This process evaporates the water content and reduces it to usable granules. Coconut sugar tastes similar to brown sugar but is rich and nutritious, as it contains traces of iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and some antioxidants. It also contains fiber, which slows down glucose absorption and gives it a low score on the glycemic index. This means you don’t get a spike in your blood sugar levels that is followed by a crash, making it a good option for diabetics. You can substitute coconut sugar in almost all the recipes where you are currently using white sugar.
Dates and Date Sugar
Dates are naturally very sweet tasting. These are nutritionally rich in essential minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium. Dates also contain vitamin B6 and vitamin A. These nutritional qualities of dates help in improving your overall health and boosting immunity. So start using this healthy alternative to sweeten desserts such as puddings and bars.
You can also use date sugar, which is made from pulverizing dried dates into a powder. It also has a rich sweet flavour similar to brown sugar, which makes it great for baking. As it is very sweet, you just need 2/3 the amount of date sugar in place of brown or white sugar. Date sugar is a healthy sugar alternative as it retains the nutritional benefits of dates. However, it is difficult to dissolve and melt, so not suitable for making drinks and some other recipes.
Raw honey is a natural sweetener, which is derived from the flower nectar collected by bees. It is packed with nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants. These nutritional qualities help in promoting digestion, treating insomnia, beautifying your skin, healing wounds and protecting your body from a variety of illnesses. Besides having antimicrobial properties honey has a low glycemic index, which makes it ideal for those who want to lose weight.
Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it to sweeten anything. You can simply spread it on bread for breakfast; put it in yogurt and dessert recipes; and in baking cookies and biscuits. It’s best to get locally produced organic, raw or unprocessed honey to reap the full nutritional benefits of it.
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup is the concentrated syrup made by boiling the sap of maple trees. Nutritionally it is rich in minerals like manganese, calcium and zinc; riboflavin; and antioxidants. These nutrients help your body in energy production and boost your immune system function. You can use this delicious sweetener in place of sugar while baking breads; making ice cream at home; and to sweeten your yogurt, desserts and pancakes. As this is liquid in consistency you may need to adjust other liquids accordingly. Maple syrup also works well as a topping for your toasts, waffles, ice-creams and pancakes.
You can also use maple sugar made by dehydrating maple syrup, as a healthy substitute for regular sugar.
Fruits and fruit juices (with pulp)
Fruits such as apple, grapes, banana, pineapple, peach and oranges are great source of natural sugar. These also add on to the flavour of the recipes. While you can’t use them to sweeten your tea or coffee, fruits and fruit juices work well for adding sweetness to cakes, homemade ice creams and cookies. The wonderful part is you get lots of choice here, as you experiment and find a flavour that perfectly complements your recipe. This nutritionally rich sugar substitutes are best when used fresh.
Molasses is the thick syrup, which comes as the by-products of the process of refining sugarcane plant into white sugar. Blackstrap molasses is nutritionally rich in minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, potassium and calcium; vitamin B6; and antioxidants. These nutritional qualities make it beneficial for your overall health. This viscous syrup is sweeter than sugar and ideal for baking purposes.
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is made by boiling down brown rice and various enzymes into a thick liquid. This amber-coloured syrup has a mild “butterscotch” flavour and is half as sweet as sugar. It can be used easily in cooking and baking cakes and muffins. Though it is not suitable for adding to your tea or coffee, you can pour this over your pancakes and porridge as a topping or use it in making salad dressings. Making of this syrup require some processing, still it contains some nutritional benefits of brown rice.
Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is dark brown, thick and sticky syrup made from barley sprouts. It has a distinct malty taste, which makes it ideal for baking. Though this sugar substitute is not as sweet as sugar, this is nutritionally rich, easily digested and has low glycemic index. The strong peculiar taste of barley malt syrup makes it unsuitable for tea, coffee and some other recipes but goes well with barbeque. It can also be sourced in granulated forms as a perfect substitute for brown sugar.