Studies show that the average American consumes about 400 calories each day from added sugars. Much of this sugar is from unhealthy refined sugar or syrup sweeteners. The use of these sugars can lead to many different health issues such as weight gain, obesity, poor digestion and even liver problems. While artificial sweeteners contain little or no calories, they also come with unhealthy side effects that are certainly not worth the risk. Fortunately, there are many natural sweeteners available that are healthy as well as delicious. The following are the top 5 best natural sweeteners.
Stevia is a leafy herb that adds no calories and is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same concentration. It can be used in cooking, baking and as a sweetener in hot and cold beverages. Stevia is a natural and healthy sugar substitute that will not significantly affect blood sugar levels and is also considered low glycemic.
Raw honey is slightly sweeter than sugar and is one of the oldest natural sweeteners used today. The flavor and color of raw honey can vary from dark and strong to light and mild. Consuming honey that is harvested locally can help build your immunity to the allergens in your area by introducing your body to local pollen. Be sure to look for raw honey that is not pasteurized, as this process will destroy a lot of the nutrients that are naturally present.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. The sap is boiled until the water evaporates, and the remaining solid is granulated. Coconut sugar contains the same calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar but with a lower glycemic index. It is a good source of magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron and can be substituted for regular sugar in a one to one ratio.
Most people only think of maple syrup when eating pancakes. However, maple syrup can be used as a natural substitute for regular sugar in many ways. It is especially good when added to marinades, glazes and sauces and can be used in cooking and baking as well as to sweeten hot beverages. Maple syrup contains iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6, and is rich in antioxidants.
Dates come from the date palm tree and contain manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and vitamin B6. Dates can be used as a paste or as a sugar. To make a paste, soak the dates in water and then blend them in a food processor. Date sugar is made by drying the dates and then grinding them into a coarse powder. Since date sugar does not dissolve, it is best when used in baking or as a topping for oatmeal, muffins and cereals.
The 5 natural sweeteners listed above are a healthy and natural way to sweeten your favorite foods. Most are low on the glycemic index, and none of them contain the harmful toxins included in many artificial sweeteners. Consider adding these natural sweeteners to your diet, and you may find that you prefer their taste over regular refined sugar.