Sugar Alternatives That Are Actually Good for You
We’ve all read the news or recent studies enough to know that certain things are bad for you one day and great for you the next – red wine, the internet, painkillers… It can be hard to know what to believe with such an overwhelming amount of information out there. Sugar is no exception. Sugar has always been one that sits on the good list and bad list so it’s no wonder most people find it hard to truly know and understand the dangers of sugar. Sugar has been linked to various health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but we often get told we are supposed to eat sugar as part of a healthy diet.
So what kind of sugar should you eat?
I’ve found some sugar alternatives that really are good for you when eaten in the right portions…. so you no longer need to worry about your sweet tooth or what it might be doing to your weight loss efforts, or your health!
Coconut sugar, or coconut palm sugar, is essentially a bi-product of the humble palm tree. It’s collected from the bark and the sap from palm flowers, and acts as a great alternative to sugar while still providing a lovely sweetness. The best thing by far about using this as an alternative to sugar is that it’s so much better for your body than sugar cane – it keeps your energy levels stable, avoiding annoying dips and peaks that can cause mood swings and cravings!
- Where Can I Find Coconut Products I Can Trust?
Most supermarkets now offer great coconut products, from coconut oil to coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is almost like a thick paste that is dry, but dissolves easily.
- Does Coconut Sugar Have Flavour?
Not really, this just tastes like a heavy, sweet sugar on its own. We’d recommend using it in baking in place of caster or Demerara sugar. It's fine to add to hot drinks as well, as it won't ruin or overpower your tea or coffee.
Stevia is a great alternative to sugar and comes from a plant, so it’s 100% natural. It’s great for anyone with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, as it doesn’t cause spikes in energy. Stevia is also believed to actually aid weight loss, so is the perfect addition to a balanced diet.
- Is Stevia Okay for Vegetarians and Vegans?
Yes – it comes from a plant so it's absolutely fine for veggies and vegans. It's also calorie free, so great to enjoy in limited portions if you're watching your weight.
- Is This a Good Option for Using in Hot Drinks?
Sure, and it's much better for you than sweeteners. Start with a little at first, just to taste - you don't need as much as you think. Stevia offers a pretty strong, sweet kick without adding any other flavor, so can also be used for baking. One thing to be aware of is that the consistency of stevia differs from that of normal sugar, so you may have to compensate with extra flour in order to have the perfect bake!
Raw honey is jam-packed with goodness, so you’re helping your body in more ways than one. Sugar can encourage weight gain due to the chemical processes it sparks – having to process sugar actually prevents your body from burning fat, so those with a sugar-full diet may find they don't lose weight, no matter how many hours they put in at the gym. Raw honey is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that helps your body in more ways than one, so using it in place of sugar helps your health!
- Which Honey Is Best for Me?
Raw organic honey is the one to look out for, as it’s left with all its natural nutrients rather than pasteurized honey. The golden rule with this is to keep it at its natural temperature - heating raw honey poses the risk of destroying all its goodness, so stick to alternative sweeteners like stevia if you're after a sweet coffee!
- Can Vegetarians and Vegans Use Honey as an Alternative?
Good question – vegans generally steer clear of any animal product or bi-product, and, since honey comes from bees, it's not considered a great vegan alternative. Veggies are fine with this though! Anyone looking for a 100% natural, plant-based and vegan sugar alternative should consider stevia, as mentioned above.
Dates aren't just what people go to the movies for - they're also a delicious dried fruit full of nutrients! Dates make a great snack on their own, but are also a great alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
- Are They Really Sweet Enough?
Yes! Dates are incredibly sweet anyway, and Medjool dates are my go-to if I'm craving something sweet. Dates are probably the healthiest sugar alternative I've included in this list, as they also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- What Can I Use Dates for?
Pretty much anything! Obviously, they're normally bought whole so you can't use them in your drinks, but you can grind them up in a processor to add to smoothies, or when you're baking. My favorite thing to do with dates is cut the seed out, insert a raw almond, dip in almond butter and eat - they're already packed with fiber so add a great texture as well as delicious sweetness.
I also make raw, vegan energy balls by throwing dates, cashew butter, banana and chia seeds into my blender – they give you the sugar hit you're after without any of the nasty side effects. Perfect to keep in the fridge for later, but healthy enough to eat all in one delicious go!
Ideally, we should cut out processed sugar out of our diets entirely, but we all know that's not realistic for most people, myself included!
Small changes can make a big difference, however. Cutting back on sugar and using an alternative, such as stevia or dates, can make you feel better and your body will thank you for it.
Your ‘sugar highs’ should become a thing of the past and your energy levels should be more consistent. These alternatives also aid weight loss, as they either actively burn fat or speed the process up where sugar would only slow it down. Plus, they taste delicious and help you become a little more experimental in the kitchen…