7 Healthy, All-Natural Alternatives to Sugar
Used as a sweetener for centuries in South America, stevia is an herb that is much sweeter than sugar. Stevia is an enormously popular sugar alternative due to the fact that it has zero calories and no glycemic impact, making it the perfect choice for diabetics as well as anyone that wants to lose inches from their waist.
A common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gum, xylitol is a low-calorie sweetener that can help fight the growth of bacteria. Xylitol is much sweeter than sugar, meaning that you don’t need to use nearly as much of it. Xylitol is best used for adding to coffee or tea rather than large-scale applications like baking, as ingesting too much xylitol can cause an upset stomach.
While it isn’t calorie-free, honey is still a healthier option than processed sugars. Honey has a significantly lower glycemic index, meaning it causes less of a blood sugar spike and is less likely to result in a “crash” after consumption. As an added bonus, honey is packed with potent antioxidants, and locally-sourced honey can even help treat allergies.
Monk Fruit Extract:
A granulated sweetener derived from a species of sweet melon, monk fruit extract is still relatively uncommon despite being used as an herbal remedy throughout Southeast Asia for centuries. One of the primary benefits of monk fruit extract is that it lacks the bitter aftertaste that some people experience with other sugar alternatives.
Coconut sugar is has seen a recent boost in popularity, and for good reason. Made by evaporating coconut sap, this sweetener has a rich taste similar to brown sugar. Coconut sugar also boasts a low glycemic index, and it can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for processed sugars in virtually any recipe.
Agave nectar contains more calories than sugar by weight, but it can be used in smaller amounts because it is much sweeter. Agave nectar is digested and converted to glucose more slowly than sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which means that it has a more mild effect on blood sugar and results in less of a sugary “buzz.” Agave nectar is perfect for use in coffee or tea, but should be avoided for baking purposes.
Like agave nectar and honey, maple syrup takes the body longer to break down, resulting in a lower glycemic impact and less of a strain on your energy levels. For maximum benefit, look for darker syrup, which contains more antioxidants and nutrients than lighter shades of syrup.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you have to give up on sweets. Swapping out processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup for some of the all-natural alternative options on this list can help anyone trim down and achieve their own personal fitness or weight loss goals.