In case you haven’t heard, the typical American consumes more than 19.5 teaspoons of sugars every single day. While this may not sound like a whole lot, it can and does start to add up, and fast. In fact, over 66 pounds of total sugar is consumed by that very same group of people every single year. But all is not lost as many are starting to switch from consuming refined, table sugar to artificial sweeteners instead. But is this really a good thing?
Some of the artificial sweeteners that you have more than likely heard of include sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and ACE K. They, as well as all of the other artificial sweeteners have been the discussion of great debate since they were first introduced to the mainstream. This is due mainly in part for the side effects that using them regularly can cause. Now to be fair, all of the artificial sweeteners are considered to be ‘safe’ according to the FDA. However, they have recently started to come under an increased amount of scrutiny due to their damaging side effects. Some of these side effects can include anything from migraines and headaches, all the way to mood disorders, a shrunken thymus gland, and even an impairment of the kidneys and liver.
So why doesn’t everyone just stick with refined sugars, right? That would be a good idea, except for the fact that refined sugars are not healthy for you either. Some of the side effects from using refined sugars too much include tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, poor cognitive function, and even certain types of cancer.
Trying to find a ‘healthy alternative’, in recent years the corn growers and their affiliated associations have tried to pass off high fructose corn syrup as one of the best natural sweeteners available. Unfortunately for them, this statement is just not true. In fact, the majority of all high fructose corn syrup is actually created from corn that has been genetically modified. Fructose is one of the simple sugars that are easily metabolized by your body, creating the ‘sugar high’ that your parents warned you about as a child. As if that weren’t enough to put you off of high fructose corn syrup, it is also believed that these fast-acting sugars also lead your body to store fats in your liver, which will eventually lead to a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, and even digestive upset.
So what are the natural sweeteners that you should be using? Luckily for you, there are actually several different options when it comes to natural sweeteners. They are all healthy and have a delicious taste that makes them the perfect alternative to any refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and even high fructose corn syrup. On top of being healthier than the other sugars and sweeteners, natural sweeteners can also help to increase your antioxidant intake amount. Here are the top natural sweeteners and everything you need to know about them.
Top Natural Sweeteners You Should be Using
Now keep in mind that these are not the only natural sweeteners available to you, these are some of the best and healthiest ones that you should seriously consider substituting your table sugar and artificial sweeteners with.
#1. Raw Honey
Raw honey is truly a super food, as well as one of the very best natural sweeteners of all time. Being packed full of different antioxidants and enzymes, it also contains amounts of calcium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin, potassium, niacin and even vitamin B6. When these nutrients are combined like they are in raw honey, they will help neutralize the free radicals floating within your body, as well as promote the growth of the healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract.
Now before you go out and stock up on honey at the local supermarket, just be sure that you know that all of the health benefits just mentioned, only pertain to raw honey. Once honey is pasteurized, it loses many of its health benefits. That is why it is usually better to get your honey from local beekeepers or at the farmers market. And when you do buy raw honey, the darker that the honey is, the greater the flavor and health benefits it is going to have.
Used for hundreds of years by the natives in South America, stevia is one of the best all-natural ways to help support a healthy blood sugar level within your body, as well as weight loss.
In today’s modern age, stevioside, which is what makes stevia 200x’s sweeter than regular table sugar, can be found in packets, liquid drops, baking blends, and even dissolvable tablets. What makes stevia stand out above the rest is that it has absolutely no calories, no carbohydrates, and no dangerous side effects that artificial sweeteners have, making it possibly the perfect natural sweetener.
Since stevia is related to the sunflower plant, some may experience an aftertaste with the hints of metallic. If this is the case for you, all you need to do is look for a brand of stevia that is higher in steviosides. This will make the stevia sweeter, as well as take away the aftertaste.
Stevia is actually so good for you, the American Diabetes Association has it listed on its approved sugar substitutes list. On top of that, if you are on a special keto diet, stevia, as well as erithretyol a sugar alcohol also used as a natural sweetener), are the top two natural sugar substitutes.
Dates are one of the most underappreciated natural sweeteners around. Packed full of copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and even some vitamin B6, they are also easily digested in the body and can even help you metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. On top of that, dates have also been proven to reduce your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol), in your blood, as well as help to reduce your chances of having a stroke.
Just keep in mind that dates are actually a fruit, so they are going to be made into some type of paste if you are going to use them as a natural sweetener.
#4. Coconut Sugar
Unless you have been living in a cave on at the bottom of the ocean, you have more than likely heard of coconut milk, coconut flour, coconut water, and fresh coconut as a healthy alternative. As you would think that coconut has been used every way that it could be, there is also coconut sugar that is making huge waves as natural sweetener. It has grown greatly in popularity for its rich mineral content, as well as its low glycemic load.
Being packed full of iron, calcium, polyphenols, antioxidants, potassium, phosphorous and many other phytonutrients, coconut sugar is another great natural sweetener that you can use to substitute for sugar or artificial sweeteners. And just so you know, coconut sugar is made by extracting the sap from the coconut blooms and then heating it up. Then, through evaporation, you will get the coconut sugar.
#5. Maple Syrup
Being native to North America, you can find maple syrup in both Grade A, as well as Grade B form. While it can become very time consuming to do, the entire process of maple syrup is done in just four steps.
First you must drill a hole into a tree. Next you hang a bucket under the hole you just drilled so that it can catch all of the sap. Once your bucket is full, you are going to boil the sap in order to evaporate any water that is in it. Finally, you are going to filter out any and all sediment that remains. You now have maple syrup.
Being an excellent source of manganese, maple syrup also contains potassium, zinc, and calcium. On top of this, it is also packed full of antioxidants and will even help you to neutralize any free radicals and reduce any type of oxidative damage. When you are shopping for a good maple syrup, you want to make sure that it is darker, as well as Grade B. These ones are going to contain many more of he beneficial antioxidants than any of the lighter syrups available.
While there are many other natural sweeteners available, these are the top ones that you should try and work into your diet in some way, shape or form. Some of the other natural sweeteners that you should look into include:
- Monk Fruit
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Real Fruit Jam
- Banana Puree
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Balsamic Glaze
As for which one of these artificial sweeteners is the best one for you, the only person who can make that decision is you. It would be best to try out all or at lease several of the natural sweeteners listed above and see which one you like the best. No matter which one you decide that you like the most, it is going to help you improve your health, have better nutrition, and just plain make you feel better.