Healthier Alternatives For Refined Sugar
Excessive consumption of refined sugars can result in problems such as diabetes, obesity, increased risk to cardiac ailments, joint pain, and more. There are many healthier substitutes of refined sugar that you could try. Read here for the pros and cons of the commonly available alternatives of white sugar.
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If you are looking to cut down unhealthy foods from your daily diet, the first item you should remove is refined sugar. Sugar is an important part of our daily diet starting from our morning beverages until the dessert that we have post-dinner. However, the sad part is that too much of refined sugars can result in problems such as diabetes, obesity, increased risk to cardiac ailments, joint pain and more. So, does that mean you should stop using sugar completely? Or, give up on sweets? Of course, not! There many healthier alternatives to white refined sugar than can be easily incorporated into our everyday foods. These alternatives to sugar are easily available and are also not expensive.
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Here are some healthy and tasty alternatives that you can use in your everyday lives.
Considered as one of the healthiest natural sugars, stevia is extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana. Currently, this sweetener is available in the powder and liquid form. These contain healthy sweet compounds like stevioside and rebaudioside.
Studies have proved that these compounds can help in reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin levels and more. Also, since stevia has zero calories, it is highly recommended for people who want to lose weight. Stevia, when consumed daily, helps you stay safe from health ailments that are caused by refined sugars. Make sure you buy natural Stevia.
2. Maple Syrup
Unlike honey and coconut sugar, maple syrup isn’t the most healthy substitute for refined sugar. However, you could try it if you aren’t able to get other healthier substitutes. When the sap from maple trees is cooked, it results in maple syrup.
Maple syrup contains close to 24 antioxidants and other minerals such as zinc, potassium, iron, manganese and calcium. When consumed in moderate quantities regularly, maple syrup doesn’t adversely affect the blood sugar levels as it has a very low glycemic index. However, the major downside to this is that it contains a lot of sugar in it.
3. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is one of the most popular items that you would find in the supermarkets today. As more and more people are becoming aware of the ill-effects caused by unregulated and continued consumption of refined sugars, they are moving to more natural and healthier sugars such as coconut sugar. You get this sugar from the coconut palm’s sap.
Yes, coconut sugar is rich in antioxidants and other minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc. However, health experts don’t recommend this because it still contains two very unhealthy ingredients that are found in refined sugars – fructose & calories. We would recommend you to use it very rarely. Though it is a healthy substitute for refined sugars, coconut sugar should be used in moderation too.
Extracted from corn or the birchwood found in fruits & vegetables, xylitol is a natural sweetener. It is a sugar alcohol that contains zero fructose levels and at least 40% lesser calories than refined sugars. Therefore, xylitol is considered as one of the healthiest substitutes to the white sugar that you commonly use.
Apart from regulating the insulin in your blood, xylitol also plays a vital role in the overall health of your bones, bone density and teeth. This is because xylitol naturally improves your body’s calcium absorption capacity. When you consume xylitol in moderate quantities, you become less prone to degenerative bone diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis in your old age.
5. Yacon Syrup
Extracted from the South American Yacon plant, Smallanthus sonchifolius, yacon syrup is a thick & dark sweetener, which is far healthier than refined sugars. One of the most important facts about yacon syrup is that 50% of it is made up of fructooligosaccharides, which are sugar molecules that help in keeping you full for a long time.
These sugar molecules also encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut, thereby keeping it healthy at all times. When taken regularly in moderate quantities, yacon syrup can also aid in weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, a good immunity system and improved brain functionality. Yacon Syrup contains only 30% of the calories that you find in refined sugars.
Honey is the most commonly used substitute for refined sugars. However, here is some information that may be news to you. Honey is still not 100% harmless, because it contains fructose, the ingredient which causes quite a few health ailments. However, some factors that add brownie points to honey are that it is loaded with minerals & antioxidants.
Studies have proved consuming honey regularly (raw & organic honey without any added impurities) can reduce your risk to heart diseases and c-reactive protein, an indication for inflammation. Yes, the fructose levels in honey are definitely lower than what you see in refined sugars; however, this is not the healthiest substitute for your sugar.
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This is a healthy sugar alcohol that is very tasty and healthy. Since it tastes exactly like refined sugar, you wouldn’t even know the difference!
Consuming erythritol regularly can help you to lose weight because it contains only 6% of the calories that you find in refined sugars. Also, erythritol is absorbed well by the human body, which makes it easier for you to enjoy the benefits of this healthy substitute.
Regular consumption of erythritol doesn’t adversely affect your blood sugar or blood cholesterol levels. It doesn’t have any side effects and also provides a lot of benefits by mixing directly into your bloodstream, which is why you should try using this regularly. However, this is not a natural sugar substitute, so consumption must first be authorized by a medical practitioner.
Though not as unhealthy as refined sugar, molasses is still not a healthy substitute that we would recommend for refined sugars. Molasses is dark in color and known for its thick consistency. This is got when the sugar cane or sugar beet juice is boiled well.
Molasses is known for its high antioxidant content. It is also rich in various minerals such as potassium & calcium. Studies have proved that regular consumption of molasses in very little quantities can help your bones and heart to some extent. However, we still feel that there are other healthier substitutes like xylitol, erythritol and stevia that you can consider.
Some points to note
- Whenever you want to try any healthy substitutes for refined sugars, ensure that you read the labels carefully to know the quantity that you should consume every day. When you eat more than what you should have, you can experience side effects such as gas, stomach bloating, indigestion issues, etc.
- Contrary to popular belief, agave nectar is definitely not a healthy substitute for refined sugars. The fructose content in this is almost 85%, far higher than what you would find in refined sugars. Regardless of the claims of the packaging, we recommend you check with a doctor before you set out shopping for healthy sugar substitutes.
- When you are using Yacon Syrup as a substitute for healthy sugars, you should remember that you can never use this for baking or cooking. This is because the temperature from these processes will spoil the structure of the sugar molecules found in the syrup.
- Coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey aren’t very healthy substitutes for refined sugars, though they have a lot of nutrients. The fructose and sugar content in them can nullify their benefits. So, you need to use these three very sparingly.
- There aren’t conclusive studies to prove the effects of these sugar substitutes on weight loss. Therefore, weight loss shouldn’t be your sole objective while switching to these healthy substitutes.