5 Natural and Healthy Sugar Substitutes

yellow background clear glass full of sugar cubes with straw

 

For most people, experts agree that some added sugar in your diet is fine.  But the truth is…most Americans are consuming way too much.  According to research from the University of California, the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar every day and around 57 pounds of added sugar each year.  Could this be why America also suffers from a problem with obesity?  Below, I’ve outlined 5 natural substitutes for sugar that will make you feel so much better about your diet.

yellow background clear glass full of sugar cubes with straw

Expert panels worldwide have made consistent recommendations on daily sugar intake.  The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men.  This is also in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations.  However, the average American’s sugar intake is 71 grams!

Children and teens are particularly at risk.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that children obtain about 16% of their total caloric intake from added sugars alone.

Using brain-scanning technology, scientists at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse were among the first to show that sugar causes changes in people’s brains similar to those in people addicted to drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol.  These changes are linked to a heightened craving for even more sugar.

So what is a good natural sweetener?  Fortunately, there are many sugar substitutes that are healthy and tasty alternatives to refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners.

Raw Honey (64 Calories per Teaspoon)

raw honey dripping from a jar

I’ve written about the wonderful benefits of honey and you can read more about it here.  This is the bottom line:  Raw honey is a true superfood and one of the best natural sweeteners.  You can find raw honey at farmers markets and directly from local beekeepers.  The darker the honey, the richer the flavor and the greater the health benefits.

A word of warning, though:  Don’t cook with raw honey.  Drizzle it on breakfast cereals, over your toast, on yogurt, and for salad dressings.  Raw honey also works great as a natural sweetener for coffee, too.

Stevia (0 Calories)

woman ripping red sugar packet into her white mug

Stevia is native to South America and has been used for hundreds of years in that region to support healthy blood sugar levels and prompt weight loss.  It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates, and none of the nasty side effects of artificial sweeteners.

If you’re looking for natural sweeteners for diabetics, the American Diabetics Association includes stevia on its list of recommended sugar substitutes.  And unlike raw honey, stevia is heat stable, so feel free to use it in any way you desire.

Coconut Sugar (45 Calories per Tablespoon)

birds eye view of coconut chopped in half with brown coconut sugar inside

Many people have heard about the benefits of coconut water and, of course, fresh coconut.  Coconut sugar is extracted sap from the blooms of the coconut and then heated.  Next, through evaporation, we get coconut sugar.  More and more people are using coconut sugar as their natural sweetener of choice because of its low glycemic load and rich mineral content.

Maple Syrup (52 Calories per Tablespoon)

bottle of maple syrup on wooden table with glass of maple syrup and spoon

Are you surprised?  Maple syrup is actually an outstanding source of manganese (a trace mineral that your body needs in small amounts) and also contains calcium, potassium, and zinc.  Maple syrup is heat stable, so you can use it in virtually any application.  Add it to marinades, glazes or sauces and use it for baking.  You can also use it to sweeten your coffee or tea in the morning!

Monk Fruit (0 Calories)

spoon filled with monk fruit sweetener

Have you ever tried monk fruit sweetener?  Monk fruit contains compounds that, when extracted, provide 300-400 times the sweetness of cane sugar.  Yet here’s the best part – monk fruit sweetener contains zero calories and has no effect on blood sugar.  Monk fruit can be used in all kinds of recipes from cheesecakes to cookies and even smoothies.

Is there a sugar substitute that you like to use?  I’d love to hear from you at hello@heartandsoulblog.com.  And I encourage you to sign up below for our newsletter to receive more helpful blog posts straight to your inbox each Friday.

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