Although consuming refined sugar in moderation is nothing to worry about, over doing it on this sweet ingredient has some negative health risks attached. These include an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease, as well as some types of cancer. With that being said, we thought it would be a great idea to talk more about a few healthier sugar alternatives that you can use in your cooking and baking. And while even these substitutes should only be used in moderation, they come from more natural sources and are less processed than refined sugar, which is always a plus!
1. Pure Maple Syrup – This thick, yummy sweetener is made from the sap of maple trees. The sap is extracted and cooked down, until it has that rich consistency that we all know and love to use on our pancakes. But did you know that you can use pure maple syrup in many other recipes, too? Some popular ways to use this ingredient is as a sweetener in smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or on cooked sweet potatoes. Yum! And although it still raises your blood sugar at a fairly quick rate, this sweetener will raise your levels slower than white, refined sugar would.
2. Honey – With a pretty decent amount of antioxidants, honey is a great alternative to traditional sugar for adding sweetness to a variety of recipes. Many use it in their tea, over yogurt parfaits, drizzled over roasted nuts, and in quick breads. As with most of the sweeteners on this list, it’s still considered a pretty high glycemic index food, so use sparingly!
3. Stevia – This is a zero calorie sweetener that comes from the leaves of a South American shrub. Stevioside is a compound found in stevia, and it has been linked to improved blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It’s about 350 times sweeter than regular table sugar, so not as much is needed when using it as a sugar replacement. It has a similar consistency to table sugar (like tiny crystals), so many people find it convenient to use in baking recipes!
4. Monk Fruit – This zero calorie sweetener comes from a small, round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. An antioxidant it contains, called mogrosides, allows for some of it’s sweetness (double win!). Mogrosides are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, so it might be a great sweetener option for those with arthritis and other inflammatory issues. Try it in place of processed sugar in your cookie, muffin, and brownie recipes.
5. Molasses – With a thick, syrup like consistency, molasses goes great on roasted root veggies, as a marinade for grilling meat, in warm drinks (like your parents morning coffee!), or these no-bake energy bites (it’s flavor pairs so well with things like nuts, chocolate chips, and dried fruit).
If you decide to use any of the above sweeteners in one of your recipes, make sure to show us on our Facebook page!