5 Healthy Sugar Alternatives

Today, an average American consumes about 28-49 teaspoons a DAY.
That adds up to 96 pounds of sugar a year (40 lbs. of which is high fructose corn syrup).

High amounts of sugar can wreak havoc on our immune systems, hormones and digestion. Some of the negative effects are: premature aging, weight gain, fatigue, bone loss, mental fatigue, depression and it is a major contributing factor to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

How much sugar do you consume in a day?

At first thought, you might think, “not that much”.

Let’s have a look, starting with breakfast. For example, you begin your day with a bowl of frosted mini-wheats and a small strawberry yogurt – for a total of 9.5 teaspoons of sugar.

At mid-morning you have a large cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop (double/double) – 8 teaspoons of sugar.

For lunch you decide to go easy on the calories so you have a salad with Italian vinaigrette and a slice of whole wheat bread – that’s another 4 teaspoons of sugar (and that’s on the light side).

For an afternoon pick-me-up you have a can of pop or a “healthier” energy drink – 16 teaspoons of sugar.

And then for dinner you have some pasta with grilled chicken and store bought tomato sauce – that’s 3 teaspoons for the sauce and 1 more from the noodles.

The GRAND TOTAL: 41.5 teaspoons (almost 1 full cup of sugar)!

That’s a bit of an eye opener for sure. Long before food processing, when
sugar was mainly obtained from fruits and vegetables, our hunter/gatherer populations consumed about 22-30 teaspoons of sugar a YEAR.

In this article, I want to help provide you with alternatives to standard white sugar, which is labelled as an addiction because it stimulates the brain in a way that is similar to cocaine and alcohol, causing the release of the feel good chemicals dopamine and serotonin.

When sugar is consumed in large quantities it has several effects:

  • It causes people to eat it, despite the negative consequences like weight gain, fatigue, and moodiness
  • Tolerance will develop and more will be needed for the same effect, this causes cravings
  • Some people have trouble functioning without it and have a “stash” available when their energy plummets
  • Upon quitting sugar withdrawal symptoms may appear
  • It increases the levels of chronic inflammation therefore contributing to chronic symptoms

One of the best things you can do is to swap out regular white sugar with one of the following 5 healthier options – all of which I use myself, regularly!

  1. Lakanto Monkfruit This sweetener is actually recommended in Japan for weight loss, obesity and diabetes. A bonus is that it’s safe for everyone in your whole family! Lakanto has zero calories, zero glycemic index, zero additives, and because it doesn’t impact blood sugar and insulin release, it’s perfect for diabetics. It has a one to one ratio with sugar so ½ cup of sugar in a recipe can be replaced with ½ cup of Lakanto. You can easily find it online and it is becoming more and more prevalent in natural food stores and grocery stores.
  2. Fresh Medjool Dates Pitted dates can be eaten as is for a healthy snack or puréed and added as a sweetener to many decadent desserts (try throwing one in a smoothie for sweetness). Arguably, they are one of the healthiest foods in the world and have been around for centuries. Dates contain fiber, iron, potassium, B vitamins, A & K vitamins and other important trace minerals. They even contain anti-cancer properties! Due to iron content, dates can help those suffering from anemia and can help protect cells from the damage of free radicals. Studies have shown that blood sugar levels
    do not elevate even though there are natural sugars within the fruit – this is largely due to the amount of intrinsic fiber present.
  3. Maple Syrup Best if you can find local, but I also love the Butternut Mountain Farm brand from Amazon, too. Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap from the Maple tree, and is one of the most common natural sugars out there. It’s loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, and enzymes due to the fact that it is natural and unrefined compared to white sugar, which is stripped of nutrients and heavily refined. Because it’s a lower glycemic food, it won’t spike blood sugar like regular white sugar will either. If you’re not sure which grade to buy, the dark, Grade B syrup contains more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter types. When using in baking I swap 1 cup of white sugar for ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup.
  4. Raw Local Honey Raw local honey has amazing healing properties and is a healthy natural sweetener. Many people eat local honey to help with allergies, but it’s also another potent antioxidant and contains pytonutrients that have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that can help to boost your immune system and fight sickness. Manuka honey is a specific type of honey from New Zealand which is used medicinally for everything from respiratory health and digestive health to using it as a face mask. Raw honey is fun to swirl into smoothie bowls, mix into tea, and to take a spoonful a day by itself. To use in baking swap 1 cup of white sugar for ½ cup honey.
  5. Coconut Palm Sugar Boiled and dehydrated from the sap of the coconut palm, coconut palm sugar is mostly sucrose (a much smaller percentage is fructose – around 10%), which is beneficial. You want to keep your fructose intake low and for comparison purposes, white sugar is 50% fructose. I love using coconut palm sugar because again, it’s an easy 1:1 swap in recipes.

The absolute worst sugar choices are Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or Glucose/Fructose, which consists of industrially treated, genetically modified cornstarch that has been converted into sugar.

The process is very inexpensive but uses huge amounts of energy to produce. There are extreme health risks associated with HFCS that come from its conversion to triglycerides or circulating fats in the blood. Blood triglycerides are stored as fat, which increases the size of fat cells, causing weight gain and is associated with diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It’s hard to avoid unless you’re diligent about reading labels.

Next time you’re baking, buying something sweet, or reaching for traditional white sugar, ask yourself which of these alternatives you could use more of to sweeten your food in a healthy way.

Stephanie Wharton is a Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and part of the Lending Hearts Up Street team. You can learn more about her at www.thewellsideoflife.com