There are so many natural sweeteners out there these days. What are all these sweets and how can you use them? First of all, start by avoiding the artificial sweeteners like the plague. These are toxic and acidic substances and there is now enough evidence that the zero calorie sweetener aspartame (banned in Europe!) can actually contribute to weight gain.
1. Coconut Sugar - Produced from the sweet juices of coconut palm sugar blossoms, this sweetener has long been a staple in South East Asia. This is certainly not an empty calorie! It is actually high in minerals and compared to brown sugar, Coconut Sugar has twice the iron, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc. It is also rich in enzymes, which helps slow down the absorption into the bloodstream. Combined with its low glycemic index (35 compared to sugar’s 68), this sweetener is not a bad choice at all. It is even considered to be the most sustainable sweetener in the world (got to love that!) You can use it as a sugar substitute 1:1 in cooking.
2. Stevia - This one really packs a punch – it’s 200 -300 times sweeter than sugar but with zero calories! Stevia is actually a green leaf (part of the chrysanthemum family) found in South America and it’s reassuring to know that it’s been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians in Paraguay. Stevia is not really a sugar at all and has been proven to not feed yeast (or candida) nor raise the blood sugar. The aftertaste can be a bit bitter and licorice-y and might take some getting used to. You can get stevia in liquid or powder form. The best alternative is off course the unprocessed crushed green leaves. I love stevia in tea and lemonade and even my breakfast porridge – a few drops or sprinkles is all it takes.
3. Date Sugar - This is a real, whole food full of dietary fiber which helps slow down the sugar absorption. Dates are also rich in antioxidants, iron, minerals and tannins. The Date Sugar is made from dehydrated, ground-up dates and is used as you would brown sugar. Just keep in mind – it does not dissolve in water so it’s best for baking or sprinkling. For a great smoothies – just throw a date or two in the blender with some raw cocoa and almond milk and call it the day!
4. Raw Honey - The original cave man sweetener! With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients. Raw, unprocessed honey could even be considered a super food! And yes, make sure to get the raw kind – there’s no benefits left in the processed honey.
5. Agave - A sweet, luxurious syrup made from the agave plant (yep – same as tequila!) Still, this is a highly processed syrup and because it’s high in fructose (just like high fructose corn syrup) which has been linked to raised triglycerides, fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and more belly fat many health exerts now advice against using it. So, although it doesn’t raise the blood sugar level as much as regular sugar does -- use it sparingly and as a treat now and then.
6. Erythritol - This is a non-digestible sugar alcohol made by fermenting the sugar in non-genetically modified corn. It has zero glycemic index, meaning it does not impact the blood sugar at all. The jury is still out on the healthfulness of this specific sugar alcohol. It is reported that it can ferment in the intestines and therefore cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Yikes! Try it and see how it goes but use sparingly, if at all!
7. Xylitol - This is also a natural sugar alcohol found in the fibers of vegetables and fruits. It tastes very much like sugar but has a very low impact on the blood sugar. Plums are very high in xylitol and also have low impact on our blood sugar. Although it is said to possibly cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption, it is redeemed safe. In fact – it can possibly be used to treat ear infections, osteoporosis, respiratory infections and candida. Xylitol has even been found to inhibit oral bacteria, so you often find it in mints and chewing gums.