It’s estimated that the average American consumes 200 lbs. of sugar each year! In my unhealthier eating days, I was likely an “above average” American when it came to sugar! I was addicted to anything sugary and full of refined carbohydrates (the processed flours that essentially have the same effect on your body as sugar). This kind of eating wreaked havoc on my blood sugar and my skin.
Sugar is linked to numerous health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It’s also responsible for increasing inflammation in the body, which causes problems such as arthritis, weight gain, and acne.
One of the top ways that Americans consume this sugar is through sweetened soda drinks. One small 12 oz. can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Can you imagine measuring out 10 teaspoons of sugar into any drink? And yet many people mindlessly consume several soft drinks every day. Perhaps you’re like I was, thinking that I would do the healthy thing and drink diet soft drinks instead. But then I discovered that diet drinks are just as bad if not worse.
Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose are commonly used in diet drinks as a replacement for sugar. These artificial sweeteners, however, turn into dangerous, toxic chemicals in our body, and numerous studies have linked them to cancer and neurotoxicity (meaning they kill brain cells!). Studies also show that they actually increase our appetites and lead to weight gain. Not exactly the benefits we were hoping for by drinking diet instead of regular soft drinks!
So, how can we enjoy the sweet life without packing on the pounds and consuming artificial, dangerous ingredients? These were the questions I asked as I changed my diet and began studying safer, more delicious alternatives. Here are some of my favorite, well-researched, natural sweeteners that can bring health and happiness back into your diet:
- Stevia– This is an herb from South America that has been used for centuries to naturally sweeten food. The sweetener you can purchase in the store is made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has no calories, no carbs, and zero glycemic index. Unlike artificial sweeteners manufactured in a plant, stevia is a sweetener that is a plant. Numerous studies have been conducted attesting to stevia’s safety and health benefits. My favorite brand is SweetLeaf. I think it has the best taste of any brand, and they also do not include other ingredients, like erythritol (which is a sugar alcohol that can cause digestive issues), as other companies do. They even have a cola flavored stevia that you can simply add to sparkling water for a sugar free, calorie free soft drink. There’s also a hazelnut flavor that I enjoy using in my morning coffee. This is the sweetener to use if you’re looking to completely cut sugar out of your diet, lose weight, and still safely enjoy sweetness in your life.
- Organic Coconut Sugar– The coconut is an amazing fruit, boasting numerous health benefits. From coconut milk to coconut oil, just about every part of this plant can be consumed with health benefits. Coconut palm sugar is made by drying the sweet nectar from the coconut palm flower in a large kettle. It has a delicious, caramel-like flavor similar to brown sugar. It is low glycemic and full of B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, and amino acids. In recipes, sugar can be replaced cup for cup with coconut palm sugar. I love to use it in my cookie and bar recipes.
- Maple Syrup– Similar to coconut palm sugar, maple syrup is full of vitamins and minerals. I recommend using Grade B whenever you can find it as it’s less processed and contains more of those vitamins and minerals than Grade A. Maple syrup is a bit higher on the glycemic index, so use in moderation if you’re looking to lose weight. But it is still a much healthier option than white sugar.
Upgrading to healthy, natural sweeteners is a powerful investment you can make in your health. Your body will thank you for it! In our next post, we’ll use one of these healthy, happy sweeteners in my Slimming Spritzer!