Sugar has become one of the most infamous ingredients in our diet. It is used in unexpected products like peanut butter, yoghurt, ketchup, BBQ sauce and so many more and has become an important part of our diet and lives. Diseases like diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease are linked with consumption of excessive amounts of sugar.
Why You Should Avoid Eating Sugar
Reasons why sugar is bad for you:
- Sugar increases the appetite and leads to weight gain and obesity
- Obesity, high triglyceride, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and inflammation are all a result of consuming too much sugar in your diet, and they increase the risk of developing heart disease
- Increases the risk of diabetes
- Studies have shown that it increases the risk of cancer
- High levels of blood sugar can cause damage to the kidneys
Best Alternatives to Cut Sugar From Your Diet
Since sugar is bad for health, you may want to substitute it with a healthier option. Some of the best alternatives for sugar that you can add to your diet are:
1. Birch Sugar
Birch sugar is also known as Xylitol and is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables such as cauliflowers, plums and berries.
It has 40% fewer calories than added or refined sugar and does not cause high blood sugar levels. It doesn’t cause cavities and is as sweet as regular sugar.
Eating too much of it can lead to severe diarrhoea and flatulence.
How To Use
Birch sugar can be used as a substitute for regular sugar and can be used in the same way.
Honey is made by bees and is one of the oldest and most natural sweeteners in the world.
Honey has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties are used in natural medicine as a healing agent.
Honey contains almost the same amount of calories as white sugar, though it is not as sweet. For diabetics, honey is not much help as it can cause the same impact on blood sugar levels as sugar does.
How To Use
Honey can be used with ginger if you want to try fighting off a cold and it can be used in tea, coffee and in normal cooking or baking.
Stevia is a type of sugar that is extracted from a shrub from South America that is known as Stevia Rebaudiana.
Stevia does not cause weight gain as it doesn’t have any calories and has some health benefits that can lower blood pressure. It is also able to lower insulin levels and can lower blood sugar, making it great for fighting diabetes.
It is more expensive than other types of sweeteners and can produce gas, bloating and nausea. It also has a bitter after taste.
How To Use
Stevia can be used as a substitute for regular sugar, but since it is about 200 times stronger than regular sugar, it should be used in moderation.
4. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is also called Agave syrup and is produced from the juice of the agave plant that is found in Mexico.
Agave nectar is rich in minerals, vitamins, metabolites and is more soluble than honey. It is also vegan-friendly.
It has almost the same amount of calories as sugar does. It is also high in fructose which means that it has a bigger chance of increasing the fat level in the blood, causing resistance to insulin and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and causes fatty liver.
How To Use
It can be used in drinks and in food to substitute regular sugar.
5. Coconut Sugar
Nectar from the flower buds that grow on coconut palms is used to make coconut sugar.
Rich in many minerals and vitamins, it tastes like caramel, and it has the same amount of sweetness as regular sugar.
It is very high in fructose and should be used with caution by those who have diabetes.
How To Use
Coconut sugar can be used for food and baking.
6. Maple Syrup
Maple Syrup is extracted from the maple tree and is sometimes called liquid gold.
Maple syrup contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and also contains potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, so it is much healthier than regular sugar.
Maple syrup is not as sweet as refined sugar, and so if you want to reach the same amount of sweetness, you will need to use a lot more.
How To Use
Maple syrup can be used as an alternative sugar in tea and can be used as a topping for pancakes, French toast and waffles.
7. Yacon Syrup
Extracted from the yacon plant, it is sweet, dark and thick.
Yacon syrup helps reduce hunger which helps you eat less. The hungry bacteria feed on it in your gut, which is important for overall health.
Excessive consumption of yacon syrup is bad for you as it can cause diarrhoea, gas and discomfort in the digestive tract.
How To Use
It cannot be cooked with or baked with, but it can be used as a sweetener for tea or coffee.
This thick, brown and sweet liquid and is made by boiling sugar beet or sugar cane juices.
It contains vitamins, antioxidants and minerals in a higher consistency than both maple syrup and honey. It supports heart health and bone health and can also be helpful in regulating blood sugar.
It still contains high levels of sugar and should be consumed with caution.
How To Use
Molasses can be used in baking and in recipes where brown sugar is called for. It is an alternative for honey or maple syrup.
9. Date Sugar
Date sugar is made of dried dates that are ground up. They look very similar to brown granulated sugar.
It constitutes potassium, Vitamin B, fibre, and iron which our bodies need. Since it is made with dates, which is so good for health, it is a healthy source of sugar.
Dates can cause diarrhoea to get worse, it can also cause skin rashes, asthma attacks in some people since it is a cause of allergies and can cause weight gain. Since whole dates are used in the making of the sugar, it does not dissolve completely in hot beverages or in baked goods. It has a higher price than other sugars. It can also raise levels of blood sugar.
How To Use
Date sugar can be used as a substitute for brown sugar and as a rub for meat dishes, as a topping for muffins, in oatmeal and baking.
10. Monk Fruit Extract
Monk fruit extract is a great alternative to sweeteners and is great for health as it contains no carbohydrates, calories, sodium and fat.
Monk fruit extracts do not impact levels of blood sugar, is great for people who are trying to lose weight.
Since monk fruits are difficult to grow and they are expensive to have imported. It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste for some people and is not as easy to find as the other sweeteners.
How To Use
They are used in jellies, jams, dairy products, frostings, fruit spreads, salad dressings and as flavour enhancers.
Which Sugar Alternatives Are Healthy for Babies and Kids?
Here are some alternatives to sugar that are healthy for babies and kids:
- Coconut sugar
- Monk Fruit
- Date sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
Alternative Sweeteners That Are More Harmful Than Sugar
Here are some artificial sweeteners that are more harmful than sugar:
- Birch sugar
- Agave Nectar
- Corn syrup
How to Reduce Eating Sugar?
Here are some ways that you can cut down on consuming too much sugar:
- Start cutting down on drinks that have sugar in the ingredients. Sodas, packaged juice, energy drinks and others have sugar in them. So have water, teas and fresh fruit juices instead.
- Avoid desserts that are filled with sugar and opt for fresh fruits, baked fruits and cream, dates, dark chocolate and yoghurt with fruit and cinnamon.
- Sauces like ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, barbeque sauce and others have sugar as one of their ingredients. If you are looking for ways to flavour your food, you should cut back on these sauces and opt for other ways like with fresh herbs, mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise and others.
- Opt for full fat rather than low-fat foods because low-fat options usually contain more sugar.
- Eat whole foods rather than processed foods as they have low or no sugar in them.
- Avoid breakfast foods that require sugar like pancakes and French toast.
- Read labels of any food you buy to check for sugar content.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
1. What is the Safest Sugar Substitute?
The best way to substitute sugar is to use fruit in as many things as you can. For example, you can use bananas and strawberries to sweeten your oats, add vanilla to cocoa or coffee and more. If you are looking for an artificial sweetener, you can opt for stevia.
2. Are There Any Side Effects of Using Sugar Alternatives?
Some of the side effects that using alternative sugar are that they cause dizziness, headaches, mood changes, diarrhea, painful gas, bloating, inflammation and nausea.
3. What is the Best Sugar Substitute for Baking?
Date sugar, coconut sugar, jaggery and maple syrup are some of the common and best substitutes for sugar to use in baking.
4. Can You Make Cake Without Sugar?
It is possible to bake cakes without sugar, but you will need to use an alternative sugar like maple syrup or honey. However, they have a bit of water content, so you will need to adjust the liquid content somewhere else in the cake.
While there are some benefits to alternative sugar, it is really best to avoid it in your diet on a regular basis as too much consumption of sugar can lead to many health issues in the future.