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5 Sugar Alternatives to Use in Beverages, Recipes, and Baking

Sugar is one of the most common foods we encounter in daily life. It’s provided in little packets at the coffee shop, contained in the sweet treats we feel guilty eating, and used in countless recipes for cooking and baking. However, sugar has many negative effects on health, including putting the body at risk of diabetes, obesity risks, tooth decay, attention problems, and sleepless nights. Many people consume far more sugar than their bodies truly need or can handle, but there are healthier ways to sweeten foods without all the unwanted side effects.

Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via Flickr

Here are five sugar alternatives to try for your favorite beverages, recipes, and baking.

1. Xylitol

A great sugar alternative that we use in some of our homeopathic remedies is xylitol. This is a sugar alcohol that is about as sweet as sugar and is found in natural fruits and vegetables. However, it has fewer calories than sugar, does not raise insulin levels, and has zero fructose. Xylitol has also been studied for its potential benefits to reduce tooth decay and help the body absorb calcium more effectively. Consume xylitol in moderation until you know if it affects your digestion.

2. Stevia

Stevia is a popular natural sweetener that does not have any calories, making it a popular choice for people watching their weight. There are very few reported side effects of stevia, and it has actually shown to reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure in certain research subjects. Another benefit of stevia is that it is much sweeter than pure sugar, which means you can use less of it.

3. Yacon Syrup

There’s a plant called yacon that grows in South America that you can extract syrup from to use as a sweetener. It looks and tastes a bit like molasses but is healthier than molasses because it contains a type of sugar molecule known as fructooligosaccharides. When you sweeten foods or beverages with yacon syrup, you may also notice a reduced appetite because of its natural properties.

Photo credit: Kurtis Garbutt via Flickr

4. Honey

Honey is a familiar and easily accessible sweetener that contains lots of healthy antioxidants. Raw, unprocessed honey also contains iron and B vitamins. Locally produced honey is sweet and satisfying, and research shows that it is less harmful to a person’s metabolism and blood sugar levels than pure sugar. It’s great for boosting the immune system, but it is not necessarily a low-calorie food.

5. Coconut Sugar

If you enjoy cooking and baking, then coconut sugar is the healthy and natural alternative you’ve been looking for. This type of sugar is made from sap of coconut palm tree flower buds and is low on the glycemic index. Because of its neutral flavor, it’s an ideal choice for baking. Just be aware that coconut sugar typically has a similar number of calories as standard sugar, so it’s not the most effective swap if your goal is weight loss.

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