It might be time to swap sugar for natural alternatives
If resolutions like increased exercise and healthy eating are on your calendar for the year, you are likely looking to reduce the number of sweet treats in your diet—especially those made with refined sugar.
Refined sugar can seriously mess with your health. High sugar intake has been linked to a wide range of health conditions such as diabetes, tooth decay, malnutrition, high triglyceride levels, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
It can be really challenging to up and quit sugar cold turkey. So, ease your way into a life without refined sugar by using natural sweeteners. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied with any one of these ingredients…
Five natural sweeteners to use instead of refined sugar
Unsweetened apple sauce is a great sweetener that works well when baking muffins, cupcakes, and cookies. It helps to moisten the baked goods, and can also be used as a substitute for butter or oil. A 1:1 replacement ratio for sugar can be used, but you will need to reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup.
This unrefined sugar retains contains more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, and doesn’t lead to fluctuations in blood sugar. It can be used as a 1:1 replacement for white or brown sugar, but it can be very coarse. When using it for baked goods, or in place of powdered sugar, give it a spin in a blender or food processor first.
Naturally sweet, full of fiber, and incredibly versatile, dates are a great sugar substitute. They can be used in smoothies, energy balls, marinades, and salad dressings. They can also be blended into a paste and used for baking. Date paste can substitute 1 cup of sugar in any recipe. Simply blend 1 cup of pitted dates with 1/2 – 1 cup hot water in a blender or food processor to create a thick paste.
This natural alternative is sweet and healthy with benefits that include antibacterial properties and anti-inflammatory effects. From smoothies and sauces to marinades and salad dressings, honey tastes great in just about anything. It is sweeter than sugar, so substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar. It’s also important to remove a 1/4 cup of the other liquids required in the recipe.
Besides having that wonderful maple taste, maple syrup contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While those amounts tend to be on the smaller side for a typical serving size, it does pack a solid amount of the mineral manganese. Manganese helps produce collagen and promotes skin and bone health. When using maple syrup in place of white sugar, it’s sweet meter will have you using less. Typically, when a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sugar (4 tablespoons) only use three tablespoons of maple syrup.
Besides swapping out white and brown sugar for natural substitutes, here are some other ways to reduce the amount of sugar in your daily diet:
- Use sugar free preserves to sweeten plain yogurt instead of eating sugary fruit yogurt.
- Enjoy fresh, healthy fruits instead of a sweetened, processed dessert.
- Put slices of fruit on your cereal instead of sugar, and avoid buying sweetened cereals.
- Nibble on a piece or two of high-quality (dark) chocolate rather than a processed chocolate bar.
- Choose dried fruit or trail mix instead of candy.
- Buy unsweetened applesauce, nut butters, non-dairy milk, and other products that hide all the added sugar.
- Add a kick of flavour (and the illusion of sweetness) to tea, coffee, and even oatmeal with vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices instead of adding refined sugar or natural sweeteners.