6 Sugar Alternatives to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

by Lentine Alexis
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6 Sugar Alternatives to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Craving sweet flavors is an evolutionary behavior that, prior to modern times, kept humans away from harmful plants and toxins. Our sweet cravings haven’t evolved much, so it’s natural to like sweet flavors because our bodies need natural sugars to complete certain biological processes.

What isn’t natural is the way highly processed sugars such as granulated sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have popped up in foods where we don’t expect them like breakfast cereals, dairy products, salad dressings and nut-butter spreads. These sugars are highly processed and have been zapped of nutrients during refinement.

Luckily, there are a variety of foods that contain natural, unprocessed sugars you can enjoy — we like to call them our sweet saviours.

1. RAW HONEY

This is honey from flowers that still contains healthful vitamins A, C, D, E and K, various B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium and live enzymes that are removed when honey is heated, filtered and processed.

Raw honey is also rich with bifidobacteria, a group of bacteria associated with digestive and immune health. An effective probiotic, raw honey stimulates bifidobacteria growth in the intestine and aids in digestive health. Allergy-free gardening expert Thomas Ogren suggests that the trace amounts of bee pollen in local raw honey may reduce allergy symptoms by providing small doses of regional allergens, potentially boosting immune health.

How to enjoy: Stir it into hot cereals, mix a teaspoon into a lemon juice-based salad dressing or enjoy a small drizzle with yogurt for a sweet dessert. Since honey is more concentrated in both calories and sugar content than granulated sugar, a little goes a long way.

2. MAPLE SYRUP

Similar to honey, maple syrup contains antioxidants, vitamins and phytonutrients not found in refined sugar. Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees and also contains trace minerals absorbed from the ground by the trees.

How to enjoy: Similar to honey, you can drizzle maple syrup on your hot cereal, in salad dressings or on yogurt. You can also use maple syrup in your baked goods instead of conventional granulated sugar — just reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe.

3. DARK CHOCOLATE

Not all chocolate bars are created equal, and dark chocolate — containing more than  70% cacao — has a higher quantity of superpowered cacao than chocolate bars, which contain more milk and sugar. The cacao portion of a chocolate bar is made by grinding the nibs in cacao beans. The nibs are are dried, then fermented and ground for making chocolate. The percentages you see on a chocolate bar wrapper are indicative of how much cacao is in each bar out of 100% by weight. So, if you read 45% on the bar, it means the bar is 55% milk and sugar and only 45% cacao. But a 75% bar contains only 25% milk and sugar, making it a lower-sugar choice. A bar that reads 100% would be made entirely of cacao nibs and cacao butter without added refined sugar or milk solids.

Many associate the word chocolate with something unhealthy, but this isn’t always the case. The nibs are considered a superfood because they contain high amounts of antioxidants, healthy fats, polyphenols and trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulphur, zinc, iron and potassium.

How to enjoy: Look for bars of 65–85% for the highest nutritional value and least amount of sugar in your chocolate bars.

4. COCONUT PALM SUGAR

Similar to the way that maple syrup is harvested, coconut palm sugar is made by harvesting the sap of a coconut plant. Then, the sap is dried to evaporate the liquid out,  leaving the natural sugar crystals behind. Coconut palm sugar is lower on the glycemic index than both honey and maple syrup and is a great substitute for granulated sugar in baking recipes.

How to enjoy: There are occasions — for instance, in baking — where granulated sugar is required. In those instances, generally a one-for-one substitution of coconut palm sugar is a natural alternative to processed granulated sugar.


READ MORE > WHY ATHLETES NEED SALT AND SUGAR


5. DRIED FRUIT

Dried blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, dates — even kiwi and mango — are all great options when you’re reaching for something sweet. Dried fruits are made by evaporating the juices out of fresh fruit, leaving concentrated flavors and natural, unprocessed fruit sugars behind. But be warned that in addition to being a concentrated source of flavor, dried fruit is also concentrated in calories, so once again, a little goes a long way. Some dried fruits are rolled or dried in sugar or sweeteners so always purchase the unsweetened variety.

How to enjoy: Try sprinkling a few tablespoons of dried fruit on your salads or cereal, or snacking on a few of dates when your sweet cravings hit.

6. FRESH FRUIT

Fresh fruit has the added bonus of a higher water content so it’ll fill you up faster and the natural fiber will keep you full for longer than dried fruit. Eating ripe, fresh fruit is a wonderful, healthful way to sate your sugar cravings. Not only do the natural sugars in the fruit taste delicious, the nutrients, vitamins and minerals in each piece of fruit fuel your body, the juice refreshes you and the fiber keeps you full and satisfied.

How to enjoy: Try eating a range of colored fruits for the most variety and highest nutritional value and stick to what’s in season for the best taste. Apples will be the most flavorful in the fall, while strawberries will be bursting with sweetness in the spring.

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  • JofJLTNCB6

    Sugar, by any other name, tastes just as sweet.

  • Margaret Owens Floeter

    Wow, four out of the six are still sugar and just as bad for you. It doesn’t matter if they’re natural…the effects in your body are EXACTLY the same as if you were eating spoonfuls of white sugar.

    • KnowingOneify .

      You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! Our bodies DO NOT differentiate the source of SUGAR – our bodies treat ALL SUGAR THE SAME which causes our bodies to produce high amounts of insulin and we’re well on our way to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance!!!
      What fun!!!

    • Carl Rodabaugh

      4/6? Which ones did you leave out? The only one I saw that wasn’t sugar was the dark chocolate.

    • Donna Brassea Ransdell

      If you are type 2 diabetic, don’t touch any of those. Try the artificial sweeteners, if the chemicals don’t bother you and you don’t mind — Stevia, Splenda, Xylitol — but even those have their drawbacks. Even fruits can be a problem for many T2D folks. Best to keep sweets to the minimum.

  • LCook

    No, not all sugar is created equal and metabolized by the body in the same way. For a very thorough explanation of how sugar affects the body and how very bad it is for one, read “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes.
    Refined cane sugar is about 50/50 glucose and fructose. Glucose is metabolized by the blood, which causes a release of insulin to make it available to the muscles, other tissues and brain. The brain uses glucose for fuel. If the body produces more glucose than it can use or is unable to use, then it is stored as fat.
    Raw &/or natural sweeteners are fructose. There are relatively small amounts of fructose in natural sweeteners (check the glycemic index). Fructose is metabolized by the liver, where excess is stored as fat in the liver and can lead to fatty liver disease if one consumes far too much. High fructose corn syrup has extreme amounts of fructose.
    Sugar is the likely culprit in heart disease, diabetes, cancers, dementia, ADHD, some mental illnesses including depression, and is awful for one’s skin, hair, fingernails and general health, not to mention teeth. Do you know tobacco in cigarettes is 50% sugar? Otherwise users could not inhale tobacco.
    Cane sugar triggers the pleasure centers of the brain that is why it is addictive. It also causes a sugar rush and the sugar blues on the downside. I stopped eating sugar a few months ago and now I cannot tolerate it at all. I eat natural sweeteners and can easily limit my intake, because I do not get the sugar rush, and the affects on the brain. I make a few limited treats without any sugar. Applesauce and mashed bananas are good sugar substitutes as is stevia (pure, no dextrose).
    The sugar industry pays organizations, researchers, and individuals to spread the fallacies about cane sugar and natural sweeteners. Do not believe them. Read the book.

    • Jason Collins
    • Gary Brown

      Read sugar crush by Dr Jacoby. It really opened my eyes to all the harmful effects of sugar. I have been following the ketogenic eating plan since Nov 19. I feel great. I wish I could have been following this plan for 30 yrs. I would be so much healthier.

  • Hank

    Just started the program. I am looking to lose at least 70-80 pounds. Sugar intake is a problem I have. I know there subsitutes.

  • Alan J Krawitz

    I think some of you missed the point of the writer including raw honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar….Yes, they’re all still sugars but these versions have nutritional values and varied levels of antioxidants not found in regular white, granulated sugars, which are stripped of their nutrients. She said to still be mindful of how much you consume…use them sparingly…but they’re still sugars! People need to read and comprehend a bit more carefully!! Again, the article points out that eating dried and fresh fruits and dark chocolate are good alternatives to indulging in really bad sweets, i.e. donuts, cakes, cookies, etc.

    • Jason Collins

      Exactly. Our brain will always register sugar as sugar, whether it’s natural, aspartame or any other substitute. It is the fact that we would be eating natural sugars, our bodies will benefit far more in the long run.
      One other pint I’d like to point out, I’m sure I missed it, is everything in moderation. Our bodies need sugar, and salt. A banana(potassium) helps balance out our salt intake.
      Lastly, if you like a particular sugar and you’re doing fine, then so be it. There’s hundreds, no, thousands of studies about his and that. Live life as healthy as you can.
      Have a GREAT day!

      • Gary Brown

        There are only 2 sugar substitutes that I know of that will not trigger insulin release into your blood. Erthitol and stevia. All other “natural sugars” do. Honey is 3 times sweeter then table sugar. Sugar is toxic to the body. Even in moderation. It is not needed. Your body will convert foods to glucose naturally.

  • rearnd

    I wonder why the writer didn’t include the Stevia Extract and Monk Fruit Extract.

  • sillycomment

    I have been exploring the concept of trying glucose-only sugars. I was drinking 10 calorie Rockstar energy drinks with glucose in them. But they have some chemicals in them, partially for artificial flavor. So I have been trying to find dextrose which is 2 glucose molecules bonded together. Supposedly, your body can break it down easier. From what I read, fructose is mostly broken down in the liver and it makes you have a fatty liver as if you were an alcoholic. I think they also get converted into triglycerides. My triglycerides were off the chart. I think glucose also gets converted into triglycerides eventually, unless you exercise enough to burn it all off. So either way, I have to reduce my consumption of sugar. One thing I’ve been playing with is eating potatoes, which have starch. But I haven’t figured out how to eat them in a healthy way yet. I use butter.

    • chalkmonkey

      What’s wrong with butter? Get some grass fed butter like kerygold. Fat is very satiating. You may feel less hungry if you eat a bit of healthy fat. If you’re dead set against it, try using plain greek yogurt, full fat, in place of sour cream.

  • Finley Lyons

    sugar is sugar, right ? , your body cannot separate, it is the enemy of weight loss.