Consuming large amounts of refined sugar can have several negative effects on your health. Instead of turning to artificial sweeteners made from chemicals, give one of these six natural sweeteners a try.
Dangers of Too Much Sugar
Anyone with even the mildest sweet tooth knows sugar can be addicting. White, refined sugar can be found in a lot of processed foods, not just candy, making them hard to resist. But consuming too much white sugar can negatively impact your health in many ways, such as:
If you're concerned you're consuming too much sugar and are interested in finding a new way to satisfy your cravings for something sweet, consider a natural sweetener.
The Best Six Natural Sweeteners
A truly natural sweetener doesn't come from a test tube. These are our favorite natural, chemical-free sweeteners:
1. Stevia -- Produced from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana), stevia is up to 400 times as sweet as sugar and without any calories. Stevia gets its sweetness from compounds called glycosides and has been used for centuries to sweeten foods and drinks in South America. Sprinkle it on fresh fruit that is too sour or use it for baking -- just follow substitution ratios carefully.
2. Agave Syrup -- The syrup, or nectar of the agave plant has a texture thicker than water but thinner than honey, allowing it to dissolve well when added to liquids (even cold ones). It's also sweeter than honey and white sugar. Mix agave syrup into your iced tea or lemonade.
3. Raw Honey -- What makes honey raw? Truly raw honey hasn't been filtered or pasteurized and has undergone limited processing. This honey is thick, solid and opaque at room temperature, but can be easily spread on bread or mixed into hot tea. Best of all, raw honey has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
4. Xylitol -- With up to 40 percent fewer calories than white sugar, xylitol makes a great substitute in recipes that call for granulated sugar. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol produced from tree bark that has also been shown to help prevent plaque formation on the teeth and doesn't impact blood glucose like white sugar does.
5. Maple Syrup -- Taken from trees, maple syrup is probably the natural sweetener you're most familiar with. Just make sure to look for pure maple syrup. In addition to topping whole grain pancakes or waffles with it, you can add maple syrup to smoothies for added sweetness.
6. Turbinado Sugar -- If you're going to use "regular sugar," make it turbinado, which is produced from sugar cane. Turbinado is effectively raw sugar that has been cleaned, but doesn't contain any artificial ingredients. The granules won't be uniform in size and the color is brown.
More Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings
If you find yourself reaching for sugary treats throughout the day, consider these tips to help you cut back:
Have a glass of green juice in the morning.
Make sure your meals contain plenty of fiber and whole grains, which help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes.
Drink plenty of water, especially when you think you want candy or something less healthy -- you may just be thirsty.
Enjoy fresh fruit at the end of meals as dessert to start training taste buds to enjoy something naturally sweet.
Drink a cup of rooibos tea after meals, which is naturally sweet.
You can find these six natural sweeteners and more at eVitamins. Let us know which is your favorite!
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