Over 100 million Americans suffer today with diabetes or prediabetes. Added and processed sugar in our diets can cause an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, acne and a host of other dire health hits. Sugar is also known to break down the immune system and can invite bad bacteria to grow in the body. Natural sweeteners are a better alternative to white table sugar, but should also be used sparingly.
Born of a plant native to Brazil and Paraguay but now also harvested in China and Japan, stevia, derived from the leaves of the steviol glycoside plant, has been used to sweeten tea since the 16th century. It is much sweeter than table sugar and boasts zero calories, making it a top choice for those striving to lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Moderation is key, however, as too much can produce a bitter taste.
Naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, and even the human body, this sugar alcohol is an excellent alternative sweetener with about half the calories of sugar and a low glycemic index. Presented in powder form, evidence shows that xylitol improves metabolic health. Use sparingly, as too much can act as a highly effective laxative.
Fewer calories than honey, agave, or sugar, pure maple syrup will give the immune system and metabolism a boost with essential nutrients like manganese, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Be careful, though, as maple syrup can raise blood sugar levels.
Requiring far less processing and no chemicals, sucanat is derived from natural cane sugar and offers a deep, rich flavor. Remember to check a conversion chart when substituting as it will not be a 1:1 ratio.
Offering phytonutrients which are responsible for antioxidant and antibacterial properties and a healthy glycemic index, raw honey is a favorite all-natural sweetener.
Iron, zinc, calcium, inulin, and antioxidants are a few perks to this table sugar alternative.
Another sweet contender with a low glycemic index, agave nectar is a favorite of strict vegans and variety seekers alike.
All sweeteners should be used sparingly and, whenever possible, we should get our sugar naturally occurring in fruits. Why? Fruit is laden with fiber, critical for regulating our blood sugar levels.