Here's the good news -- there are plenty of alternatives to sweeten your food, without the liver crushing effect of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. In fact, many of these sweeteners actually have various health benefits and will help satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. Of course, like anything else, the details and source of these sweeteners is paramount, so pay attention so you can make the best choice for your sugar cravings.
Knowing the details on honey will make the difference between polluting your body and nourishing it. Research has revealed that most store-bought honey isn't really honey at all, as many of them do not contain any pollen and are jacked up with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). This is arguably as harmful, if not more so, to the body as refined sugar.
However, reputable companies have started to produce raw (unpasteurized) honey that contains its original and helpful nutrients such as antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. These nutrients can support digestion, healthy skin, and even oral health.
Manuka honey contains many of the same properties, but due to it's higher phytochemical activity, has been shown to be very supportive in treating certain infections. To be most effective, however, these honeys should not be put in scolding hot drinks, as it will kill off many of the beneficial enzymes and phytochemicals that carry the natural medicinal properties.
Maple syrup is quite simply the gathered sap of maple trees, which is then boiled, evaporated, or concentrated to increase the sugar concentration. The final product can contain up to two dozen antioxidants, and trace minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, and manganese. It also has a glycemic index of around 54, compared to 65 for pure cane sugar.
You'll want to make sure that you are getting pure maple syrup and it indicates that on the label and ingredients. For example, one of the most famous "maple syrups" on the market, Aunt Jemima's, is actually not maple syrup at all. A closer look at the labeling shows it only says "syrup" on the front of the bottle, with some delicious pancakes on the packaging, which are affectionately known for being doused in maple syrup.
A quick look at the ingredients not only confirms it's not maple syrup, but a toxic cluster of GMOs, artificial ingredients, and toxic preservatives. The "Original" line shows ingredients of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, natural and artificial flavor, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, and sodium hexametaphosphate.
So needless to say, choose your maple syrup with caution so you get the aforementioned benefits. You can't go wrong with the Health Ranger's Premium Organic Maple Syrup. You can use it in this raw Banana Cream Pie Recipe.
One of the newer sugars on the block, coconut sugar is derived from the sap of coconut tree flowers. It is minimally processed and very few if any chemicals are added to it, which leaves many of its minerals intact. It has a low glycemic score of 35 (refined sugar can reach the 90s), is rich in amino acids, b-vitamins, and trace minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
To make sure you get the authentic and pure version, get the Health Ranger's Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. You can use it easily as a sugar substitute for baking (like in these Coconut Brownies), or in hot beverages (like this Coconut Chaga Latte).
Also known as "luo han guo," this small green melon originally grown in southern China was named after the monks who discovered the fruit. Since it spoils soon after picking, its best used as a dried extract. It naturally contains almost no calories, has a negligible effect on blood sugar, contains no bitter aftertaste, and is high in a powerful antioxidant known as mogroside which is what makes it 300 times sweeter than cane sugar.
The rule with monk fruit extract is that a little goes a long way, so a pinch is usually all you need for most cases. Use it in tea, coffee, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or healthy desserts. Try the Health Ranger's Monk Fruit Extract Powder for an excellent source.
Stevia is an herb that grows in Brazil and Paraguay, but is now cultivated in many other regions as well. The leaves of this plant have been used as a sweetener for centuries, and it's 300 times sweeter than sucrose, which means a little goes a long way. It also contains many powerful antioxidants.
Many stevia products have been overly processed which can make it not nearly as desirable for health reasons. When sourcing a good stevia product, look for minimally processed green powders, or liquid stevia extracts with few if any additional ingredients.
Stevia can be used in smoothies, teas, yogurt, and more, but is not easily used in baking.
Lucuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. The flavor is often associated with caramel or butterscotch, and it can help satiate sugar cravings without damaging the body. It only contains 2 grams of natural fruit sugar for every 11 grams of carbohydrates, making it a low glycemic sweetener that can support healthy blood sugar levels.
Lucuma is also rich in minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Due to its high dietary fiber, it can also support healthy digestion and elimination.
Lucuma can be used in smoothies, baked goods, and even in ice cream. To get the most benefits, try the Health Ranger's 100% Organic Lucuma Powder.
As you can see, you clearly have many options for sweeteners without having to resort to refined sugars or artificial sweeteners. Hopefully this will encourage you to kick the toxic sugars to the curb, and bring some healthier alternatives into your home, especially for the holiday season.