Getting rid of a bad habit is only half of the journey for optimal health: to reach a peak state of body, mind, and performance the best way is to replace a bad habit for a good one.
In our last article, we’ve discussed the life-shattering effects on sugar on your health, now it’s time to offer a bunch of safe alternatives. Satisfying your sweet tooth, avoiding table sugar, AND getting healthier one bite at a time – with these 5 wonders, this is absolutely real.
Top 5 healthy sugar substitutes
1. Raw Honey
Surprisingly, one of the first natural sweeteners discovered by man is also among the healthiest of them all. Raw honey is a rich source of minerals (potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, and selenium), vitamins (folate, vitamin C, niacin), antioxidants, and organic compounds that define its powerful impact on our health and explain why honey has been used for millennia to treat all sorts of conditions. For instance, bee honey has confirmed antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Additionally, honey has a fairly low glycemic index (GI, 55) compared to table sugar (68), meaning that it’s much safer for your blood glucose levels and risk of developing diabetes.
However, keep in mind that honey is made of 28 to 41% fructose (for comparison, table sugar is 50% fructose) and thus isn’t absolutely safe – eat sparingly to avoid liver damage. Last but not least, aim for raw or pure honey, preferably bought from a beekeeper you personally know – commercial “honey” are often heavily processed and thus have little to no health benefits.
Just so you know, raisins have a pretty high glycemic index (68, just like table sugar) so they’re not absolutely safe for your blood glucose. However, if your usual sugar is absolutely devoid of any health benefits whatsoever, raisins are heavily packed with them:
- Oleanolic acid and oleanolic aldehyde, two major components of raisins, effectively fight back oral pathogens thus decreasing the risk of gum disease and dental cavities.
- Some human studies indicate that raisins can help you keep hunger at bay by keeping your leptin and ghrelin (the hormones of satiety and hunger respectively) levels in balance.
- Due to their high polyphenol content raisins effectively decrease blood cholesterol levels, inhibit inflammatory factors, and may, therefore, prevent arterial plaque and reduce cardiovascular risk.
Also, raisins make an excellent healthy snack to carry with you for those cases when the sugar cravings strike you all of a sudden. The high GI guarantees quick relief while the additional health benefits ensure you’re still on the “good” path.
Dates are generally less popular than raisins or apricots when it comes to dry fruit, but the benefits they can provide you are by no means inferior. First of all, they are a great source of vitamin A, B6, K, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, dietary fibers, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese… Quite the list, isn’t it?
And if that’s not enough of a reason to start eating dates instead of sugar, here are a few extra arguments:
- The phenols present in dates lower blood cholesterol and prevent arterial plaque (atherosclerosis).
- Animal studies indicate that dates improve bowel movement and may relieve constipation, possibly due to their low content of fibers.
- Several studies indicate that the compounds found in dates could have anti-tumor and anti-diabetic properties, but further researches are needed to be sure.
By the way, the GI of dates is usually considered to be as high as 38 to 55 depending on how dry the dates are (raw dates are the worst).
There’s a good reason why stevia is among the most well-known and widely used sweeteners worldwide. Its active compounds, steviol glycosides, are 150 times sweeter than sugar – without ANY glucose or fructose whatsoever. Zero sugar, zero calories, fantastic sweetness – that’s all stevia for you.
In fact, studies indicate that stevia has certain hypoglycemic (blood sugar-lowering) effects and could even enhance the function of pancreatic beta-cells, making this sweetener perfect for diabetics. Moreover, stevioside, one of the stevia’s main active constituents, could even help you to lower blood pressure and decrease fasting blood glucose.
5. Maple syrup
Maple syrup is slightly better in terms of GI than raw honey (54 vs 55 respectively), and it’s also packed with all sorts of nutrients – mainly potassium, calcium, manganese and zinc. But that’s not exactly why this delicious sweetener is on this list: it’s for the additional benefits. Just picture this:
- Recent studies indicate that maple syrup can slow down the growth and invasion of colorectal cancer and gastrointestinal cancer.
- The polyphenols present in the syrup can increase the effectiveness of such antibiotics as carbenicillin and ciprofloxacin, allowing to achieve great results with a lower dose of the drugs.
- Animal studies suggest that maple syrup could help in preventing and fighting Alzheimer’s disease by alleviating inflammation in the nervous system and decreasing the formation of β-amyloid, the protein that’s primarily responsible for the condition.
Going sugar-free is a fabulous achievement – skyrocket it even further by including healthy sugar substitutes with extra benefits for you. Not only will this make the transition easier and much more pleasant but also help you to significantly boost many aspects of your general health.