Cutting down on refined sugar can be tough. Especially when you have a sweet tooth. However, given the detrimental effects of excessive consumption of refined sugar, it’s worth trying.
Fortunately, healthier sugar alternatives can help you satisfy your craving for sugar without bringing in the undesirable effects of refined sugar. Some of the healthy sugar alternatives found in nature are good for your health. So why not replace refined sugar with natural, low caloric, and healthier sugar alternatives?
This post looks at the top six healthiest sugar alternatives that are truly healthy and will also help you maintain better health.
1. Stevia Extracts
Stevia extracts are one of the most popular plant extracts with very few calories. This healthy sugar alternative is derived from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. The plant has been grown in South America for centuries and is known for its sweetness and medicinal properties.
If you look at the composition of this sweetener, since it comes from plant extracts, you can find several sweet compounds. Some of the main sweet compounds include stevioside and rebaudioside. Both these sweet compounds are much sweeter than sugar. So if you use stevia extract as a sweetener, know that you will have to use a much lesser quantity.
Surprisingly, despite being sweet, there are very few calories. Hence, it is a healthy sugar alternative especially for those who are trying to lose weight. Moreover, it’s also considered a healthy sugar alternative for people who have diabetes and can also help reduce blood pressure.
Stevia extracts are stable in heat so stevia can be used as a sugar alternative in cakes, pastries, and sauces.
While it comes with some amazing health benefits, one of the undesirable aspects of stevia extracts is the slight aftertaste that most people don’t like. When choosing stevia extracts as a sugar replacement, make sure you choose the right brand.
Another healthy sugar alternative is erythritol which is a sugar alcohol and is found in certain fruits. Like stevia extracts, erythritol has very few calories (around 6% calories that you can get from sugar) and brings in around 70% sugar sweetness.
Another similarity between stevia extracts and erythritol is the mild aftertaste that most people don’t enjoy. However, it comes with several health benefits. Unlike sugar, erythritol doesn’t affect the insulin levels in your blood significantly. Moreover, it also doesn’t affect the levels of blood fats (such as triglycerides and cholesterol). Furthermore, when you consume this healthy sugar alternative, your body absorbs it from the intestines and it is eventually excreted through your kidneys. Lastly, unlike sugar, the sugar alcohol is safe for your oral health, diabetes management and weight control.
However, when excessively consumed, erythritol can lead to digestive problems such as bloating and diarrhea.
Another sugar alcohol that is a healthy sugar alternative is xylitol. The sugar alternative contains lesser calories than sugar and is also less sweet compared to refined sugar. Moreover, it is known to protect your dental health against cavities and dental decay. Some preliminary research also indicates that the use of xylitol may also contribute to improved bone density and may also prevent osteoporosis.
Unlike refined sugar, the use of xylitol does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels however, similar to other sugar alcohol including erythritol, the use of xylitol may lead to digestive system side effects such as abdominal discomfort and diarrhea.
If you are planning to replace refined sugar with xylitol, don’t forget that this sugar alcohol can be toxic to dogs.
4. Yacon Syrup
A unique and healthy sugar alternative is the yacon syrup that comes from the yacon plant. The plant is native to South America and has recently gained popularity as a healthy sugar alternative. Yacon syrup is not just a sweetener that you can use instead of refined sugar, it’s a lot more than that. It can be used as a weight-loss supplement as it is rich in soluble fiber, a plant derivative that keeps your digestive system healthy.
Moreover, it also keeps you full for longer. So consumption of yacon syrup may help you reduce weight as well as keep your gut healthy. But don’t consume too much of it as it can lead to digestive problems.
5. Monk Fruit Sweetener
Apart from the native American plants, a South Asian fruit that’s a source of healthy sugar alternative is monk fruit sweetener. Like other healthy sugar alternatives, monk fruit sweetener is almost free of calories but provides natural sweetness.
The fruit sweetener can be used to manage blood sugar levels and can also contribute to weight management. Moreover, current research suggests that certain plant compounds present in monk fruit can also contribute to slowing down specific types of cancer cells.
If you are planning to switch to monk fruit sweetener, make sure you check the labels before you purchase a pack of monk fruits sweeteners. Certain other products are likely combined with the monk fruit extracts which can potentially decrease the health benefits of monk fruit sweetener.
6. Agave Nectar
Last on the list of the top healthiest sugar alternatives is agave nectar. The natural sweetener comes from the blue agave plant and is much sweeter than normal sugar. The natural sweetener provides more nutrients than regular refined sugar and is a lot more flavorful. Hence, you need to use a minimal quantity for your desired taste.
And since it is sweeter than refined sugar, it’s also rich in calories and can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excessive amounts. Agave nectar may be a natural alternative to sugar but it’s not recommended for people with diabetes.