Healthy Alternatives to Refined Sugar

80% food items spiked with added sugar. 1/3rd Americans can expect diabetes by 2050.

Courtesy of the University of California San Francisco

These are horrifying statistics and if we don’t choose to take a stand against it we will be sucked right in… and suffer the consequences. In our quest to take simple steps to a healthier life, we ask the question… are there any healthy alternatives to refined sugar?  I don’t mean anything artificial, but having said that, I know there is a certain amount of processing going on for just about all sugar alternatives.

There are some among us who will want to cut out all sweeteners of any kind, and that’s fine, but for most of us we would find that to be too hard to do, and really… most probably unnecessary.

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They make high fructrose corn syrup from corn. It is the worst sweetener you can use.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Beware!
We need to steer clear of “high fructose corn syrup”
as this is particularly harmful to our bodies.
The problem is it’s everywhere! 

It’s both cheap and nasty.

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You MUST begin to read the labels and find out what’s really in the food you’re eating, and the drinks you buy.  High Fructose Corn Syrup doesn’t sound that bad and that’s why they get away with it.

We are aware that any sugar can put on weight, so why should we pick on HFCS?  To start with, most corn is genetically modified, so we’re already off to a bad start.

Unfortunately, High Fructose Corn Syrup and sugar are not processed in the same way within the body. To cut a long story short, because HFCS is cheap to manufacture (because of government subsidies) and is sweeter than regular sugar, this is good news to the companies producing foods and drinks containing it, but it comes with great human cost in obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

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There is only one thing to do about HFCS
… AVOID IT!

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I think most people understand that white sugar is bad for us generally,  but most are following the recommendations given us by the big marketing companies.  This is ridiculous to say the least!  Buy “diet” and you’ll be fine?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The more people are reaching out to buy “diet” products, the fatter we get, not to mention all the “low fat” that’s around.  The truth is its causing you put on more and more pounds/kilos.

I know there are a lot of people around who say that using any sweetener only holds on to your desire for sweet things.  I’m guessing that’s the truth as I know with me that sometimes “sweet is good”.  But… what I’ve noticed is that I’m using less and less as I go on.  It’s easy to find things that are too sweet for me.  So that’s got to be good.

We’ve just got to learn how to take some easy simple steps to a healthier life.  I’ve done a lot of research into various sweeteners, and at this point in time this is what I use:

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Are there Healthy Alternatives to Refined Sugar? Great choice is Stevia.

Stevia contains no calories – a great natural choice

1. Stevia

I’ve actually grown stevia in my garden… dried the leaves and ground them to a fine powder.  Yes, it’s very sweet… but green.  The stevia I’m referring to is the white powder you can buy.  I know it’s obviously been processed as it’s no longer green.  When I first tried it I didn’t like the after-taste at all.  Ugh!  So, I didn’t try it again for a long time.

More recently I bought some from an organic shop and I found it didn’t have any after-taste at all.  Yes!  I was so happy and now use it often… but trying to use a little less as I go.  I’ve been told to keep buying different stevia’s until you find one that tastes good.  I actually object to that!  How can we buy one packet/bottle after another, it doesn’t seem to be reasonable. But I can say that they certainly do taste different so it can be worth it to shop around. 

I have heard that if you can taste the after-taste it’s because you have used too much. That’s an interesting thought… I wonder if, because you have to use so little, I actually used too much.  Could be what happened.

Honestly, don’t be like me and think stevia is awful just because the first one I tried was objectionable.  In fact, now that I’m more used to it I don’t think I’d find that first one so bad after all.  Maybe that’s it… stick with it for awhile until your taste buds adjust.  But that last one I bought contained no aftertaste at all.

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A good sugar alternative to use sparingly

Coconut Sugar from the Coconut Palm is full of minerals and flavour

2. Coconut Sugar

I love the taste of coconut sugar… oh wow, it tastes good.  Sometimes when I’m making custard I’ll add some and I end up with caramel custard.  My son loves it… he tends to ask for “Caramel Custard please Mum”.

Although coconut sugar is still sugar in reality, it is full of all its natural minerals so I don’t mind using a little when I need to. But once again, I’m using less.

As with any use of sweeteners, I try to gradually cut down the amount I use each time.

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Raw honey should be unheated, unpasteurized. Very good in moderation.

Organic raw honey filled with goodness

3.  Organic, Raw Honey  (Usually not the stuff you buy in supermarkets)

Where I like to use this beautiful honey is in my morning cuppa.  I have it blended with ginger so I receive a double-whammy of health benefits.  Click here to find out what I do Lemon Ginger Honey Tea Recipe.

I fully believe honey is good for you, even though it’s about 50% fructose.  Fructose is generally believed to be bad, but it turns out that honey is metabolized differently in your body to sugar.

Honey is packed full of goodness, but I do believe you can have far too much of it.

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Let me tell you a little story…

My father loved honey more than anyone I know.  He totally believed it was very good for him and so he indulged in it a lot.  Before his dinner each night he would toast 6 or 7 slices (at least) of wholemeal bread and sit them in a pile beside his plate as he like his toast to cool down.  After he had finished his main meal he would then begin on the toast.  He didn’t believe in eating butter so he simply spread honey on each piece of toast before eating it.  As you can imagine it added up to a tremendous amount of honey he ate each day.

Unfortunately, my father died on the operating table while undergoing a second operation for bypass surgery.  His death certificate stated he died of “massive heart disease”.  It was the day before his 80th birthday. Had a fairly good innings but he could have had better.

Now I can’t prove that the honey had anything to do with it but I do think he was caught up in the pendulum swing to the far degree of honey eating.

I think the moral of the story is, yes eat honey, but just a little at a time… not swags of it.

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Another story…

I had an uncle who came to our place one year for Christmas.  He brought along this huge big bunch of bananas.  In the afternoon he sat on the lawn at the back of our house and consumed one banana after another.  We watched him aghast!  He told us: “bananas are good for you!”  The next time we saw him we asked him what happened to all the bananas… he replied “Ugh, they’re no good!”  He could no longer stand the sight of a banana!

You see, this is one more example of a man caught in a huge pendulum swing.  He sickened himself so much of bananas that he no longer wanted even to eat one. 

Too much of anything, I believe, is not good for our body.  We should eat a large variety… a little of much.

Anyway, I digress… where was I now?

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Maple Syrup is derived from the trunk of the Maple Tree, is sweet and delicious.

Straight from Maple Tree to you! Maple Syrup.

4. Maple Syrup

Once again, just a little is good… too much is not.  I have it, but not very often.  Maple Syrup is 70% sucrose with low levels of fructose.  It also contains antioxidants, which is good.

It is sweet and naturally derived from the Maple Tree.  Whatever you do, please don’t use the artificial kind that only contains the flavour.  It must be the real thing.

 

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The nutrition derived from the dates of the Date Palm is outstanding

Dates growing on a Date Palm are amazingly nutritious!

5. Dates

Are you aware of the many benefits of dates as a sweetening agent?  Dates can sweeten smoothies, or be used in baking.  You can let your imagination soar and see what uses you find.  They can be softened by soaking in a bit of hot water if you need to.  The immense benefits received from using them make them a really good choice.

Try to buy organic dates that are not full of preservatives or covered in sprays.

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There are many other varieties of sweeteners, and some of them fall into the “natural” bunch, but almost in every case they are very high in fructose and therefore in most cases better left alone.

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What we need to do is to get more used to the natural taste of the things we eat or drink

The problem is that we are used to the sweet taste, but it’s possible to get to a place where you think the sweet taste you enjoy at the moment is not nice at all.  In fact, you don’t even like that sweet taste because you can’t taste the real natural taste of the food or drink.

Some most probably recommend you go cold-turkey.  Well that’s fine if you can do it I guess, but as for me and my dog I’ve chosen to take an easier route.  I just keep using less.

I can remember when I found out I really didn’t need to have sugar in my tea.  It was a revelation to me… I’d always added at least a teaspoon of sugar.  But here I was at this party, standing in line waiting to get to the sugar bowl.  As I waited, I absentmindedly took a sip of my tea… then another… then another… till in the end I removed myself from the line because I realized I didn’t need the sugar at all.  The funny thing is I went and told my husband what had happened, so he tried it too.  Same thing… didn’t need it anymore. Now if someone gives me a cup of tea in which they’ve added the sugar for me, I can’t drink it.  Ugh!

So do yourself a favour and do some checking up.  Maybe to start with you may not like it, but next time just add a little less.  It won’t be long before you’re drinking sugar-free too.

Really it’s horrifying if you count up how many teaspoons of sugar you have in a year through adding it to a drink.  Do it and be happy about all the sugar that’s not going to sit on your hips anymore!

Using these healthy alternatives to white sugar will allow you to take more simple steps to a healthier life. Once you’ve set this into action and made it into a lifestyle change, you can confidently cross it off your list and move onto the next little challenge. 

Do you really enjoy a little dessert after your meal?  Feel you can’t have anything because it’s all loaded with sugar?  That’s exactly how I felt!   How would you like to be able to have a dessert every night and not feel one bit guilty?  And… at the same time know you are not stacking on the weight!  What if the truth was that this little humble act was actually helping you to build your health.  Does it sound like a dream come true?  It did to me also when I found this.

Do you have something crazy to tell us that’s happened to you?

Warm regards,
Marilyn Williams shares her experience of the difference it made when she concentrated on building her health rather than trying to lose weight

 

 

Marilyn Williams

923 total views, 4 views today

20 Comments:

  1. Coconut sugar is by far my favorite alternative. I use a little in my coffee every morning. I find it to add a unique taste to my coffee! I like it better than using sweeten low or Splenda. I am really not a fan of artificial sweeteners. I will have to give some of these others a try in my coffee since that’s the only real time im adding sugar to anything I eat!

    • Wise thinking Kurtis! It’s good you’ve reduced to only in coffee, but depending on how many coffees you drink, it adds up to a lot of sweetener… so best it be doing you good instead of tearing you down… don’t you think?

      Coconut Sugar is really nice tasting but just be careful not to use too much.

      Thanks for commenting… it was good to hear from you.
      Marilyn

  2. I’m particular about salts and sugar especially when I’m preparing foods for my kid. I’ve found alternative for salts(using Himalayan salts) but I’ve yet to find good alternatives for refined sugar.

    I’ve never heard of stevia. Is this easily grown? Can I grow it in tropical country? Raw honey is quite expensive here. I mean those that are fresh from the hives. .

    • Hi Kenny, thanks for sharing. Yes Himalayan Salt is definitely a great choice and you will only benefit from its use.

      I would believe that a Stevia plant would grow in the tropics but check it out at your local nursery. Remember it’s a green leaf and not a white powder so the plant doesn’t lend itself to all foods. You can buy Stevia that’s processed to a degree. I have a bottle of drops which I use occasionally… One drop is all you need.

      Raw honey always costs more but if you possibly can, add it to your groceries even if you treat it like a medicinal.

  3. Just wanted to let you know I found this post really helpful. I have been wondering what I could use instead of refined white sugar. I knew there had to be something else. White sugar is responsible for a lot of cancers so I felt I needed to make some changes. Thank you for leading me in the right direction.

    • Oh I’m happy Mark that you’ve received the kind of help you required just at the time you were looking. Don’t hesitate to ask questions any time. Marilyn

  4. Just lately I’ve been wondering was there something else I could use instead of white sugar and you’ve just answered my questions. Just wanted to say thanks. I’ll look into this.

    • What is it they say? When the pupil is ready the teacher appears! How often do we experience these type of things. All the best with your research and don’t forget to come back and let me know what you’re up to. 🙂

  5. Hi Marilyn thanks for this awesome post. You are right refined sugar is dangerous for our health but unfortunately it is almost everywhere in the foods we eat. The corn fructose syrup is very dangerous indeed I have been hearing about this a lot now so definitely gonna stay away from that. I did not know that dates had sugar in them interesting I learnt something new today even with coconut I love coconuts. I am trying to stay healthy too by eating properly and have been getting some great information from Beyond Diet and some of the things you listed in your post are also there too so that is a good thing. Keep up the good work! All the best to you.

    • Hi Serana… thanks for commenting. We have to be ever vigilant to make sure we steer clear of these unhealthy sugars… easier said than done I’m afraid. It means you can’t consume anything without reading carefully the fine print on the labels, as like you said, it’s everywhere! I agree that coconuts are a wonderful food… the flesh, the water, the milk and the oil. All yum!

  6. Hey Marilyn

    Thanks for listing out these sugar alternatives.

    I found myself nodding away as I read this post. A couple of years back I adjusted my diet to cut out all added sugar. And when I read the labels I found out first hand just how many products had added refined sugar in them – most of them!

    My intention at that time was not to loose weight but to improve my energy and the functioning of my digestive system (there were a few other things I also cut out) – but in the process I lost around 14lbs without trying.

    High Fructose Corn Syrup was another I was supposed to avoid but living in New Zealand at the time this wasn’t too big a deal as it’s not in a lot of the products over there. But you definitely notice it in the US.

    I have found that reducing my sugar intake over time has reduced my desire for sweet and sugary foods also – I totally reckon sugar is an addictive substance! But I understand that, especially to start with, some of this sugar alternatives are a great way to reduce intake of refined sugar and HFCS.

    Thanks for posting this awesomely informative article.

    • You are absolutely right Nate in what you’ve shared here. Avoiding sugar altogether can be a big ask, but if you do it there are rewards… you beat the sugar addiction completely. That’s got to be good! The weight gradually falling off is a wonderful “side effect”! What a great thing you were smart enough to understand that cutting out the sugar would result in more energy and a better functioning digestive system. That’s fantastically clever. Well done.

  7. A really top list here – interesting from a weight loss point of view as well!!!
    I’ve heard a lot about stevia but I’ve never attempted to grow it before. Does it have a specific climate and how easy is it to grow? What would it be like trying to grow this type of plant in UK conditions?

    • It’s a little hard to say because I’m not totally sure what your conditions are. I did look up if it would grow in Tassy and I believe it does but whether it could survive the odd frost I’m not sure. Look, I found this online so it sounds pretty hardy but depending on your snow/frost conditions whether it should be planted in a pot and brought indoors during the winter.

      Where I live we don’t get snow but do receive an odd heavy frost. I don’t have a Stevia plant as yet so can’t speak from my own experience.

      Great comment and good point!

  8. Hello, Marilyn, excellent article, sad story about your father, really sorry to hear this, but there are so many things that contribute to the heart disease , it could be something else but honey.
    I have a horrible sweet tooth and was trying to learn a lot about sweeteners . Honey is very beneficial for your health in a lot of ways, but it does spike up your glucose levels. The only two really good sweeteners that I can add to your list, will be Xylitol and Coconut Nectar.
    Coconut Nectar is amazing, it doesn’t spike your insulin levels the same as honey does and it tastes delicious.
    Xylitol looks a lot like sugar, but you have to add twice as less as it is quite sweet. It is a healthy alternative to a refine sugar and quite safe to use it.
    Le me know what you think of it
    Milla

    • Hi Milla, thanks so much for adding your expertise… really appreciated.

      Well as I say, honey is certainly beneficial but I sure would keep the amount I use lesser rather than more. I have not used Coconut Nectar so I’ll have to see if I can find out about it more before I comment. Sounds nice though, as everything else coconut is good!

      Now Xylitol is an interesting one. From my research it’s quite difficult to work out if it’s the best thing since sliced bread or something to keep away from! I used to use it and actually bought some not that long ago to try out again, but as I say I’m not totally comfortable adding it to my list because of the differing thoughts concerning it.

      I know they say it doesn’t give you tooth decay, in fact, it can help to keep your teeth healthy. Yep, one day I’ll look seriously into it and see if I can get to the bottom of it.

      Once again thanks, and if there is any more you can add, please feel free to do so.

  9. Hello Marilyn,
    Thank you for sharing this awesome post, I really learnt a lot of wonderful information. Refined sugar is indeed really bad for our health but the awareness among others about this is still lacking. I’m curious, you said use organic honey as an alternative. Of course too much of anything is no good. How many spoons of honey do you recommend? For e.g. if I am making a cup of coffee, must I pour honey until it is sweet? or there is a certain restriction?

    • That’s a really great question Kumar… and I’ll answer best I can. I have read where some suggest you can have say 3 tablespoons of honey in a day…. spread across the day. I’ve also read that it’s suggested you only do that for a short period of time, say 2 weeks or so, and then cut back. You will also find many a writer say honey in any form is bad! I do not believe this.

      BUT… I think 3 tablespoons is far to much for one day, although maybe it could be good if you were using it to heal some kind of condition… but only for a little time.

      Honey is digested by the body in a different way to sugar. It’s far easier on your digestive system, your liver etc and it comes with a whole lot of benefits. But as you read in my article, too much is too much!

      If you were using it in your coffee and you had say 6 or 8 cups of coffee per day, then we have a problem! That’s going to add up to a lot of honey. If you only have 3 cups for example and you add 1 teaspoon each time, then I don’t see any problem at all.

      Remember that honey is very sweet. It’s so much sweeter than sugar. All I can suggest is that you “use your head” and do some trial and error. I think a better alternative is for you to learn to drink your coffee/tea with less sweetener. Make a point of putting in a little less each time, or each day, or even each week… but keep on reducing until you need the minimum amount, if any.

      Did I answer your question? Let me know if you still wonder… 🙂

  10. I’ve been using raw sugar as an alternative. Am I doing the right thing?

    • Really I wouldn’t place raw sugar high on the “healthy” list. I know it certainly sounds healthier which is most probably a good trick by the marketing team, but it offers only a few more trace elements than white sugar. It’s had almost all of the “goodness” removed from it before being made into the crystals. I think follow my list of better and healthier alternatives.

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