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A Guide to Sugar Alternatives


The infamous and addictively sweet ingredient known as sugar can contribute to many conditions like obesity, tooth decay and diabetes. Knowing that unchecked consumption of sugar is dangerous for their health many families have tried to cut out sugar altogether or turn to sugar alternatives. Skipping the sodas and drinking a fresh glass of filtered water is a great first step. Many families will want to wean themselves off sugar gradually instead of quitting cold turkey.

But what sugar alternatives will provide a sweet flavor to your desserts and drinks without negatively affecting your health? High fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners sound just as damaging as sugar. Read on to learn what sugar alternatives exist and what the pros and cons of these options are.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup is derived from the boiled sap of the blue agave plant. Agave is a hotly debated sugar substitute. One of the perceived benefits of agave is that it’s technically “sweeter” than sugar, meaning you can add less agave syrup to a recipe and get the same result in flavor. However, we suggest you avoid agave syrup or nectar when choosing a sugar alternative.

Agave syrup contains almost 85% fructose, which is even higher than high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a monosaccharide found naturally in fruits. Ingesting high amounts of fructose is associated with obesity and diabetes. Fructose also can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Skip agave at the supermarket!

Honey

Honey, the iconic golden syrup produced by honeybees, is a popular alternative to sugar for many types of dishes and drinks. Honey has more health benefits than products like agave syrup. Honey contains plentiful amounts of antioxidants, and when consumed over long periods of time it can reduce your likelihood of contracting or developing certain diseases.

However, honey still contains a high amount of fructose and should be considered as fattening as table sugar. Because of the high concentration of fructose found in honey it should only be consumed in modest quantities. Honey is also high in calories, clocking in at about 60 calories per tablespoon.

Stevia

Stevia is a sweetener that is naturally found in the environment – typically sold as a powder, the substance is extracted from the leaves of a type of shrub found in South America. Stevia has a leg up in the sugar alternative race because it contains no calories whatsoever, and it’s actually linked to a reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels.

So what’s the catch? There hasn’t been an exhaustive amount of medical research on stevia, especially on the long-term health effects. The FDA classifies stevia as GRAS, or “generally regarded as safe.” So you’ll be taking a slight risk with stevia. Compared to the proven negative effects of sugar, however, you may want to take the chance and try adding stevia next time you’re baking or making tea.

The best alternative to sugar, of course, is to not consume sweeteners whatsoever. Sugar delivers no proven health benefits, and its alternatives are not beneficial for your diet. If you get a craving for sweets during the day drink a full glass of filtered water and wait ten minutes – often you’ll find that your hunger has vanished! But if you must have some sweetness in your recipe try an alternative like stevia.

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