Sugar is everywhere! Even if you avoid the regular suspects, refined sweetener is hidden in plenty of common food products. While many stick to the refined white table sugar that we are all familiar with, it would be worth it to look into alternative sweeteners in order to cut the risk of developing diabetes, weight gain, or premature aging due to overconsumption of refined sugar. Take a look at our list of ten alternative sweeteners that you can replace conventional sugar with (sans artificial sweeteners!)
Raw honey is an excellent superfood that is packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, B6, riboflavin, and niacin. It also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. But don’t heat up honey because it will destroy the nutrients. Instead, drizzle it on breakfast cereal or add it to drinks like coffee and tea to sweeten them.
Stevia is a heat-stable sweetener, so you are able to use it in cooking and baking. Because it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it can present a problem when baking because refined sugar accounts for a lot of the bulk in many recipes. To solve this problem, you can bulk up your recipes by using fruit puree, yogurt, roasted winter squash, whipped egg whites or coconut flour.
Dates are healthy for the stomach, bones, and blood and provide a good source of potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin B6. The nutrients in dates also help metabolize proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and even help lower LDL. To make a date paste, start by soaking medjool dates in hot water until they are soft. Make sure the pits are removed and toss them in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of the date. Then, soak water and process to form a paste. Date paste can be easily added to cakes, brownies, and even ice cream!
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup, also known as rice syrup or rice malt, is the perfect replacement for recipes that call for corn syrup. It is a sweetener made from culturing and reducing rice starch. It can be used to sweeten fruit pies and to make granola bars or nut clusters.
Fruit juices such as apple or orange juice are excellent to use as a natural sweetener in fruit smoothies and drinks like iced tea. To sweeten beverages that call for sugar, you could add pineapple, apple, cranberry, or orange juices to your refreshments. Fruit itself can be added to water and left for a few hours to make infused waters that are great for the summer.
- Coconut Sugar
You can easily substitute coconut sugar for regular sugar in any recipe at a one-to-one ratio. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, due to a fiber called inulin which may slow glucose absorption.
Use apple or banana puree to replace sugar in your diet and recipes. Not only does fruit puree sweeten while it bulks up recipes, banana puree provides a healthy dose of potassium and fiber if eaten regularly. Applesauce is a classic ingredient to substitute sugar with if you are trying to cut out fat and sugar out of recipes. Diced apples are a rich source of fiber and when you are preparing them make sure you don’t peel the skin because it is where most of the nutrients are.
Additionally, you can grate carrots or beets to add to recipes like smoothies, cakes, and soups for an unexpectedly sweet taste.
- Blackstrap Molasses
Aside from being an excellent sweetener to replace corn syrup or sugar in recipes, blackstrap molasses contains a good amount of iron. Many people take a spoonful of blackstrap molasses each day to help with iron deficiency which often leads to anemia seen with vegetarianism or veganism. Blackstrap molasses is also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6.
Balsamic glaze is an intensely flavored and beautifully dark molasses-like syrup. It is a balsamic vinegar reduction with a little sugar added and can be used to sweeten salad dressings. Drizzle it over roasted brussels sprouts, salmon, parmesan cheese, beets, and even goat cheese. To make your own reduction, use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar with every cup of balsamic vinegar. Bring your mixture to a boil and then reduce to low heat while you simmer until you are left with a glaze.
Maple syrup is best used in moderation, but will suffice as a sweetener that offers bonus vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc. You can mix it into beverages, use it to glaze vegetables or fruits before roasting, and it is especially good on sweet potatoes. You could also use it to sweeten salad dressings and marinades. It is important when you are selecting your maple syrup to avoid syrups that consist of high fructose corn syrup.