Shilo Urban | Organic Authority
If you have a sweet tooth, you know that completely cutting sugary foods out of your diet is not an option. You probably also know that eating too much sugar wrecks havoc on your body system’s balance, causing energy rushes, crashes, bellyaches and even more cravings for sweets.
We like sweet tastes for a reason; sugary foods are a source of easy energy and they stimulate the brain to release endorphins. Humans evolved in a world of scarcity, but we now live in a nation of overabundance- and our bodies haven’t caught up. Our brains are still chowing down on as many calories as possible whenever they present themselves so that we can outrun the lion on the savannah later tonight.
The modern human eats more sugar in one day than our ancestors did during their entire lives. When found in nature, sweet foods are not only a source of easy energy – they also contain minerals and nutrients. Today however, most sweeteners are sugars that have had all of their natural nutritional value completely refined away.
Enter: natural sweeteners. Although some foods on the list below are still simple carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels (honey, stevia, fruit concentrates and sugar cane juice/Sucanat) and thus are technically still sugar, others contain more complex sugars that are more slowly absorbed by your body and don’t throw your system out of whack (agave, barley malt, brown rice syrup, date sugar, maple syrup, molasses and xylitol). Those that do raise blood sugar levels are still better than refined sugar; take honey for example. Because it is sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it, and along with the sweet you will also get some vitamins, nutrients and pollen – not just empty calories.
Make no mistake- all sweeteners should be used sparingly, but when you can’t fight that sweet tooth, a natural option is always better than refined white or brown sugar or even worse- high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS and agave syrup or agave nectar, have taken some considerable heat in the media. According to Dr. Nalini Chilkov, L.Ac., O.M.D.,
“The negative health effects of high fructose corn syrup are well documented. Agave syrup has been recently promoted as a “healthy” sweetener. However, most health conscious users don’t realize that agave is also a high fructose syrup. Agave syrup is typically 95% fructose and 5% glucose.
High fructose syrups increase risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure) and liver inflammation. This is clearly not a healthy choice for a sweetener. America must get over its sweet tooth and learn to enjoy the natural sweetness of foods.”
Try a few of the sugar alternatives below, and as their unfamiliarity wears away and you get a sense of when and where to use them, you may even find that you like them better than traditional refined sugar.