We take a look at some of the natural alternatives to sugar, and the benefits of using them
It is important not to include too much sugar in our diets, but it can be difficult to cut it out, as it is a part of so many pre-made meals, sauces and more. Not to mention chocolate bars, cereal bars and more that are so easily accessible to us wherever we shop. So, are there ways we can still get a little sweet fix without consuming refined sugar? And can this help minimise our cravings? We take a look at five of the more natural alternatives that can be included in your kitchen when you are looking for that sweet kick but don’t want to use refined sugars.
Stevia is a sweetener and sugar alternative, which is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. Although it has to be made into a sugar-typed substance, it is still looked upon as a naturally sweetener, and it can be used in place of refined sugar in a multitude of different ways. It is very sweet to taste, so you don’t need to use much of it to make an impact on what you are cooking, and it has the added bonus of being totally calorie free. As well as all of this, it is rich in antioxidants, so can help to safeguard your body.
Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, zinc and more, raw honey is a fantastic product to use to sweeten desserts naturally. It is low in calories, with no and fat cholesterol. It is collected straight from the extractor in the honey making process, and is unheated and unpasturised. Because of this, it often looks cloudier than most of the honey you can buy in supermarkets. As raw honey is unpasturised, there is more of a risk of botulism, so do make sure that any raw honey you use is stored carefully and used within the recommended time frame.
This natural sweetener (made from boiling the sap from the maple tree) is high in antioxidants, and used in an array of ways – from use in pastries and cakes, to glazing carrots. It contains calcium, iron and zinc, as well as vitamin B6, which you will not find in other types of sugar, and is even thought to have immuneboosting properties. Maple syrup shouldn’t be consumed in large and frequent volumes, however, as is still high in sugars, so will need to be used in moderation within cooking. As well as being used as a food item, maple syrup is also used by some in items such as home-made facial scrubs to give a youthful boost to skin.
Dates are full of vitamins, as well as iron, potassium, magnesium and more. They make a tasty snack and a quick, sweet pick-me-up on their own, but can also be added to cakes, pies, bread and curries to give a depth of flavour, among many other things. If you enjoy exercising, you may find that a small handful of dates will give you a fantastic energy boost without leaving you feeling sluggish in quite the same way that refined sugar products can. Dates are also used to support regular bowel movements and promote digestive health.
Bananas are rich in potassium and fibre, so make a great alternative to sugar, giving you nutrients as well as adding sweetness. Bananas are naturally very low in fat and protein, while also being crammed full of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. If you or any family members are trying to get more fruit into your diet in line with the recent advice to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, this is a brilliant way of achieving this with the simple inclusion of the puree in other things you are already eating – such as baked goods.
Obviously all of these sugar alternatives should be consumed in moderation, but do offer a stepping stone in the practise of cutting down on the refined sugar you consume in your diet. Before you make any radical changes, do consult your GP who will be able to offer advice tailored specifically to you.