Have you been trying to avoid refined sugar and need some natural alternatives? Lucky for you, there are plenty of options and here are my TOP 5 FAVORITE & HEALTHY SWEETENERS (via Dr. Axe)
Raw Honey (1 tablespoon – 64 calories)
Stevia (0 calories)
Dates (1 Medjool Date – 66 calories)
Coconut Sugar (1 tablespoon – 45 calories)
Maple Syrup (1 tablespoon – 52 calories)
1. Raw Honey
Raw honey is a true super food and one of my favorite natural sweeteners. It’s packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Together, these essential nutrients help to neutralize free radicals while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
One tablespoon of raw honey has 64 calories and has less impact on glycemic load than a single banana. It’s important to note that these are the benefits of raw honey. Once honey has been pasteurized, it loses the many of the health benefits that raw honey brings to the table.
Look for local raw honey at farmer markets and directly from local beekeepers. The darker the honey, the richer the flavor and the greater the health benefits.
Stevia is native to South America and has been used for hundreds of years in that region to support healthy blood sugar levels and prompt weight loss.
Today, stevioside, the element in the leaves that makes it more than 200 times as sweet as sugar, is available in liquid drops, packets, dissolvable tablets and baking blends. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and none of the nasty side effects of artificial sweeteners, making it an ideal natural sweetener.
Stevia is related to the sunflower, and some people experience a slight metallic aftertaste. If that has been your experience with stevia in the past, try a brand that is higher in the steviosides. Many find it to be sweeter, without a residual aftertaste.
Dates are loaded with potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B6. From the date palm tree, they are easily digested and help to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Evidence shows that dates may help to reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood and may reduce the risk of stroke.
How to use dates:
The first step is to make a paste. Date paste can be used one-to-one in most recipes, unlike stevia, and it does add bulk for baking. Soak Medjool dates in hot water until soft. If the water reaches room temperature and the dates aren’t soft enough, soak in hot water again.
Reserve the soaking liquid, as it’s integral to making a good paste! Add the soaked dates to your food processor, along with one tablespoon of the soaking liquid. Blend until smooth. Add more water as needed to create a thick rich paste.
You are looking for the consistency of peanut butter. Use in your favorite cookie or cake recipe to cut out refined sugar and boost the nutrients. You can also use date paste to sweeten your favorite muffins and pies.
4. Coconut Sugar
Most people have heard about the benefits of coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flour and, of course, fresh coconut. Now, more and more people are using coconut sugar as their natural sweetener of choice because of its low glycemic load and rich mineral content.
Packed with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients, coconut sugar is versatile and now readily available. Coconut sugar is extracted sap from the blooms of the coconut and then heated. Next, through evaporation, we get coconut sugar.
How to use coconut sugar:
Use coconut sugar in your favorite recipes, for it measures just like sugar! It’s a bit more coarse than refined sugar, but that is okay. Add the amount of sugar that is called for in a recipe to your food processor and give it a whirl until you get the desired texture.
5. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is an outstanding source of manganese, and contains calcium, potassium, and zinc. Rich with antioxidants, this all-natural sweetener helps to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidation damage. Select darker, Grade B maple syrups, as they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.
How to use maple syrup:
Maple syrup is heat stable, so you can use it in virtually any application. Add it to marinades, glazes an sauces and use for baking. Use it to sweeten homemade granola and your morning coffee or tea.