Health-conscious people are constantly looking for natural and nutritious ingredients to replace the processed ones. Ditching refined or processed sugar is at the top of the list for most, as health professionals keep warning us about the dangers of consuming what’s considered the drug of the 21st century. Starting a whole foods diet is key to keep insulin levels in balance; in exchange, you’ll get rid of cravings and, most importantly, you’ll avoid health conditions triggered by refined sugar such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
A Secret Enemy
It’s hard to stay away from sugar when having a sweet tooth, though. That’s why the aim of this lifestyle change is not so much quitting all kinds of sugar for good but to opt for sugars coming from unprocessed natural sources (plants and fruits), thus healthier for our bodies. By making small changes in eating habits, you’ll put an end to a serious addiction harming your physical and mental health: you’ll quickly see your skin improve, and your cholesterol and glucose levels will drop, as well as your chances of getting diabetes in the future.
Where to start? The biggest step is avoiding packaged treats, which surely contain lots of processed sugar. Instead, head to the health store and experiment with all of the natural sweeteners available these days. It’s a good way to become familiar with healthier alternatives to processed sugar. Not only do they make great substitutes when baking, but they are also more nutritious than table sugar.
- Raw honey. The most well-known alternative to processed sugar, honey brings innumerable nutritional benefits to your body thanks to its organic acids, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. The raw kind (the most authentic version of honey) is especially recommended against the commercial pasteurised ones normally found at the supermarket.
- Coconut sugar. It’s considered one of the most sustainable sweeteners in the world for the minimal amount of water it needs to be produced. Moreover, it doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients nor is it genetically modified. Apart from having a low glycemic index, we can benefit from its zinc, calcium and potassium. It’s widely used in Southeast Asia.
- Dates. A Middle Eastern delicacy, the Medjool is the most adored type in the kitchen it’s gooey and has a caramel-like flavour, perfect to replace unhealthier sweeteners but still give a nice texture to the dessert you’re making. One Medjool date contains about 60 calories, 16 grams of natural sugar and two grams of fibre. Nutrition wise, they are rich in B vitamins, calcium, copper and magnesium. They are excellent to sweeten smoothies, muffins, cookies and other treats.
- Molasses. It comes from cooking sugar cane or sugar beets. Containing a wide array of antioxidants, it has a thicker texture (and darker colour) than maple syrup or agave, two other options for plant-based sweeteners. Molasses is great to replace the traditional caramel used in puddings, tarts and cakes.
- Lo Han. It’s a plant native to southwestern China, also known as monk fruit, which is being introduced to the Western world as a natural zero-calorie sweetener and a great source of antioxidants. Although its cost is still much higher than other natural sweeteners, it’s suitable for cooking and baking and it can be combined with other sweeteners such as stevia.
Bottom line, replacing processed sugar by the alternatives presented above is a great way to take better care of your body, though you still need to consume them in moderation. It’s advisable that our daily added sugar intake doesn’t exceed 10 percent of the total calories consumed in a day. This applies to healthier sweeteners too, as no matter how nutritious, they are fundamentally made of sugar that our liver needs to metabolise.
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