Let’s talk about sugar for a moment. Most of us know it contributes to obesity, weakens immunity and creates poor dental health. Yet, the average American adult eats 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. That’s much more than double the recommended daily allowance according to the American Heart Association.
So what can you do instead when you experience sugar cravings? Use natural sweeteners as a healthier alternative to refined sugar. With a lesser impact on blood sugar, natural sweeteners provide a more sustained release of energy helping you to avoid spikes and crashes. The more balanced your blood sugar stays, the fewer sugar cravings you’ll also experience.
Reducing your intake of sugar not only helps to lower your risk of diabetes and support healthy weight management, it’s also good for your gut. Your gut is home to a microbiome containing good bacteria, bad bacteria and yeast called candida albicans. When everything is in balance, they can live healthfully and symbiotically. However, when you eat a lot of sugar, you end up fueling the bad bacteria and yeast in your gut. Overtime, a high sugar diet can change the diversity and balance of gut bacteria in your microbiome.
When the good bacteria in your gut become outnumbered, the health of your entire body can be impacted. Intestinal yeast (candida) overgrowth or dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) contributes to increased bloating, gas, food intolerances and allergies as well as increasing the amount of internal inflammation. Without a properly functioning digestive system you might absorb less nutrition from the food that you’re eating, despite how healthy that food may be.
Restoring the health of your microbiome requires a strict dietary shift short-term, plus a long-term change to your healthy eating habits for proper maintenance. Sugar should be the first thing to go. And while it’s not realistic to expect you’ll never indulge again, or that giving up sugar is simply done overnight, natural sweeteners can help fill the void.
Natural sweeteners, like the three below, can help you indulge plus provide a bit of nutrition. Bear in mind though, that just because these healthy alternatives are naturally sweet, you shouldn’t overdo it. Too much sugar whether it’s coming from natural sweeteners or refined sugar can impact blood sugar, and perpetuate sugar cravings.
3 Natural Sweeteners That are More Nutritious Than Refined Sugar
Dates are great for satisfying your sweet tooth because they’re naturally very sweet. They’re also loaded with fiber. When it comes to eating something sweet, fiber can help to slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more balanced. Remember, t`he more balanced your blood sugar is – the less cravings you’ll experience. With a slow release of sugar, you’ll also experience more sustained energy making dates a great mid-day snack or perfect for prior to exercise.
Medjool dates are one of the larger and softer varieties of dates that make them extremely versatile to use. They can be a bit expensive though, so if your dates are otherwise a bit harder, you can just soak them in water for 5-10 minutes.
Sweeten your recipes with dates by chopping them up small, blending them into a paste (1 cup of soaked dates to 1-2 tbsp of water), or simply eat them as is.
2. Bananas (or applesauce)
The riper your bananas, the sweeter they taste making them a great substitute for refined sugar. Mash them up and used them muffins, cookies or oatmeal or stick them in the freezer to sweeten a smoothie.
Bananas are a good source of fiber and rich in potassium. They also have binding properties that can replace the need for eggs in certain baking recipes.
Alternatively, you could use applesauce to sweeten recipes instead of bananas, though they don’t offer the same binding properties. Applesauce can provide moisture to baked goods or replace part (or all) of the oil in some recipes.
Stevia is an herb originally from South America. Its leaves are 100-200 times sweeter than regular cane sugar, but its effect on blood sugar is negligible. Stevia is also zero calories, much like artificial sweeteners, but without the negative side effects. It has been used for many years, and even offers benefits to blood sugar control.
The downside to stevia is that through commercialization it has become a heavily processed product. Pure stevia is best used in its most natural form – whole leaf, or dried green powder. It does have a bit of bitterness to it, so other products offering a white powder form of stevia have removed that part. It is best to avoid stevia products that have been cut with fillers or other sweeteners such as sugar alcohols and ensure you’re getting a pure product.
Chew on this
If you are dealing with candida overgrowth, even using fruits as natural sweeteners can aggravate your symptoms. In the initial stages of a candida cleanse, it’s best to avoid high sugar fruits (such as dates and bananas) and instead opt for stevia. Stevia won’t feed bad bacteria or yeast in your gut helping you to restore balance without feeling deprived.
What natural sweeteners do you use to reduce your sugar intake? Tell us in the comments below.