Whether you are trying the Whole 30 diet, an elimination diet, or just trying to kick your sugar habit once and for all- there are more alternatives than ever.
However, there is a lot of misinformation out there and you need to be careful which sugar alternative you choose so you don't keep your body addicted to sweetness.
Natural Sugars Have a Health Halo But Aren't Necessarily Healthy
A lot of thought leaders and influencers in the diet space claim that “natural sugar” is okay for people trying to kick a sugar addiction. I have found that not to be true for me or thousands of my clients over the years.
Although they are less processed than refined sugar, natural added sugars like maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, coconut sugar, honey, and raw sugar can also make you crave more.
Addiction to sweets of any kind- even fruit- is not good for you. Sweet cravings are a function of how your blood sugar rises and falls throughout the day.
Chances are if you are addicted to agave nectar, honey, or any of those so-called “healthy” sweeteners, your blood sugar is spiking and dropping. This leaves you feeling like you need another “hit” of the added sugar.
Blood Sugar, Not Processed Sugar, Is the Real Issue
When a food raises your blood sugar over 120 it is damaging to your tissues, especially delicate nerve tissues in your eyes and your tiny arteries in your brain. That is why blood sugar control under this safe threshold his integral to long term health and protecting yourself from chronic disease.
Back to those so-called “natural sugars.” While they aren't bleached and refined, they impact blood sugar and can raise blood glucose above the safe threshold.
Sugar Alternatives to the Rescue
What if I told you there are sweeteners out there that don't impact your blood sugar at all and provide the sweet taste? I enjoy several different sweeteners that have a low glycemic impact- so they don't raise blood sugar in most individuals.
Stevia is an herb with leaves that are naturally sweet. I used to grow one in my backyard and that was the only sweetener my kids were allowed to eat, so we called it the “sugar plant.”
You want to use the stevia that is least-processed as possible. The powdered version of the leaf should look green, not bleached white.
Another alternative is the concentrate of the stevia in liquid form. This product is made by boiling the whole stevia plant and concentrating the liquid until it's VERY sweet.
Stevia has a high degree of sweetness and you only need a minuscule amount to create enough sweetness for your preferences.
Sugar alcohols sometimes get a bad reputation for causing GI issues, but I have found two of them that are safer for most people.
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol extracted from corn, so be sure to look for organic and non- GMO brands. This low glycemic sweetener looks crystalline and white, like granulated sugar. I have found that it's a lot less concentrated than other options like stevia, so you can use it interchangeably with granulated sugar in many dessert recipes.
Another sugar alcohol that is safe for many people is xylitol from birch trees.
As the name implies, monk fruit sweeteners come from a dried fruit from China. It comes in powder or extract form and is 150-200 times sweetener than sugar, so a little goes a LONG way.
If you find a monkfruit extract, pay attention to the percentage of mongrosides on the nutrition facts panel of the product. The higher the percentage of mongrosides (sugar-like molecules that don't raise your blood sugar) the sweeter the extract. Again- a little goes a long way.
Testing Out Your New Sweeteners
So go ahead and try a few of these sweeteners and experiment in the kitchen. A good way to start is by adding a smidge to your tea, coffee, yogurt, or desserts instead of the sugar, honey, agave, or whatever added sugar you use.
For smoothies, you can experiment with cutting back on the fruit and compensating for the loss of fruit sugar with one of these low glycemic alternatives.
For some more great ideas on low-glycemic and blood sugar balancing recipes, check out my free, Hormone Hacking Breakfast Guide: