Did you know the average American consumes about 400 calories a day from added sugars?! WOW … that’s a heck of a lot of sugar!
Chances are, even if you’re sugar conscious, you’re still eating more of the sweet stuff than you think you are. Hidden sugars are in everything from bread to tasty condiments. And don’t even get me started on how much sugar is loaded in your juice, iced tea, energy drink and soda. You may have seen this photo (or one just like it) floating around the internet …
… Really puts things into perspective, right?
If you keep eating such high amounts of sugar, your health will suffer. A high-sugar diet has been linked to:
- Poor Gut Health
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Candida Overgrowth
- Heart Disease
- Certain Types of Cancers
- Tooth Decay
And the list goes on.
If you think replacing refined sugars with artificial sweeteners is a healthier option, think again! In fact, they’re so bad for your gut and overall health we wrote an entire article about it. Click here to read!
Unlike artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners are natural (you were probably able to guess that from the name)!
Below you will find 7 natural sweeteners that health professionals consider safe to consume. I’ve broken them down into two categories: “Best Options” and “Good Options.” The reason for this distinction is fructose.
You’ve probably heard people say fructose is bad for you. This is certainly true when fructose is consumed in large amounts. For this reason, it’s something you want to limit. However, our bodies usually handle small amounts of fructose just fine. In fact, most fruits contain fructose.
The natural sweeteners under the “good options” sections do contain some amount of fructose. So while they are considered safe (and even healthy because of their nutrient content), eat them in moderation!
Stevia is an ideal natural sweetener. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and none of the negative side effects that artificial sweeteners have.
This natural sweetener is extracted from the leaves of a South American plant called Stevia rebaudiana. It’s available in liquid drops, packets, dissolvable tablets and baking blends.
It’s important to note – Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar… so a little goes a long way!
Speaking of taste, some people experience a slight metallic aftertaste. If you’ve tried Stevia before and had that experience, don’t give up on it just yet! Try a brand that is higher in steviosides (that’s the element in the leaves that make it sweet).
2) Lou Han Guo
Like Stevia, Luo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo) is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It’s derived from a fruit in China. This natural sweetener received FDA GRAS status in 2009.
While Lou Han Guo is considered one of the safest natural sweeteners, it’s a bit more expensive and harder to find than Stevia.
3) Pure Glucose (Dextrose)
The big plus about pure glucose is that it doesn’t contain any fructose whatsoever. Pure glucose can be used by all our cells for energy and is essential for some parts of our bodies.
Honey is considered a superfood because it truly packs a nutritional punch. Along with it’s many vitamins and minerals, raw honey also promotes good gut bacteria.
*Note: I’m talking about raw, organic honey. Unfortunately, most honey bottles stocked on the shelves of your local grocery store have been heavily processed. Once honey has been pasteurized, it loses most (if not all) of its health benefits. So rather than buying honey at the grocery store, look for it at your local farmers market. You can also get it directly from local beekeepers!
It seems the world is going coco-nuts … and rightfully so!
You’ve probably heard of the many benefits of coconut oil, coconut water and coconut milk. Well, coconut sugar is no exception. Coconut sugar is also loaded with key minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and antioxidants that work wonders for our health.
Coconut sugar is made by extracting sap from the blooms of a coconut and then heating it. Through the evaporation process, you get coconut sugar.
I’m not talking about good ol’ Aunt Jemima here! Rather, raw maple syrup is an excellent source of antioxidants, calcium, potassium and zinc.
When selecting the perfect maple syrup, Dr. Josh Axe recommends going with a darker, Grade B syrup. This type has more health benefits than a lighter syrup.
While there are several types of molasses. They all come from boiling raw cane sugar.
Blackstrap molasses is rich in vitamins and minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. Along with being rich in nutrients, it’s also rich in flavor!
Again, only buy raw, organic blackstrap molasses.
8) Sugar Alcohols
In moderation, sugar alcohols can be a better choice than refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. Common sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt and maltitol.
Dr. Mercola calls xylitol one of the best sugar alcohols since it’s low calorie, pure, has minimal side effects, doesn’t have a great effect on blood sugar, and fights tooth decay.
While sugar alcohols don’t contain fructose, I’m adding them to the “good options” section because there are a few drawbacks.
- Natural sweeteners aren’t completely absorbed by the body. That means eating too many can cause abdominal gas and diarrhea.
- Weight gain has been seen when these products are overeaten.
- Xylitol is toxic to pets.
*Note: The American Diabetes Association claims that sugar alcohols are safe in a moderate amount, but should NOT be eaten in excess.
Coming Off Your Sugar High…
As you work to cut refined sugar and artificial sweeteners out of your diet, you’ll also want to take a good daily probiotic.
Probiotics will help repair your gut bacteria. Chances are if you’ve overloaded your body with sugar, your gut is in serious danger. Find out for sure by taking our Gut Health Assessment Test!