Kudos to you if you’re trying to kick that nasty sugar habit! Pregnant or not, all human bodies could use a little break from sugar. Over consumption of sugar, sugar substitutes (from sweet-n-low to stevia) and high fructose corn syrup are adding diseases to our systems and hiding our true potential under unneeded weight and stress. Considering Americans consume 4 times the amount of sugar recommended by the CDC, FDA and WHO (World Health Organization), a staggering 22 teaspoons daily when 5 teaspoons daily is sufficient, finding a sugar alternative has become a grocery shoppers delight.
Honey can and should be used as a replacement to sugar whenever possible. In foods like oatmeal, yogurt, granola, breads, muffins and tea (of course) honey can made a world of difference adding a sweetness and moisture (when baked) that white sugar can’t accomplish. Honey is naturally made from bees collecting nectar from plants like clover, blueberry and alfalfa. These plants naturally contribute to your vitamin and mineral intake just as fruits and vegetables do. Minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) antioxidants, even vitamins like B12 and folic acid have been found in unprocessed and processed honey. A 2012 study “Comparison of Vitamin, Mineral and Antioxidant Levels in Raw and Processed Honey” from Ropa Science Research found the honey’s possession of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are unaltered. “Both filtered and unfiltered honeys provide benefits that are not found in most other sweeteners, which will continue to set honey apart from many common sweetening ingredients.” The calories in honey are hefty; 64 calories per 1 teaspoon, but the benefits are incredible.
Cinnamon and Salt
The warm taste of cinnamon can do more than flavor your coffee. Ground cinnamon can be sprinkled into multiple dishes; from stews to cereal, it’s widely used in Eastern cooking and has a powerfully positive effect on your body when eaten consistently. Cinnamon contains minerals like calcium and magnesium, can assist in lowering blood pressure with its anti-clotting properties, helps regulate diabetes by reducing the spike in blood sugar after eating and has the highest, most recognized antioxidant properties of any food! For example cinnamon has 131,420 micromoles of ORAC per 100g where blueberries have 4,669 micromoles of ORAC per 100g. Its antioxidants, ORAC antioxidants like the ones in honey, are found in cinnamons essential oils and they help reduce cell destruction from free radicals. Don’t be afraid to use cinnamon on a daily basis, it has a mere 6 calories per 1 teaspoon. Add a dash of salt with your cinnamon to enhance its flavor and you’ll forget all about white sugar.
Raisins and Other Dried Fruits
Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, apricots, blueberries and so many more offer the sweet fix you’re looking for instead of sugar. It’s as easy to grab a handful of trail mix as it is to grab a candy bar or handful of M&M’s (guilty!) and the fiber from dried fruit and protein from nuts can go much farther to filling you up rather than filling you out. Plus a study of dried fruit from the Journal of American College of Nutrition “Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants” showed amazing properties. Dried fruit like figs, dates and plums have the highest quantity of polyphenol antioxidants, even compared to fresh fruit! And when eating dried fruit, figs specifically, the antioxidants continued to protect the body hours later and counter-attacking the oxidative stress and damage that high fructose corn syrup produced in the body after drinking a can of soda! If that’s not a reason to reach for a healthy snack than what it?!
Don’t be Fooled with these “Sugar Substitutes”
“Sugar in the Raw” or Turbinado Sugar
“Sugar in the Raw” shouldn’t be confused with brown sugar, light or dark, which you bake with. Brown sugar has molasses added to it to give it that moist, sticky feel while turbinado sugar is less processed than white sugar. Don’t fool yourself though; while Sugar in the Raw is still sugar. It adds a trace amount of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus because turbinado sugar is less processed than white sugar but there is no difference in calories. Granulated sugar and turbinado sugar each contain 16 calories per 1 teaspoon. Sugar is sugar, a carbohydrate; it should be used in limited amounts to avoid a spike in blood sugar and weight gain.
Agave nectar, made from the agave plant, is claiming to be better for you than white sugar, but is it? Agave nectar is almost twice as sweet as white sugar so you can use less of it in your coffee and because it’s a liquid, it’s easy to bake with. But it has more calories per teaspoon, 21 calories per 1 teaspoon, than granulated sugar and is a processed product. It’s made from an earth grown natural plant but some agave nectar is treated chemically to produce that liquid gold you find in the stores. “Chemically treated”, sounds like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)? But because it’s a highly concentrated sweetener it’s still able to react in your body negatively. A fatty liver, one from eating too much processed fructose like HFCS is found when you add too much agave nectar.
Decreasing your sugar can only do good things for your body; fewer diseases like hypertension and diabetes, weight loss and a stronger immune system from antioxidants found in sugar alternatives. Use one or all of the alternatives suggested here for an even healthier body.
Ropa Science Research 2012. “Comparison of Vitamin, Mineral and Antioxidant Levels in Raw and Processed Honey”
Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2005. “Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants.” Vinson JA1, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J.