Updated: Mar 14
If you have a sweet tooth, then you know the things you crave the most might eventually be your downfall. American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than 3 times the recommended amount for women. This adds up to around 60 pounds of added sugar annually – that's six, 10-pound bowling balls, folks! The numbers are even worse for children.
Many Americans consume foods with added sugar, often in the form of refined sweeteners. These sweeteners, such as white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, can have detrimental effects on the human body. Studies have found that diets with high amounts of added sugar were linked to conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But, by keeping your sugar intake low, you can minimize the risk of those conditions. So, let’s take a look at 5 ways to decrease your refined sugar intake that will assist in satisfying your sweet tooth.
1. Ol’ reliable — Fruits and Vegetables
You may be thinking, “doesn’t fruit contain sugar— the exact thing we’re trying to avoid?” The short answer is yes and no. Fruit does contain sugar, but unlike processed foods like sugar-y cereal and desserts, fruit contains sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate that are naturally found in fruits and vegetables. While some fruits are very sweet, they often have substantially less calories, and don’t notably impact blood sugar levels. This makes sugar alcohols a good option for those with diabetes. If you have a liking for sweet and sour, squeeze a lemon over a sliced up apple. If you have a craving for sugar-y cereal, try oatmeal with a banana and some blueberries. Your body will thank you later for it.
Honey is a golden liquid derived from honey bees. This liquid has been found to contain vitamins and minerals that will help your body more than hurt it. It contains a variety of plant compounds, which have anti-inflammatory components and antioxidant benefits. Instead of causing irritation and upset in your body like refined sugar, honey will actually assist in reducing any inflammation in your body. However, we should try to consume honey in moderation as it is still calorically dense and it can increase your blood glucose levels and therefore your insulin levels. Using small amounts of honey in water or tea might help satisfy your sweet tooth and maximize your life span.
If you like your coffee sweet, this alternative is the one for you. Stevia is a low calorie sweetener that is derived from the leaves of Stevia Rebaudiana. In fact, stevia was used for medicinal purposes in South America. There are several sweet ingredients in stevia, the main ones being stevioside and rebaudioside, which are both 100 times sweeter than sugar with essentially little to no calories. This makes stevia a great sugar alternative, especially considering that some studies have suggested that stevia may have some health benefits such as lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. So, the next time you reach for a sweet syrup to put in your coffee, reach for some organic stevia instead.
4. Coconut Sugar
Unlike high fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar contains nutrients because of where it originates from. Coconut sugar is derived from dehydrated coconut palm, which contains vital nutrients for the body. Therefore, coconut sugar would not be considered “empty calories'' like refined sugars would. While coconut sugar is a great alternative to refined sugar, it still remains high in calories, and should be consumed in moderation.
For our last alternative, we have a new word to add to your vocabulary. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that contains a sweetness similar to sugar. But unlike sugar, it has vast benefits on your dental health, bone density and in preventing osteoporosis. Since it does not raise or negatively impact blood sugar levels, it is another great option for those with diabetes. You can find xylitol at any grocery store, and instead of using sugar in recipes, use this to further your health goals. It has also shown improved gut health as well as blood sugar levels.
Yes I know this is the 5 alternatives to refined sugar but I thought I'd put in a bonus for you thanks to one of my clients(you know who you are). Don't get a job at a candy store. An alcoholic would never be a bartender, unless they have a really strong will. Seeing as sugar is as addicting as cocaine, if not more so, don't get a job at a candy store or anywhere you would be tempted. There is no amount of willpower that will keep you from eating the candy. Creating a healthy lifestyle means creating an environment of health around you, therefore it is imperative that we put ourselves in a position to succeed not fail. Don't get jobs at candy stores, don't bring candy or refined sugar into your house, tell your friends and family your goals and ask for their support, hang out with your healthy friends, or become a Health Coach. You will be surprised how changing your surroundings will make a big difference in getting and staying Optimally healthy!
In each of these alternatives, researchers and dietitians will tell you to “consume in moderation.” When you take a closer look at your health and the things that have to be done to be as healthy as possible, that is always the key. If you over-consume, your problems will never subside. So, in the journey to consuming less sugar, utilize moderation, and I guarantee your health will benefit.