WELLNESS--By now most of us know that sugar is a culprit. It can be blamed for inflammation within our bodies, low energy, and in excess, it can also play a part in the formation of cancer and other disease.
Many of us are torn because of the decadent choices of our favorite deserts. The idea of living without them is unbearable. Thankfully most of us don’t need to say goodbye to sugar completely but instead make a conscious choice to simply consume less.
As a wellness coach I reinforce the 80-20 rule. 80 percent of the time I promote making healthy choices that are going to lift you up and increase your odds of living longer and feeling better and 20 percent of the time, indulge. Unless someone is extremely obese or suffering from a serious illness, some sugar is okay. But if you’re looking to make better choices, and positively affect your long-term health, here is a list of some natural and healthy sugar options that won’t wreak havoc on your blood sugar, cause excess inflammation, or lower your immunity.
These options are definitely worth trying. The next time you’re at your local health food or grocery store, ask for one of these alternatives and start making simple substitutions for you and your family.
Stevia - The Stevia leaf is a plant that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It has become very popular in health foods because it doesn’t spike blood sugar or cause inflammation the way that regular sugar does. Stevia does have a unique after taste, which some people don’t like, and in large amounts it may cause a headache. Stevia is available in powder and liquid forms.
Xylitol - Xylitol looks and tastes just like white sugar. It can be used in baking and anywhere that regular sugar is used. Xylitol comes mainly from birch trees and other fruits and vegetables. In large amounts it may cause digestive issues including gas and bloating but overall it is well tolerated. In moderate amounts it makes for a wonderful alternative to sugar.
Erythritol - Erythritol is similar to xylitol and comes mainly from hard wood and other plant sources. It looks and tastes just like white sugar and in small amounts is another great alternative.
Monk Fruit - There is a lot of buzz lately about monk fruit sweetener. It is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar cane with no calories or glycemic spike! It comes from a fruit that was originally grown in Asia and may even have powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
Coconut Sugar - I have used coconut sugar in my home for years. It looks and tastes exactly like brown sugar with a slight molasses-like richness. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar and it also contains vitamins and minerals. Again, use in moderation and consider alternating with more healthy options such as xylitol and monk fruit.
Agave - Agave nectar is everywhere. It comes from the agave plant that is also used to make tequila. It can be found in sodas, deserts, and other health food items. While it is certainly healthier than white sugar because it has fewer effects on your overall blood sugar levels, it is said to lose much of its nutritional benefits during the heating process.
Raw Honey - Consume foods that are as close to nature as possible. Raw honey fits in this category. It has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in polyphenols and antioxidants and has been researched to boost the immune system and help to offset allergies. It is best not to heat raw honey and therefore the old tea and honey regimen may not be best. Again, consume in moderation.
As I teach my clients, always listen to your body. If you’re using sugar alternatives, pay close attention to how you feel afterwards. Notice any changes or shifts in mood, energy, and overall body functions. Also, be mindful of when you are sweetening your coffee, desert, or other foods simply out of habit. Often we are so accustomed to sweetness that we don’t even realize we could use less and still be quite satisfied and content.
Also, make sure to look for organic and 100 percent pure sweeteners. With more demand for these sugar alternatives comes an array of new products that are not always pure and natural. Read labels and be a smart consumer.
(Jay Bradley is an Anti-Aging, Wellness & Lifestyle Expert Living in Los Angeles http://jaybradleylifestyle.com. He is the Author of LIVE LOOK FEEL, The 12-Week Guide to Live Longer, Look Younger & Feel Better!)