It’s not news that consumption of refined sugar in the US has skyrocketed—the average American now consumes an incredible 23.5 teaspoons a day, almost double what the average American consumed 100 years ago! But why are we doing this to ourselves? Refined sugar not only contributes to weight gain but also has been linked to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression and other health conditions. What’s more, the desire for sugar can be addictive, making it extremely difficult to cut back.
Luckily, there’s an ever-growing number of natural sugar alternatives that can be a big help if you’d rather not use an artificial sweetener or go cold turkey, which is very difficult to do. All can satisfy the craving for sugar and provide lower calories than table sugar. Some of the newest and best natural sweeteners on the market…
• Lite & Sweet is a blend of xylitol and erythritol, sugar alcohols derived from berries and other fruits. It comes in bulk and packet form—one teaspoon has four calories (there’s 16 calories in a teaspoon of table sugar). Lite & Sweet looks like regular sugar—and when using it for baking and cooking, it can be substituted for regular sugar teaspoon for teaspoon.
Both xylitol and erythritol are considered safe for human consumption if consumed in small doses. However, if you have too much of them, they can have a laxative effect.
• Nature Sweet is a combination erythritol, fructose, chicory root fiber and two plant-derived sweeteners. The first is stevia, which comes from the leaves of the stevia plant and has up to 200 times the sweetness of table sugar. The second plant-derived sweetener comes from monk fruit, a subtropical melonlike gourd, and is about 150 to 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. The new kid on the block at Starbucks, one packet of Nature Sweet (it comes in a green packet) has zero calories. In addition to using it in beverages, Nature Sweet can be used in recipes where the primary role of sugar is to sweeten, not to add bulk or tenderness, such as in sauces, salad dressings, fruit pies and cheesecake.
All sweeteners in Nature Sweet have been approved by the FDA for use in the US and do not appear to pose any health risks when used in moderation.
• Just Like Sugar is made primarily from chicory root fiber. Chicory root offers a high concentration of the prebiotic inulin, which supports the growth of “friendly” bacteria that are associated with improved bowel function and better general health. Sold in bulk form, it has zero calories per serving. It can be used like table sugar to sweeten beverages, etc. Plus, there is a version that can be used specifically for baking.
Caution: Some people experience bloating, gas, stomach cramping and/or diarrhea when consuming excess fiber, and individuals sensitive to pollen and other related plants may have an allergic reaction to the chicory in this product.
Substituting a natural sweetener in your favorite daily beverage, instead of using refined sugar or drinking a presweetened beverage, can be a great first step in cutting back on sugar and put you on the road to better health!