Many people enjoy sugar in their recipes because it enhances flavor and sweetens food. Sugar also aids in gelling, prevents discoloration and delays food spoilage.
Classic white sugar comes from sugar cane, which is processed into a brown syrup with molasses. This syrup is run through a centrifuge to separate the molasses from the sugar crystals which is filtered to make white sugar.
Although sugar is natural, it does have downsides, such as being high in calories without the fiber or protein to satiate you. Sugar causes insulin levels to spike, which is especially bad news for diabetics. For these reasons, it can be a good -- and fun! -- idea to experiment with various sugar substitutes for more natural and healthful alternatives.
Honey is not only sweet, but it's packed with an array of health benefits! Before consumption, you should experiment to determine the ratio of honey to sugar you are comfortable with. For example, some people prefer one cup of honey for each cup of sugar, while others go with a half cup of honey. You also need to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe. The advantages of using honey instead of sugar include quicker browning and more moisture.
Honey also has fewer calories and less fructose and glucose; however, diabetics should still keep honey consumption low as they would for regular sugar.
2. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup contains a fair bit of sugar, so consume it rather minimally. That said, it has nutrients such as antioxidants, calcium, iron and potassium, and you can cut your sugar consumption by about 33% by using maple syrup instead. Maple syrup is also friendlier toward your blood sugar, with a glycemic index of 54 versus table sugar's 65.
If you make your own dairy-free milk, try sweetening it with a touch of maple syrup!
Using applesauce as one of your sugar substitutes means consuming fewer calories and taking in more fiber. It's important to look for unsweetened brands or to make your own applesauce to reap these benefits. (Pssst... applesauce is also a great egg substitute!)
Fruits such as bananas, figs and dates can make excellent additions to a low-sugar diet. If you enjoy the flavor of bananas, you'll enjoy more fiber and potassium with this option. Figs and dates provide minerals such as calcium and iron, and raisins are another good sugar substitute.
If you love cold drinks, freeze your bananas and add them to your smoothies as a natural sweetener.
Processing sugar results in molasses. Molasses is a bit less sweet than sugar and has some iron, calcium and vitamins. It also has a distinctive flavor that can enhance some baked goods.
6. Cane Sugar
Cane sugar is sugar that has not been refined. Since it has undergone less processing, it has more vitamins than its refined counterpart. Glucose, fructose and sucrose are all found in cane sugar. While it is healthier than table sugar, you should still keep its use to a minimum according to the American Heart Association.
7. Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar has a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular sugar, and it comes from coconut tree sap. People with diabetes may prefer it to regular sugar for this reason, but the carbohydrate and calorie counts of both are the same. Try sprinkling some coconut palm sugar on your oatmeal or popcorn for added sweetness.
If you're adventurous and love trying new ingredients, check out some additional natural sugar substitutes below!
- Chickory root fiber
- Monk fruit
- Sweet potato syrup
- Tapioca syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
As you can see, not all sugar substitutes are created equally. Some are better for diabetics, while others may pack too great a flavor punch for some tastes. However, all of these sugar substitutes are better than regular table sugar and are worth trying in a variety of delicious recipes!