Sugar is now recognised as one of the major contributors to poor health, with diabetes situated at the forefront. Generally speaking, refined sugar has no nutritional benefits at all; all it does is create big spikes in blood sugar levels, which in turn leads to a spike in insulin production, insulin resistance in the body, and potentially diabetes. Sugar spikes or ‘high’s will usually be followed by a sugar ‘low’, which will make us crave more sugar to retain that ‘high’. In recent years, many foods tend to contain sugar that we are not necessarily aware of. Indeed, processed ready meals, ready made store soups, and cooking sauces are all high in sugar. Low fat products – often purchased under the pretence that they are ‘healthy’ – also contain lots of sugar instead of fat. White bread, white pasta and rice are also sugar culprits. Food labels are often very hard to decipher and sugar can come in the form of fructose, sucrose, lactose, and dextrose, so be sure to check before purchase!
However, have no fear – we don’t need to give up all sweet treats! Indeed, you will be happy to hear that there are much healthier alternatives to refined sugar. Artificial sweeteners should be avoided as they contain chemical additives that we should avoid. If you gradually replace refined sugars with some of the natural unrefined sugars below, your sugar cravings will eventually decline.
- Coconut palm sugar offers more vitamins and minerals than it’s refined white counterpart. It also has a lower GI, which means that it won’t spike your blood sugar levels as with regular sugar.
- 100% Maple syrup contains minerals iron, zinc, manganese and potassium. It also has a low GI, which means it won’t increase your blood sugar levels too much
- Honey (preferably raw honey as it’s not processed) is rich in both vitamins and nutrients. Honey is best consumed cold as heating it will destroy its health benefits. Try purchasing a jar from your local farmers market.
- Medjool dates are not only deliciously sweet but can be used as a sweetener for some desserts.
- Stevia is much sweeter than normal sugar, so it is best not to use it too often, or you could risk becoming too accustomed to the sweetness! Use the pure liquid form, not the refined or modified versions.