By Lauren Denos: 6/22/2015 (Nutrition)

Sweeteners are considered the worst thing we can eat and the one thing we do not want to live without. You should not have to avoid desserts just choose what you make them with more carefully.

Our society loves sweets. But many people are allergic to them or are addicted to them causing an over-indulgence of empty calorie, fat-laden foods. White sugar has had all of its nutrients stripped from it, the byproduct of this is molasses. The problem with this is that refined sugar cannot be process by the body as it is, so it needs to leach other nutrients from our bodies to do so. If you feel like you are being drained a bit (probably after your sugar high) after eating too much sugar that is because you are! So what can we do to continue to enjoy what we eat, but make them better for us?

First off, exchange some of your sweet treats for fruit and fruit created snacks. You can create healthy homemade sorbets, pies, frozen ice pops, etc. I love to make pies made out of raw fruit mixed with a tablespoon of jam. I then put it in a crust I make out of whole grains, nuts or both. It is delicious and is a much healthier choice. The other thing you can do is take what types of foods you like and find a way to make them healthier. For instance, if you love chocolate, how about getting unsweetened chocolate, melting it down and adding your own sweetener? I do this for myself with Stevia.

Some good sweeteners to use are: Stevia, Xylitol, maple syrup, coconut sweetener honey or pure raw cane sugar. It depends on what your specific needs are. Personally, I stay away from things that spike my blood sugar, thus I use Stevia. For some, it may just be that they need to be eating the more raw form of sugar so they can do honey or maple syrup. Regardless of what you do, reducing your sweet treats will make a big difference in your health no matter what your goals are.

One reason you may crave a lot of sweet stuff, is when you let yourself skip meals or go too long between meals. The reason for this is you can crave the sweets more since your body is wanting instant fuel, which is sugar, the most instant fuel there is. If you are really craving sweet foods, make sure you are not just needing an actual meal first. And if you have to have that instant energy, grab a piece of fruit. It is still a quick assimilated sugar, but it has a host of vitamins and minerals in it, giving it actual benefits for your body

How many sweet things do you eat throughout the day? Could you replace some of them with fruit or something less sugary? Could you be eating a real meal instead?

Example: If at lunch time, you normally eat a candy bar, instead eat a real meal with health protein, carbs, fats and vegetables. If after that you still feel like you need to have some dessert eat a piece of fruit. See if that quells your need for the candy bar.

Think about your sugar intake and what you could replace it with.

Here is a list of some of the sweeteners on the grocery shelves so you have a better idea of what you are getting when you get a “healthier” alternative to sugar:Keep in mind that just because something is considered “healthy” or it works for someone else does not mean that it is good for everyone. I love stevia but some people do not do well with it, some people do well with honey and others have allergic reactions to it. You have to pay attention to hat works for you.

Sweeteners

Stevia is derived from the stevia plant. In other cultures they use the fresh leaves in teas. It has just recently become available for wide use. Because it is new there is not much information on any side effects. So far they are saying that it may be one of the best options for those with blood sugar problems, such as insulin resistance and diabetes. This is personally the only thing I use for sweeteners. I have friends who's mouth goes tingly when eating anything with stevia, so like anything else just because it is my personal favorite does not mean that it right for everyone.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is extracted from a variety of fruits, vegetables and even tree bark. The main two sources of xylitol is from corn cobs and birch trees. It does come from nature, but is not considered natural because of the process that removes it from the origin. For many people, this is a great sugar substitute. It is said to help with dental health. It is low calorie and has a low glycemic index. A word of warning, though. Xylitol can have a powerful laxative effect, so if you are going to test this sugar substitute, start really slow and see how your body handles it. Xylitol is found in polysweet, and xylosweet.

Honey is still a very sweet choice that does affect your blood sugar levels, so diabetics should stay away from it, but there are also some good benefits to using honey. First of all, it is a natural product. Secondly, if you get local organic, raw, pollinated honey it has been known to help boost the immune system, which helps with allergies. Processed honey will be no healthier than white table sugar so stay away from it.

Maple Syrup can be a bit better for you when it is a less processed version. The less processed maple syrup does contain minerals. That being said, it will still spike your blood sugar just like regular white sugar will.

Raw cane sugar, Sucanat, and Turbinado sugar are all a dehydrated, pressed sugar. It is less processed than white table sugar and therefore retains more of its inherent nutrients. Technically, it is healthier than regular sugar, but it is still sugar and will still spike your blood sugar.

Coconut sugar and Palm sugar has a low glycemic index and has been said to be healthy for diabetics. It has a wide range of amino acids, minerals, vitamin C and B. It does have some great health benefits. Some people with blood sugar problems can still have issues with this, so it really depends on your system.

Agave nectar is a sweetener that comes from the agave plant. It is touted as having a low glycemic index. Although, this only measures the levels of glucose, not other sugar types. To give you an idea of what that means, Agave nectar can be between 55-90% fructose. Corn syrup is at 55%. In short, Agave nectar is no better for you than corn syrup or table sugar.



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