It's quite on-trend these days to find raw desserts, treats and protein balls in your local Cafe's and (depending on the ingredients used) these can be far better for you than a packet chocolate bar or processed protein ball.
Almost everything you find at the supermarket in packets, tubs or jars contains added refined sweetener (sauces, marinades, yoghurt, salad dressings, mustards, bread - the list goes on!). But we should all aim to avoid refined or processed food (and sugar) as much as we can, as it provides little nutritional value to our bodies and our overall health.
However, put simply, sugar is sugar, so when making improvements to your diet always be mindful to use with care to avoid excessive intake.
To help simplify your cooking and to encourage you to get into the kitchen with the kids and make yummy food yourselves, below are the better forms of natural sweeteners that are more likely to keep your blood sugar levels more stable without creating that spike effect. These items can be substituted in all recipes in your household instead of the white granulated packet sugar.
- Fruit - Use natural fresh or dried fruits to sweeten recipes such as desserts, cakes, cookies and smoothies that gives both sweetness and a nutrient boost.
I have an amazing recipe for a rhubarb compote that uses both the juice of 2 oranges and raw honey to cook the rhubarb in, which gives it this amazingly sweet taste and texture! No added sugar necessary.
- Honey - Honey contains antioxidants, B group vitamins, Vitamin C and small amounts of calcium and potassium. Raw or manuka honey actually retains some enzyme activity that can aid digestive function and has been shown to be immuno-protective with antimicrobial properties.
- Stevia - A sugar free natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant. Stevia is a natural sugar alternative and very useful for people with diabetes, poor blood sugar control, sugar intolerances or those on a weight loss/management program.
It can be up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, so only needed in small amounts!
- Rapadura - Is dehydrated pure cane sugar juice with no added chemicals. Meaning the vitamins and minerals stay intact and the end result is a caramel-like flavour, lovely used in cakes and baking.
- Molasses - Extremely nourishing with a concentrated syrup consistency. It contains large amounts of minerals such as iron, potassium and copper which means health benefits such as improved digestion and improved iron stores.
- Maple Syrup - Made from sap collected off maple trees, this is a crowd favourite when cooking things like pancakes and brownies for its gorgeous caramel flavour.
Just make sure you purchase the real deal, which tend to be a little more expensive but are worth it, as the cheaper imitations are generally made from fructose corn syrup or refined sugar syrup.
- Rice Malt Syrup - Made from fermented cooked rice, it's a blend of complex carbohydrates, maltose and glucose. RMS is a slow-releasing sweetener as well and is completely gluten free!
- Dates - The little goodies are natures natural ready-made dessert! Containing many important nutrients (such as: vitamin B6, B5, niacin magnesium, manganese and potassium) all needed for a healthy metabolism, these are so versatile and can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes from raw slices, smoothies to wholesome curry's.
- Coconut Sugar - A natural alternative to granulated refined sugar with a low GI of 35, which is preferable for steady blood sugar levels.
Delicious used in making your own honeycomb or even sprinkled over your morning oats!
Check out Vision Virtual Training for our home-mad honeycomb bites!
Everything in moderation is always the key rule with anything we eat.
Natural sweeteners are "real food", meaning our bodies are better equipped to digest them and don't cause as large a spike in insulin levels as refined sweeteners, so they are less likely to contribute to insulin resistance.
This also means that they can help reduce your risk for developing diabetes while simultaneously not sending you into the violent mood and energy swings associated with sugar consumption. But you need to remember they are still sugar and consumption of excess sugar still causes your body to store excess fat!
Use these better alternatives in small amounts but remember it's not a licence to binge on sweets!!
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.