On average we consume over 20 teaspoons of added sugar in our diet daily, and sometimes we don’t even know it. This can add up to an average of 142 pounds of sugar per person per year! Americans love sweets! And how could we not when sweet flavors release serotonin in our brains, the chemical that gives off the feelings of love, contentment and well-being. But not all sweeteners are created equal. When it comes to refined sweeteners like white table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet and Splenda, there are many side effects and health risks to take into consideration. These items are stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can spike your blood sugar, often leading to more sugary cravings, mood and energy swings. Sugar can be addictive for many people because of the chemical reaction that take place in the body. Artificial sweeteners, because of the neurotoxins they contain, have been know to cause headaches, memory loss, nausea, PMS, dizziness, mood changes, heart arrhythmia, joint pain and more. Using natural and minimally processed sweeteners can help to control sugar cravings, stabilize moods and energy and have a dramatic effect on your health. Since most natural sweeteners are 1.5 times sweeter then sugar, you can use less of it in baking and other recipes that call for sugar.
Here are 5 natural sweeteners to get you started.
1) Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is a natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave cactus. It is 1.4 times sweeter than refined sugar, but does not create a “sugar rush,” and is much less disturbing to the body’s blood sugar levels than white sugar.
2) Raw Honey
Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
3) Date Sugar
Date sugar consists of finely ground, dehydrated dates, utilizing this fruit’s vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. If you like the taste of dates, this will definitely appeal to you. Date sugar can be used as a direct replacement for sugar, and comes in a granulated form
4) Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from boiled down maple tree sap and contains many minerals. It adds a pleasant flavor to foods and is great for baking with. Be sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup, and not maple-flavored corn syrup.
5) Barley Malt
Barley malt is made from the soaking, sprouting, mashing, cooking, and roasting of barley. This process capitalizes on the naturally present enzymes. In this process, the carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, yet the final product is more of a “whole food” than many other sweeteners. Barley malt can come in the form of powder or syrup.
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