How many packets of sugar do you usually take in your morning coffee or tea? How about in your afternoon or evening drink? Why should you find alternatives for regular sugar? Simple. Sugar is bad for you. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. For children, the requirements range between 3-6 teaspoons (12 to 25 grams) per day. One teaspoon of sugar contains 4.2 grams of sugar and 16 calories. One can of soda contains about 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, liver disease, just to name a few. Unfortunately, the media has wrongly told us to turn to things like “sweet and low” full of aspartame (contained in sodas) which is associated with increased autism rates, mood disorders, increased weight, premature menstruation, etc.
# 1 STEVIA
There are over 200 species of this plant that grow in South America. This plant has been used for so many years to sweeten food. They also used it for medicinal purposes. The stevia extract is said to be over 200 times sweeter than sugar. So you don’t need much to sweeten your tea, coffee, or cakes. You can get the stevia leaves or the liquid or powder stevia extract. Stevia is a zero calorie sweetener containing containing no carbohydrates. Not all stevia products are healthy. So be on the lookout. When shopping for stevia, please make sure the ingredients list “stevia” as the only ingredients. Some stevia products will actually have extra fillers or even refined sugar as part of the ingredients.
# 2 FRUITS
Fruits are a natural sweetener. So why not use fruits in the place of refined sugar? You can cut up fruits of your choice like raspberries, mangoes, peaches, oranges, blueberries, watermelon, etc into a jar. Now add cold or hot water and two bags of any tea you like into the mixture. Let it sit and steep for about ten to fifteen minutes. Now strain and enjoy hot or cold.
# 3 RAW HONEY
In its true form, raw honey is actually a food on it’s own. This is not the honey you commonly see in your local grocery store. Raw honey is a food because it contains over 20 amino acids, over 30 minerals, a lot of antioxidants and some vitamins and enzymes. Please note that raw honey is not the same as organic honey. Raw honey cannot be pasteurized or processed. Sometimes raw honey can be simply strained. This can be called mild processing. Organic honey simply comes from bee farms classified by USDA standards as organic farms free from pesticides and chemicals and they can be pasteurized or processed. Raw and unfiltered honey usually has fine particles of the bee pollen, bits of the honeycomb and other objects in it. After a few months, it usually crystallizes into a thick cloudy consistency. Although it has many benefits, be sure to keep in mind and be cautious about the fact that raw honey can be harmful to babies under a year old and pregnant women.
So when buying honey, make sure to check the ingredients section. It should mention only “honey” as the ingredient. And remember the best honey is sold in a glass jar, not a plastic container.
Also, buy your honey from your closest farmer’s market or visit the bee keeper at their source to get the best of it. Although honey can be very healthy, watch out for it’s high carbohydrate content (17 grams for each tablespoon). Each tablespoon contains 64 calories of fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free goodness.
When it comes to sweeting my food, my very first choice would be to do without any sweeteners. I can comfortably drink my tea or coffee without any form of sweetener. My next choice would be to use a fruit to sweeten it. I bake a healthy banana bread and use a bit of coconut sugar and of course bananas to sweeten. I always have raw honey in my home. This comes in handy when i need to sweeten anything for the kids. I think sometimes sweetening our food is simply a habit. We grew up with the idea that certain foods must be sweetened. When you think about it, we really don’t have to always sweeten these foods. It’s time to develop new taste buds. Why not try a different kind of sweet with the ideas I discussed above? Looking forward to your feedback regarding this article. What other natural sweeteners do you use at home with your family? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to tune in EVERY Monday at 6AM Central Standard Time for a brand new blog!
WLS, FNS (NASM)