Before we begin this chat, the first thing to remember is that all sweet things should be viewed as treats and consumed with wisdom and moderation, even the “healthiest” sweeteners!
Here's how I would categorize common sweetener choices*, with best options starting at the top, and the least desirable choices at the bottom.
Foods: Dried fruit puree (Ex. re-hydrate dates or dried apricots with hot water, then puree in a blender). Still wise to use sparingly since these will raise blood sugar. Benefits of this sweetener choice would be no processing, and some nutritional benefits when consumed in appropriate amounts. Ex. Dried apricots are rich in potassium.
Ok to use occassionally for most people, in small (teaspoon) amounts: Pure maple syrup, raw honey, organic blackstrap molasses. These will still have a blood-sugar raising effect, but may also have some nutrition benefits when consumed appropriately. Ex. Blackstrap molasses is high in minerals like iron.
More controversial: Turbinado sugar (raw sugar) or evaporated cane juice. Still somewhat processed and still sugar. Agave nectar controversial also because of its high fructose content. Sugar alcohols: xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol - appear to be safe, but still a processed product and likely to cause GI distress if too much is consumed. You would want only organic, non-GMO sources if you choose to consume sugar alcohols. Note: xylitol is toxic to dogs.
AVOID: white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, acesulfame k, neotame, sucralose, saccharin. Brand names: Equal, Splenda, Sweet N’ Low, Sunett, etc. Common products: Crystal Lite, zero-calorie beverages, cereals, canned fruit, yogurt, syrups, jellies, coffee creamers, toothpaste, candy, cough syrups, and supplements. Read all labels and pay special attention to anything labeled “diet” or “sugar-free” or “reduced sugar” or “light.”
Our brains are wired to crave sugar, but you CAN rewire your brain. Try consuming low/no sweeteners for just one month! You can do anything for one month. :)
The first 10-14 days will be tough, but notice how your cravings change around 3-4 weeks. In addition to low/no sugar, following a diet moderately low in carbohydrates (and choosing whole-food sources like starchy vegetables and whole grains rather than highly processed sources like bread, pasta, cereals, chips, and crackers) will also radically impact cravings.
*These are general recommendations. Please see your integrative nutritionist for more personalized suggestions.
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