Let’s analyze an all-too-familiar situation: It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and you can’t tell if you’re hungry or just burned out from a long day. You scour your desk for something sweet, which is when you spot the milk chocolate candy bar you’d squirreled away for just such an emergency. And with that first bite of sugary goodness, all your worries melt away—well, sort of.
Sugar is complicated: It’s equal parts delicious and damaging. Studies have shown that consuming too much sugar can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. But before you convince yourself to give up sweets entirely, rest assured there are healthy (and tasty) alternatives.
From pasta sauce to almond butter, added sugar turns up in the most unexpected food items. Why is that important to know? Research suggests that excess sugar consumption may be a major cause of obesity and several chronic diseases. When our bodies start to digest sugar, our insulin and blood sugar levels have been shown to spike, leading to increased androgen secretion, oil production of the skin, and insulin resistance.
Thinking you’ll never eat dessert again? Take solace in knowing that cookies can be in your future. Sugar alternatives like the options below will satiate your sweet tooth and curb your cravings, while still helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Derived from the sap of the coconut palm and boiled until the water evaporates to create a sweet sugar, coconut sugar is a great replacement for cane sugar. Because of its similar color and consistency, it’s easily mistaken for brown sugar, but the health benefits are quite different.
Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index and less fructose than refined white sugar. It also contains inulin, which is a dietary fiber that supports the good bacteria in your gut. Ingredients with a high glycemic index can cause the body to stop using sugar as fuel and instead store it as fat.
Try: Coconut Crème Brûlée
This paleo-friendly spin on a traditional crème brûlée uses coconut cream for a remarkably thick and delicious custard. And with perfectly torched coconut sugar crust, it’ll satisfy any sweet tooth.
Made from three ingredients naturally derived from corn (erythritol), chicory root (fructooligosaccharides), and monk fruit, Switch contains zero calories and tastes just like real sugar. Not to mention—it’s also vegan and gluten-free. Similar to coconut sugar, you can use Switch in place of cane sugar in your favorite recipes.
Try: Keto Pancake Bread
Who says you can’t have bread while on keto? We’re bending the rules and using a keto-friendly pancake mix to make this perfect breakfast staple or midday snack.
Swerve is a cup-for-cup sugar replacement made with a unique combo of ingredients derived from fruits and vegetables. And with no artificial ingredients, preservatives or flavors, Swerve is non-glycemic and safe for those living with diabetes—the combination of erythritol and oligosaccharides doesn’t affect blood glucose or insulin levels.
Try: Collagen Lavender and Lemon Sorbet
Made from tart lemons and soothing lavender, plus a scoop of beneficial collagen, this sugar-free dessert will boost your beauty routine while you indulge!
This zero-calorie sugar substitute is a top seller in Japan, where it’s made by naturally fermenting non-GMO corn and extracting young monkfruit. The result? A sweet taste almost exactly like table sugar, but with a zero glycemic index.
Try: Paleo Mini-Bagels
Made with almond flour and tapioca starch, these gluten-free and sugar-free bagels are the perfect way to start your day. They’re great sans toppings, but we recommend sesame seeds or poppy seeds for an extra crunch.
Buckwheat, clover, orange blossom, oh my! When it comes to honey, there are a lot of options. But the most important factor is whether it’s pasteurized—the process of heating honey to a temperature that kills off any bad bacteria. The problem with pasteurization is that it can also lead to a loss of dense nutrients and antioxidants. Conventional honeys that have been heavily processed aren’t much different than refined sugar, which is why raw honey is the gold standard. It contains numerous vitamins and minerals including: Vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and thiamine, as well as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
Try: Honey Almond Popcorn Balls
Sweetened with honey instead of marshmallows and corn syrup, these almond popcorn balls are a lighter version of the traditional Halloween treat or movie snack.
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