Best Ways to Sweeten When Clients Don’t Want Sugar

muffin muffins truskawki stokrotki ciasto czekolada ciastkaWhen I was studying to become a Health Coach, I learned about many different sweet alternatives to refined white sugar and experimented with them in both cooking and baking.

I was looking for ways to get my intense sugar cravings under control in a healthy way without giving up sweets completely.  In addition, I wanted to show my clients that you really could have sweets (at least once in a while) that were delicious and not utterly bad for you healthwise.

What I discovered is that there are basically three main factors to consider when deciding whether a sweetener is more or less healthy…

  1. How much nutritional value does the sweetener have?
  2. How much does the sweetener raise blood sugar (glucose) levels?
  3. How much fructose does the sweetener contain?

Ideally, a healthy sweetener has lots of nutritional value, doesn’t raise blood sugar much or at all, and contains very little fructose.

Once you take a look at sweeteners from this angle, not many sweeteners make the grade but there are still a few that stand out from the crowd as you will see below…

Stevia:  This sweetener comes from the leaf of the stevia plant.  I use it a lot in the liquid extract form to sweeten a salad dressing, sauce, tea or smoothie.  Most experts believe this sweetener is safe for diabetics because it may actually lower blood sugar levels.  Try different brands of stevia to find out which one you like best because some brands leave a bitter aftertaste.  In my opinion, this is one of the healthiest (or least harmful) sweeteners on the market.

Date Sugar:  I enjoy using date sugar when baking cookies and cakes.  Date sugar is made from dried dates that are pulverized.  What’s great about date sugar is that you can use it to replace refined, white sugar in cake and cookie recipes, and it is not an empty calorie like refined, white sugar.  Date sugar is packed full of all the vitamins, minerals and fiber that are in the date itself.

A word of caution:  Eat date sugar in moderation.  Just two medium dates contain about 7.7 grams of fructose and on any given day you don’t want to ingest more than 15 grams of fructose from all sources (many Americans consume about 50 grams per day).  A growing amount of research suggests that consuming high levels of fructose from any source (even from fresh, whole fruits) is linked to such conditions as insulin resistance and weight gain.

Whole Fruit:  The favorite whole fruits I use to sweeten desserts are apples and bananas.  Both of these fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  From a fructose perspective one medium apple contains about 9.5 grams and 1 medium banana contains about 7.1 grams so like with date sugar just be careful how much you eat so that you don’t eat too much fructose on any given day.  What’s nice about both date sugar and whole fruit a little can sweeten quite a bit.

Natural Maple Syrup:  While maple syrup spikes blood sugar levels much like refined, white sugar, it does contain trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.  In addition, maple syrup contains very little fructose.  I use a very small amount of maple syrup to sweeten the cooked, whole grain cereals I eat in the morning.  It goes without saying that you should stay away from most processed store brands of maple syrup because high fructose corn syrup is typically added.

I used to use agave nectar because it is a low glycemic sweetener and will spike blood sugar levels less than refined, white sugar and many other natural sweeteners; however, I have since moved away from using it because it contains even more fructose than high fructose corn syrup, and as I mentioned above, too much fructose in the diet is now thought to be harmful by many.

Which sweeteners are you using in your cooking and baking and why?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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