From the time we were children, most of us were warned about having too much sweets. We transcended from the fear of rotten teeth to deadly health risks like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. People of color are usually the ones that suffer the most as old habits die hard. Sugar can interfere with hormones in your body that regulate hunger and satiety, leading to increased calorie intake and weight gain. In addition to causing health problems, sugar is addictive. It causes dopamine to be released in the reward center of the brain, which is the same response activated by addictive drugs. This leads to cravings and can drive overeating, especially in stressed individuals. Consider the following alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Stevia is 100% natural, contains zero calories, and has no known adverse health effects. It has been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
- Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that tastes almost exactly like sugar, but it contains only 6% of the calories. However, more research is needed to determine whether it contributes to weight gain in some people.
- Yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar. It’s also very high in certain carbohydrates, which feed the good bacteria in the gut and may aid weight loss.
- Honey contains antioxidants and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. It may offer some health benefits, but it’s still sugar and should not be consumed excessively.
- Maple syrup contains some minerals and over 24 different antioxidants. It has a slightly lower glycemic index than regular sugar, but it will still raise your blood sugar levels significantly.
- Molasses contains nutrients that support bone and heart health. Nevertheless, it’s still high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly.
Some alternative sweeteners may cause more harm than good. Some may even be more dangerous than sugar. Agave nectar is often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar, but it’s probably one of the unhealthiest sweeteners on the market. Also, high fructose corn syrup isn’t good for you. While you won’t typically use HFCS as an individual ingredient in your recipes at home, it’s commonly found in sauces, salad dressings, and other condiments that you may be cooking with. Read labels and make the best decisions for you. As with most things in nutrition, moderation is key.