Have a Sweet Tooth? Try these 5 low-glycemic sugar substitutes!
Let’s be honest: refined and processed sugars are hazardous to our overall health and wellbeing.
The snackable cakes, those boxed brownies your coworker left in the break room, or the cute, colorful little packages of “no-calorie sweeteners” that can end up in your coffee are not part of a balanced diet… the fact is, they are hurting your body!
Some of the biggest culprits are High Fructose Corn Syrup (“HFCS”), aspartame, and plain old white sugar – regardless whether "100% real cane sugar” or not.
These are all highly processed, can be found frequently in packaged ‘convenience’ foods, and rank high on the glycemic index (“GI”)… meaning they spike blood sugar quickly and are especially harmful for those with or at risk for diabetes. Refined sugars have been shown to lead to metabolic troubles, faster aging, and damaged immune system. Consuming an excess of refined sugars can cause: hormone imbalance, skin conditions, candida, type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and dental problems (to name a few).
In short? Avoid processed sugars as much as possible!
Thankfully, there are natural, low-glycemic sweeteners out there that can perform much in the same way as the refined sugars without the harmful blood sugar spikes and potential health concerns.
Here are FIVE low-glycemic, safe, sugar substitutes you can start using today.
Dates are a wonderful, whole-food sweetener that is low on the glycemic index. They contain vitamin B-6 (helping metabolize food), along with vitamins A and K and many minerals, potassium being the most notable. Dates have a luscious, caramel-like taste to them and are a perfect smoothie add-in or making raw desserts. (42 Glycemic Index)
Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Palm Sugar is made from the sap of the coconut tree and is highly sustainable, creating a better environmental footprint.
Coconut sugar is a great source of the minerals potassium, magnesium, and zinc plus B vitamins. And it can be used in a 1 to 1 substitution for refined white sugar in recipes, while containing about half the amount of sugars! With a taste similar to brown sugar, it’s great for baking. (35 Glycemic Index)
Agave is another low-glycemic sweetener that is derived from the cactus plant (Agave) – the same one also used to make tequila! Agave nectar is about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar meaning, “less is more” when using.
But it’s also important to take care about the type of Agave you use - choose raw agave that is not heated above 118 degrees and is not put through a chemical process.
There has been some controversy about agave in the past comparing it to HFCS and pointing to the amount of fructose levels. However, HFCS is a manufactured food. Agave is a real food. And ultimately (as with any sweetener), the key is to use it in moderation.
You can try using agave to lightly sweeten beverages like in this Spicy Lemonade (15 Glycemic Index)
Yacon Syrup is made from a tuber root traditionally found in South America. It’s pressed syrup is high in easily digestible sugars that can balance bacteria in your digestive flora and support gut health. This is a truly safe sugar substitute as it’s raw, organic, low-calorie, and low-glycemic.
Yacon syrup tastes similar to maple syrup, so use it to top pancakes or in desserts. (1 Glycemic Index)
An herb native to Paraguay, stevia leaf is almost 300 times sweeter than sugar, but naturally contains no sugars or calories.
Since it’s derived from a plant, stevia contains phytonutrients that can help prevent disease. You can find stevia in it’s dried powder form or in a liquid extract and a little goes a long way. Like with Agave, it is important to source clean stevia – absent additives like ‘natural flavoring’ and ‘erythritol’.
Try adding a couple drops or pinches to sweeten coffee, tea, or smoothies. Stevia can be used in baking, but do some research on conversions since the volume will be much different than with white sugar. (0 GI)
A little goes a long way .. add a couple drops of Stevia to this Tropical Freeze Cocktail, featuring fresh fruits and a splash of tequila!
So staying away from refined, high-glycemic sugars doesn’t have to be difficult! There are many delicious, safe sugar substitutes that can add a boost of flavor and nutrition to traditional recipes.
Arielle Mandelberg is a self-proclaimed health foodie, travel junkie, animal lover, smoothie-bowl aficionado, pilates enthusiast, and working actress. Follow her day to day adventures on her Instagram @ArielleLikesToCook.