Everyone has a sweet tooth, so let’s look at some healthy alternatives to sugar and aspartame that can help you control the cravings without loosing control of your waistline. One very important tip when consuming sugar, whether it be natural from fruit or a candy bar, is to eat it with protein. An apple with a little bit of peanut butter is a great snack because the protein in the PB will actually lower the glycemic level of the apple, this means your insulin won’t spike up and crash later on. Here are some of my favorite sweeteners, please add your own favorites in the comments section!
Raw honey – full of enzymes, but has to be RAW as pasteurizing food kills the nutrients. Honey has a lower glycemic level than sugar, but is higher in calories than other alternatives.
Xylitol – looks smells, and tastes like sugar – guess what it is sugar. Xylitol is a low-calorie sugar made from fruit. There are even studies showing it helps FIGHT cavities!
Stevia – Stevia is a plant from South America that has been used as a sweetener for a long time with no evidence of side effects. Stevia doesn’t have calories and is actually sweeter than sugar, so use sparingly. In the place of regular or diet soda, my boyfriend and I are big fans of Stevia sweetened sodas like Zevia and Virgil’s diet (which comes in glass for those trying to avoid aluminum and plastic)
Coconut or Palm Sugar – like raw honey, coconut sugar has a low glycemic level. It’s not as low in calories as xylitol or stevia, but it doesn’t cause an insulin spike, which is the cause of fat gain with sugar consumption. It doesn’t taste like coconut and is the same consistency as raw or brown sugar. Can also be used as a 1-to-1 substitute in baking.
For more information on the dangers of sugar I highly recommend the following:
Sugar Blues – a book by William Dufty on the dangerous and toxic effects of sugar first published in 1975 – This book will change your life.
Is Sugar Toxic? – an excellent article from the NYTimes evaluating one mans research and “controversial” video (controversial to the company’s loosing money).
Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Video by Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology that explores the damage caused by sugar.
Photo by frenchbyte, Creative Commons 2.0
I’m definitly going to have to check out that book. About two years ago I drastically changed my diet after some health issues, one being ridiculous chronic fatigue. I cut out sugar and processed foods and added healthy fats (which I was terrified to eat since about the age of 15). It was amazing how quickly my energy shot up and I lost about 15 lbs over the course of a year. Now I try to follow the paleo diet (which is like a modified version of Atkins). It’s funny, as long as I abstain from sweets I don’t really crave it, but give in once and BAM I become a full on crack addict (or at least what I imagine a crack addict to be like, lol).
I used to have a moderate sweet tooth. Then I went on the Atkins (high protein) diet and cut out all sugars for 2 weeks. The effect was startling. When I tried sugar again after the 2-week hiatus, it tasted SUPER cloyingly sweet to me. I’ve never gone back to having a sweet tooth, and I’d have to say that, more than the weight loss, that was the biggest benefit of the Atkins diet–for me.
I’d also recommend the book “Transcend” by Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Terry Grossman. It’s about longevity and living well, and has some great info. on glycemic indices and glycemic loads effects on the body.