Healthy sugar alternatives are one way to tap into the magic of our youth, when sugar made everything taste better and we had no idea what it was doing to our teeth or bodies. With the dietary knowledge that adulthood brings, now we know that too much sugar is not good for us, but can we help it if we crave it anyway?Check out these five healthy sugar alternatives in order to satisfy that persistent sweet tooth left over from childhood.
1. Raw Honey
It's no surprise that honey would make our list of healthy sugar alternatives. Raw honey is antibacterial, a great source of antioxidants, boosts the immune system, and promotes digestive health. It also helps to balance blood sugar and stabilize blood pressure. No wonder Pooh was so addicted!It's important to note the difference between the bear-shaped, processed honey and raw honey. When honey is processed, it loses the essential vitamins and nutrients which are its main benefits as a healthy alternative to sugar.As a bonus, you only need to use about a 2/3-3/4 cup of honey to every cup of sugar for the same amount of sweetness!
You may have seen this one before on many lists of healthy sugar alternatives, considering that it is the second most popular sugar alternative in the U.S. under the term "dietary supplement."Stevia is the powdered extract from the South American stevia plant. It boasts zero calories and is 100% natural. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well... it is! Stevia is more than 100 times sweeter than sugar and will not cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which is what leads to the all-too-familiar crash that comes after eating regular sugar. Stevia is also available in a liquid form that easily mixes into drinks like coffee or tea.You will only need about 1 teaspoon of stevia (liquid or powder) to every 1 cup of sugar.
3. Organic Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is becoming increasingly popular among healthy sugar alternatives. The agave plant (which is also where tequila comes from) is more than 25% sweeter than granulated, white sugar. Like stevia, it won't give you a sugar rush. It also contains a prebiotic, a type of dietary fiber which is good for gut-nourishing intestinal bacteria.Like most food products, look for agave nectar marked organic for an even healthier alternative.2/3 cup of agave is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar.
4. Coconut Sugar
Coconut oil is all the rage right now for its magical ability to add health to basically everything. Be honest – you would put it on your bank account if you could! Well, another benefit of this kickass fruit is that it is one of the purest of the healthy sugar alternatives. It has no artificial ingredients and it is not chemically altered in any way. Coconut sugar has a taste similar to brown sugar and contains traces of iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants.Another sweet fact: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations named coconut palm sugar the most sustainable sweetener in the world in 2014. So now you can help the planet while satisfying your sweet tooth – a true win-win!Use a 1:1 cup ratio when replacing coconut sugar with white sugar.
5. Blackstrap Molasses
Last but definitely not least, blackstrap molasses actually has the most nutrients between all these healthy sugar alternatives. Remarkably, a mere two tablespoons of molasses contains over 15% of the daily iron requirement for premenopausal women, along with significant amounts of antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin B6.Since molasses actually has less sugar than granulated sugar, 1 1/3 cups molasses is needed for every 1 cup of sugar. In addition, molasses is more acidic than sugar, so 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda should be added for each cup of molasses used.Any of these healthy sugar alternatives can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth while still keeping your diet and meal prep routine on track. Keep a small container in your meal management bag for an extra defense against that office cupcake or post-workout craving!Now, take this newfound knowledge and go forth to resurrect your love of sweets – in moderation, of course. For even more healthy eating tips check out 6 Healthy Junk Food Alternatives and Food Myths: Unhealthy Foods You Think Are Healthy.