The dangers of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, both to your health and as an addiction, have been well documented and of course artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, and now neotame, are just as toxic.
The human body is totally unable to utilize the roughly 225 pounds of sugar and HFCS consumed by the average American every year. Before the 1900s, the yearly consumption was only 5 pounds. Our livers turn this blood sugar into fat (triglycerides) where it is stored on our stomachs and hips but, in the meantime, our livers can be seriously damaged in the process. Aspartame has known links to neurological functions, brain tumors, seizures, headaches as well as serious adverse effects on children and pregnant women.
What is the alternative?
What can you do if you have such a sweet tooth that you constantly crave your sugar fix? Fortunately health stores both locally and online give you plenty of sweet options without the added risks.
is a natural plant based sweetener that is easy to use in place of sugar. The advantages are that it keeps blood sugar levels stable, is aspartame-free and has very few calories. Stevia is harvested from the leaves of a small shrub native to South America where it was first discovered centuries ago in Paraguay by the local inhabitants. It even offers some beneficial nutrients. It was original called stevia rebaudiana. Use stevia in the same way as you would sugar but you will need very much less as it is considerably sweeter. Its white, crystalline powder will appear similar to sugar. Some find that the taste takes a bit of getting used to so you may need to try different brands to find one that you like.
2. Raw honey
is another alternative sweetener and has been used for centuries both for its incredible healing properties and as a natural sweetener. Always look out for pure raw honey when getting your supply.
is a spice that can add sweetness to your meals but is also a great way to keep your metabolic rates high by burning up excess calories. Use in your baking recipes, sprinkle on your desserts or oatmeal or add a teaspoon to spice up your tea or coffee. Cinnamon has many health benefits too.
4. Maple syrup
is made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. The Canadian province of Quebec is by far the largest producer with some ¾ of the world's output while Vermont is the largest producer in the US. In Canada, syrups must be at least 66% sugar and be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup while in the US, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labelled as "maple". Always check the label when buying or ordering to ensure you get organic grade A maple syrup. Often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or oatmeal, it is also used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetener or flavoring agent.
will give you that sweet lift and even though it is a by-product of the sugar refining process, molasses is extremely nutritious containing B vitamins, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, inositol and vitamin E. A tablespoon of molasses daily can be a beneficial health booster but it has a very strong taste and would probably be best used in combination with other ingredients when added to your baking, drizzled on your oatmeal or dissolved in a drink of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice.
6. Fresh fruit
is of course sweet but comes with its own packaged fiber so that if you eat a conservative amount every day, you will gain many health benefits. Choose a variety of different tastes and colors so that you enjoy the full range of fruits on a regular basis.
7. Dried fruit
can also be a healthy snack to fill that sweet tooth gap and while vitamins and minerals may be decreased in the drying process, there is still plenty of dietary fiber. Higher calories than fresh fruit means that you should be more careful about practising portion control and also be aware that some manufacturers add sugar and other sweeteners to dried fruit so always check the labels. The healthiest version of dried fruit would be the variety you make yourself. Buy a food dehydrator which dries fruit with warm air and you can make your own selection of fruits to snack on -particularly if you have excess fruit growing in your garden. Ideal for home drying are apricots, apple slices, pear slices, bananas and berries.
8. Delicious and decadent, organic raw dark chocolate
is very high in antioxidants particularly if you choose good quality, chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids and natural cocoa butter. Milk or white chocolate cannot make any health claims. In fact, washing down dark chocolate with a drink of milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate and therefore negate the potential health benefits. Of course all chocolates are not created equal and when combined with other foods, can lose much of their health benefits. Be aware that Dutch processing (which is a chemical alkalizing process to smooth flavor) can destroy many nutrients.
is a sweetener found in birch trees and many fruits and vegetables. It is very low calorie and can be a great substitute for sugar. The good news is that Xylitol is 100% GMO-Free and can be used for cooking and baking. If you must chew gum, then only buy gum with xtilitol and not sugar-free which usually means aspartame. Out of all the substitutes, xylitol has the most similar taste and consistency as conventional sugar.
With so many alternative sources of sweetness to choose from, there is really no excuse to be using HFCS, sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Jane writes for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions as well as a range of beauty products. Apart from writing about those various conditions, she also covers general health, environmental and other subjects of interest. She has lived in Kenya as well as Cape Town, South Africa and spent time in San Diego, USA. She now lives in Somerset, England with regular visits from her far-flung children and grandchildren. She is a keen gardener and enjoys growing fresh fruit and vegetables with her husband on their joint allotment. As a result, there is something available to use in the kitchen virtually all year round. Her regular posts can be found on our blog.