In My…Sugar Shelf

Need a little sweet? I think we all do from time to time.

Recipes for cookies, granola, even some sauces require sweetness (as does my morning tea), and it can be so satisfying to even the healthiest eaters.

Look out, however. Processed sugar is a Bad Boy, and can be highly addictive and leave you feeling awful. From unwanted weight gain, to problems with sleep and non-existent energy, you’ll be better off avoiding it as much as possible.

Fortunately, there are ways to satisfy your cravings for sweetness without adding sugar or pounds. Not all sweeteners send your blood sugar soaring and lead to a crash, and some even contain minerals that are good for you.

Want to have your cake and eat it to? Here’s how I do it, naturally…

Coconut sugar: This one is my fave. Ever heard of the GI, or Glycemic Index ranking? The GI is a way of organizing foods by how quickly they make your blood sugar levels rise after eating them. Regular white table sugar has a GI rank of 100; coconut sugar is ranked at 35, meaning that it won’t send your blood sugar rocketing up as soon as you eat it. It’s delicious in coffee and can easily be used as a sugar substitute in recipes.

Pure maple syrup: Sweeten up and get some minerals like manganese and zinc at the same time. Syrup is a great topper for your quinoa or granola, gluten free pancakes, smoothies or your chai tea. This is my son’s favorite!

Stevia: Be careful, a little of this natural sweetener goes a long way! Stevia is a natural, intensely sweet sugar made from the leaves of a South American plant. You can buy it in liquid or powered form, and it’s super handy to add a little sweetness to your green smoothies. Try growing some, and use the plant leaf this summer.

Molasses: High quality molasses is not only delicious, it has some health benefits and is a safe alternative for people suffering with diabetes. High grade molasses is rich in iron, calcium, and magnesium, and contains no fat. This old-school healthy sweet can be used to spruce up marinades, bean dishes, and even your holiday cocktails.

Honey: Local, raw and unprocessed honey has health benefits up the wazoo. Containing natural prebiotics (food for your gut’s healthy bacteria) and allergens that are local to the honey’s source, this can be a fantastic way to boost your immunity, and your resistance to seasonal allergic responses. Keep in mind, however, that because of the bacteria present, honey is not safe for babies under age one.

What about you? What are your favorite ways to stay sweet, without the white stuff?