There are a lot of good reasons to avoid ordinary refined sugar. It's bad for your teeth and your waistline, and it can contribute to serious conditions like diabetes and liver disease. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that just any sugar substitute is a good substitute. Artificial sweeteners have long had their own detractors, and recent studies suggest that they may upset the balance of gut bacteria—the microbes that live in your stomach and intestinal tract—leading to some of the same maladies that sugar contributes to. If you're looking for a healthy way to replace sugar in your diet, you're better off looking into natural sugar substitutes. Take a look at a few natural sugar substitutes that are good for your health.
Put simply, raw honey is honey that still contains bee pollen. Most of the honey for sale in the supermarket has had the bee pollen removed through a filtration process that gives the honey a longer shelf life and improves its appearance. However, this process also removes many of the things that make honey a beneficial and nutritious sweetener.
Raw honey is a good source of antioxidants, and it also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Instead of disrupting helpful gut bacteria, raw honey helps to promote the growth of these microbes. Although the science is inconclusive, some people believe that honey made locally can even help treat certain seasonal allergies by helping you build an immunity to the pollen that triggers the allergic reaction. However, you should remember that honey is high in fructose, which your liver can only effectively metabolize in small amounts, so use it sparingly.
Stevia is a sugar substitute made from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant. The leaves are considerably sweeter than ordinary sugar, making it an effective substitute: you only need a small amount to reach the level of sweetness you'd get from sugar. Stevia also contains no calories, which makes it a great choice for dieters.
There is research that suggests that stevia may be effective in treating hypertension (high blood pressure) and type 2 diabetes. One study found that participants who ate a meal made with stevia had lower insulin levels than those who ate a meal made with sugar or an artificial sweetener. However, if you use stevia, you should be aware that it may cause lowered blood pressure, which can be a problem if you're being treated for low blood pressure already. Diabetics and those who are taking certain medications, including anti-cancer drugs, should also use caution and consult a doctor before using stevia.
Date sugar is essentially just dates that have been cooked and ground up. While honey or stevia can be used much in the same ways that regular sugar can, date sugar is not an exact substitute for regular sugar—you can't dissolve it in your coffee or tea, for example. However, it does make a great sugar substitute for cooking and baking.
Date sugar is lower in calories than ordinary sugar, and it has a low glycemic index, which means that it doesn't cause insulin levels to spike quickly. Unlike sugar and most sugar substitutes, date sugar also contains nutrients, so it isn't just empty calories. Date sugar contains potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, to name a few. The protein in date sugar will make you feel fuller for longer, and that can help you eat less if dieting is your goal. Dates are also good for your gut bacteria, and they can actually help ease intestinal problems, so if you have an upset stomach, food made with date sugar may help.
Cutting refined sugar out of your diet isn't as easy as just picking up any sweetener, and different people may benefit more or less from different sweeteners. Understanding the different characteristics of different sugar substitutes can help you choose which ones are healthiest for you. Check out the selections of companies such as Sugar 2.0 so you can see what options are available to you.