Good and bad sugars; what are the alternatives?

Sugar has come under fire a lot this week, and really I’m not surprised. The sugar tax came into effect and while many may argue it’s bad and that it’s going to promote the use of artificial sweeteners, I think it’s brilliant!

The tax has been installed to discourage parents from buying high sugar content drinks, which is, of course, a good thing. However, what about the sugars we have every day? We use it in baking, tea and all sorts, how can we swap it out of our diets but still keep that sweet taste we all love?

Will Hawkins from Push Doctor explained to me that before people start ditching this addictive crystal, they need to think about why they want an alternative, “if you’re looking for a healthier sugar alternative; Why are you looking to switch? Are you aiming to reduce your sugar intake or improve your gut health? You need to make an educated decision as to what the best sugar alternative for you is and how easy it is to incorporate into your diet.”

Artificial sweeteners aren’t always a popular sugar alternative, despite there being many EU-approved ones which are safe to eat. Claims have been made that they increase the risk of cancer and blood sugar, yet most health authorities have considered them to be safe. Aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, stevia and xylitol are some options which have been approved.

All of those approved names are seemingly meaningless to most of us, so I’ve compiled a list – with the help of Will – to show what alternatives are good and are readily available.

  • Raw honey, this is a superfood due to the essential nutrients it contains, it helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria in digestion. It’s an ideal alternative to have with tea or use in baking due to the consistency.
  • Stevia, this is commonly found on supermarket shelves, but it’s actually been used for hundreds of years. It supports healthy blood sugar and prompts weight loss. It’s over 200 times as sweet as sugar so you don’t need as much of it and according to Will Hawkins, it contains no “nasty side effects of artificial sweeteners, making it an ideal natural sweetener”
  • Dates, the healthy lifestyle trend has seen dates become a mainstream fruit being used often in vegan baking. They’re easily digestible and help metabolise proteins, fats and carbs. Evidence also suggests they may help reduce cholesterol in the blood and risk of strokes.
  • Coconut sugar, this is less popular but can be found in health shops like Holland and Barrett, it has lots of health bonuses but can be expensive and hard to find. If you are diabetic or suffer from high blood pressure though, it can be an ideal substitute.

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