Decoding Natural Sugars

If it tastes good, it should be good for you—just because something’s sweet doesn’t mean it needs to be off limits! Even if you’re an agave guru, Charlotte’s Book expert Health Coach Holli Thompson has some sweet surprises in this list of five natural sugars. 

Processed sugar  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.

Have Your Cake And Eat It Too—Naturally!

1. 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!

2. 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 powdered form, and it’s super handy to add a little sweetness to your green smoothies. Try growing some next season so you can use the plant leaf.

3. Molasses
High quality molasses is not only delicious, it has some health benefits and is a safe alternative for people suffering from 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.

4. Honey
Local, raw and unprocessed honey has health benefits up the wazoo. Containing natural prebiotics (not probiotics; prebiotics are 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.

5. 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.

Image: Food52

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