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From refined sugar to natural options

To be successful in reducing your sugar intake, it’s crucial to substitute it with healthier alternatives. This not only helps to reduce your cravings for sugar but also aids in resetting your taste buds to enjoy more naturally sweet foods and treats such as fresh fruit. Perhaps most importantly, it gets your brain chemistry working for you rather than against you.

When opting for healthier sweetener choices, look for natural, minimally processed options that contain vital nutrients. There are no such nutrients in refined sugar. For example, honey provides much more than just sweetness. Raw, local honey carries enzymes, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols, which can increase antioxidants in your body and decrease inflammation. Why raw? Because the heating process destroys honey’s health benefits.

Stevia is another excellent choice. Be sure to choose pure stevia products that only list stevia in the ingredients and do not include other sweeteners such as dextrose. Dextrose is not a clean healthy sweetener. Stevia is an excellent choice for diabetics or anyone trying to lose weight as it doesn’t raise blood glucose levels. Honey and stevia are the two sweeteners most extensively researched.

Monk fruit is also like stevia but seems to have a more acceptable taste for many. Again, look on the label for monk fruit without added erythritol, which should be limited because of its potential harmful effects on the intestines. We don’t need our healthier sweetener choices diluted with unhealthy sweeteners.

Pure maple syrup and molasses are also great alternatives. Molasses can provide your body with usable nutrients such as potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6. Maple syrup in your morning cup of coffee makes for a cleaner, healthier sweetener choice over artificial sweetened or high fructose corn syrup sweetened flavoring syrups.

It’s worth noting that “sugar-free” does not necessarily mean a product is without harmful sugar substitutes. “Sugar-free” is like any other nutrition label, it comes with needing to understand more. Many sugar-free products contain sugar alcohols like erythritol. Understanding food labeling is vital for maintaining a healthy diet. Don’t be fooled by labels such as “sugar-free” and “carb-free,” as they often contain hidden sugars or other harmful substances that the sugar is replaced with.

In addition to avoiding refined sugar, take a step further by also eliminating high fructose corn syrup, agave and artificial sweeteners. Keep an eye on product ingredients and opt for those that don’t include these harmful sweeteners. Doing this will help improve your overall health and well-being, essentially killing two birds with one stone.

Remember to read food labels carefully and make informed choices when it comes to sweeteners. Your body will thank you.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, digestive health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.