Refined sugar is used commonly in pretty much every household, although people who are seeking to make a change in their health whether its due to diabetes or for weight loss or only to make a healthy choice, they switch to artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose.
The problem with artificial sweeteners is that even though they are declared safe to use, it still is a composition of chemicals which causes side effects in some people, it can cause trouble in their digestive system, like wiping out the good bacteria and creating bloating, flatulence or even diarrhea.
What about Natual sweeteners? are they safe to use, are they as sweet as sugar, do they provide the same feeling of sweetness that we get while using sugar? Let's find out.
1) Monkfruit Sweetener
Monkfruit sweetener is the extract of the dried Monk fruit, It is also known as Luo Han Guo, it's a fruit that has been used for centuries in countries like China as a healthy natural sweetener and also as a medicine to treat ling congestions, colds, and sore throat.
Monkfruit is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you only need a tiny amount to achieve the sweetness which you would normally get from a teaspoon of refined sugar.
It has a zero glycemic index which makes it a good choice for someone who is diabetic because one of the goals in a diabetic person is to avoid that blood sugar spike which can get them in trouble, So having basically no glycemic index means there won't be a blood sugar spike.
It also contains mogroside which is an antioxidant, studies have indicated that mogrosides might reduce oxidative stress on the body. Oxidative stress is one of the reasons which lead to metabolic diseases like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, etc
Honey, as we all know, is a naturally occurring sweetener which is derived by bees, who gathers nectar and pollen from the flower to harvest honey back at their hives.
Honey is one of the healthiest natural sweeteners out there, it is easily available from any grocery store, unlike some of the other sweeteners which can be a rare find.
It contains antioxidants which protect us from free radicals. it also has hydrogen peroxide which is an antiseptic and can aid us with bacterial infections.
There are also certain types of honey-like Manuka Honey, which are specifically used to treat cuts and wounds by medical professionals to improve healing and recovery.
Honey is also a promoter of the good gut bacteria, making it a healthy choice for people who face digestive problems.
The problem with honey is that during winter the bees don't get enough of what they need from flowers to harvest honey so some of the beekeepers may feed them white sugar as a substitute which results in people not exactly getting organic honey.
So you have to be careful if you really want to keep your sugar pure, organic, and natural. Because it might have certain substances that were fed to the bees, making the end product not purely natural.
Jagger is basically unrefined sugar, So when the juice is extracted from the sugar cane, its heated, boiled and it is filtered for any impurities until a thick paste is formed and then it is converted into a dough-like shape which is sold as jaggery.
Jaggery is popular in countries like India because most of the production takes place in the rural areas of India, where it is found in pretty much every household.
Is it really healthy?
If you look at the number of nutrients which is found in jaggery like :
Iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. Yes, it is healthier than white sugar since its not refined and process which allows it to retain most of its naturally occurring nutrients from its original source.
But you have to understand, it still is sugar, yes it has many nutrients but we only get it when consumed in a large quantity.
When we use sugar we only use a tiny amount of it, similar to jaggery, if we use a tiny amount to sweeten up a dish or a drink. You won't get the above nutrients in abundance.
So like I mentioned, jaggery may have its health benefits, but we must not overconsume it and keep it in moderation. You can use it as a healthier sugar substitute but not as a source of nutrients.
Stevia is derived from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, it is a healthy substitute for sugar, as it is natural.
I have also listed Stevia in my artificial sweeteners list because some forms of stevias are not exactly organic since they are bleached and processed a little bit to turn it into its white powdered form.
Although today I am talking about stevia in liquid form since the ones which are extracted and converted into a white powder, they may not exactly be pure, it might contain additives such as dextrose or maltodextrin, which are just another forms of sugar.
Stevia in its natural form is a very good substitute for sugar since it contains zero calories, it does not raise blood sugar and also a good choice for people who want to lose weight.
It may have a bitter aftertaste but many people get used it after a while.
So you may have to do a little bit of label reading while buying any types of sugar if you are looking for organic ones.
5) Coconut Sugar
This sweetener is also known as coconut palm sugar and is produced from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut tree. It is found in liquid form as a syrup as well as crystals
Coconut sugar is rich in nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, amino acids, and antioxidants. It also contains inulin which is a prebiotic and helps to feed beneficial bacteria.
6) Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees by making a hole in the tree and collecting the syrup. It's a natural sweetener usually recommended for people who have digestive issues, like IBS, since it is pretty light on the digestive system.
Maple syrup contains significant amounts of zinc and manganese and more calcium than in honey. It is made up of primary sucrose and very small amounts of fructose and glucose.
Natural sweeteners are a great substitute for white sugar, but don't let that give you an excuse to overeat it just because it's healthier. Remember anything in excess is bad even water.
Out of all the above sweeteners, they obviously serve different purposes, some may be used better in desserts or drinks and may not be used for cooking.
So you have to try them all out yourself to see which suits you the best and your meals.
Especially for people with type 2 diabetes, you may have to monitor your blood sugar levels and see which sweetener is working out best for your condition.