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Healthy Natural Sweeteners

September 21, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

It’s a constant tug-of-war. Caving to your sweet tooth is the fastest path to unhealthy habits.

But at the same time, your body craves sweets. Sugar was long one of the rarest—and most valuable—foodstuffs around.

How does one balance that craving, with health? How does one feel satisfied while also exercising self-control?

It’s one of the hardest things to achieve in the modern world.

So much so that plenty of people try to “cheat” by using artificial sweeteners.

As I’ll show you in a moment, down that path lies ruin.

But, surprisingly, some “natural” sweeteners are just as bad!

Let’s go over what you want to keep out of your mouth. And then I’ll provide you with the best sweeteners to satisfy your every craving.

Stay away from chemicals, and processed foods

First off, I probably don’t need to tell you to steer clear of artificial sweeteners.

Yes, that includes plant-based sweeteners like Stevia.

Of course, the biggest concern is the long-term consequences that come from these chemicals. You’ve been told they’re safe, but the truth is, we just don’t know. Some of these chemicals have only been around for a few years, and we don’t know what long-term effects they may have.

You don’t want to be a lab rat.

But just as important—even if the chemicals aren’t directly harmful, they also aren’t doing your body any favors.

That’s because, whether you eat a natural or artificial sweetener, your body’s energy-capture system is activated, not by compounds, but by taste.

When you eat something sweet, your body releases insulin into your blood stream to grab sugars. A small amount is converted directly into energy, while any excess becomes fat.

Worse, because artificial sweeteners have “zero” calories, many eaters overdo foods with artificial sweeteners. So you still suffer an insulin spike.

All of this is to say, having artificial sweeteners is a great way to take your blood sugar on an unwanted, and totally unnecessary, roller coaster ride.

That leads to an upset body chemistry, and increased hunger cravings. At the very least, your insulin will be crying out for promised sugar that isn’t there.

In short—steer clear of artificial sweeteners.

Unnatural Natural Sweeteners

Sadly, many “natural” sweeteners are anything but.

Agave nectar is one of the biggest culprits here.

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It sounds innocent enough. It sounds like you just take a blue agave cactus, give is a squeeze, and out comes this fresh, sweet nectar. Wonderful!

But that’s not how it really works.

Agaves do have a natural sugar precursor—fructans.

And it’s true, fructans can become sweet. But they generally need a little help.

Fructans are found in abundance in onions and wheat, for instance. Not especially sweet foods.

And while fructans contain many beneficial properties—antioxidants, for instance—you won’t find the same in agave nectar.

That’s because fructans must be highly processed in order to become sweet.

When the processing is done, you’ve got a product that closely resembles high fructose corn syrup. Think of it as high fructose cactus syrup.

And none of the beneficial properties of fructans survive the sweetening process.

In short, agave nectar is just a “health halo” product. It sounds healthy, you can find it in health food stores, and it’s marketed as a healthy sugar alternative.

But the truth is far different.

Truly Natural Sweeteners

If you want to help defeat a sweet craving, your best option is fruit.

Fruit contains plenty of healthy, natural sugars. Best of all, because fruit also contains fiber, those sugars don’t all hit your bloodstream at once.

Instead, they are parceled out over a period of time, allowing your body to absorb the sugar and turn it into energy, without severe insulin or sugar spikes.

However, sometimes you need to sweeten up another type of food. And for that, you’ve got two wonderful alternatives.

Honey and maple syrup.

Honey is the best option. It’s quite sweet, has a pleasant flavor all its own, and has plenty of healthy byproducts as well. Taken in moderation, honey is a tremendous supplement to any diet.

Maple syrup doesn’t have quite as many healthy properties. But it also doesn’t have any unhealthy side effects, either.

It’s just a delightful, sweet sugar delivery system.

Both honey and maple syrup are perfect, unprocessed, truly natural sweeteners. You don’t want to overdo either—they are, after all, still full of sugar. And, as such, still impact your insulin levels.

But as a way to sweeten foods and defeat a sugar craving, they can’t be beat.

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