Sugar only on special occasions? Knowing what I know about sugar and its effect on metabolism, disease expression, hormone balance, mental health and aging that’s the rule I stick to, and I would love for you to do the same! However, with sugar in just about all of our processed foods and the holiday season fast approaching I know it can be challenging.
If you are new to starting a sugar free diet one of my top tips would be to avoid adding sugar to your food and beverages at home (and this includes so called ‘healthier’ sugars such as coconut sugar) and try switching to my recommended alternatives as detailed below:
Monk Fruit is one of my top choices for non-caloric sweeteners (non caloric sweeteners contain no calories) because it is naturally sweet. Since it contains no actual sugar or carbohydrates, it will not spike your blood sugar or insulin. By keeping your blood sugar steady, you’ll have fewer cravings and energy crashes throughout the day! And since monk fruit does not spike an insulin response, your body is less likely to store excess fat (making it a great option if you are looking to lose weight). My absolute favorite brand is Lakanto, which sells not only different sweetener options (like brown sugar and maple syrup), but also monk fruit sweetened foods like granola and brownie mix. You can purchase Lakanto products on their website (use code JENNY15 for a discount)!
Organic stevia is another one of my go-to non caloric sweeteners as it has no negative effects on health, and can actually have benefits for gut health and digestion. Always choose an organic stevia – my favourite brand is Sweetleaf which you can purchase from Thrive Market.
Fresh fruit is an often neglected way to add a little sweetness to your everyday meals and snacks. Although it will add calories, sugar and fructose, they come wrapped in a package that also provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and much needed fibre! A little fruit can go a long way to add sweetness to your dishes, so think 1/4 of a banana (instead of a whole one) in your Breakfast Smoothie or a handful or berries (not a whole package) with your plant-based yoghurt and nuts.
A little dried fruit can be a great addition when wanting to add sweetness to baked goods. Great choices include dates and figs as they are high in much needed minerals such as magnesium and potassium. To help reduce the amount you need to use, rehydrate them in water first before use. But a word of warning – always check the ingredients list before purchasing as many dried fruits can be coated in sugar and inflammatory vegetable and seed oils.
Whilst honey does not contain any soluble fibre (fibre slows down our blood sugar spikes) it does have a wealth of other health and beauty boosting benefits, and is a good choice if you need a liquid sweetener. Always choose raw honey as is packed full of micronutrients including B vitamins and essential nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, and can be a great source of skin loving antioxidants and polyphenols (compounds that help minimize free radical damage and prevent premature aging).