Sugar has been a controversial yet popular additive in food for centuries, but recent research and documentaries like The Magic Pill have drawn attention to the problems with sugar, causing many to search for a substitute. While dozens of options for a sugar alternative exist, not all of them are great for you and some are made from chemicals you wouldn’t want in your body.
Finding a Natural Alternative
In addition to the numerous man-made sweeteners that are on the market, you may be surprised at how many natural sweeteners there are as well. Extracted from fruits like coconut and taken from rare sources like monk fruit, these natural sweeteners are much more pure in their origins. The natural sources and labeling are appealing to those who typically buy organic foods and care about where their food comes from.
Are Natural Sweeteners Purer?
The thought a lot of people have is that foods that derive from nature are going to be purer and devoid of harmful additives. While this is typically the case, it’s still a good idea to peruse the nutrition label before buying a new brand of sweetener. As in the case of seemingly harmless fruit juices, sugar and other additives can often negate any of the nutritious advantages.
Different Sweeteners with Different Tastes and Uses
While the sweeteners on this list all come from natural sources, that’s where the similarities end. Each of these sweeteners has a very distinct flavor that sets it apart from the others, and that means that the ways each sweetener is used are likely to be different as well. It’s also notable that each sweetener has its own quirks, like how honey doesn’t have the heat tolerance to use in cooking, for example. Ultimately, the natural sweeteners you prefer and how you use them will vary depending on the types of foods you eat.
6 Natural Sweeteners to Add to Your Pantry
With a lot of reasons to swear off of sugar, alternative sweeteners are more in the spotlight than ever before. Those who prefer natural sweeteners will find a lot to appreciate in these options, as they’re all exponentially healthier alternatives than sugar. With varying tastes, calorie counts, and uses, you may have to experiment with these before finding the one that works best for you.
1. Monk Fruit Extract
As a sweetener that’s rapidly growing in popularity in recent years, monk fruit is a rare fruit indeed. Found only in the mountainous regions of China and Thailand, monk fruit got its name because it was traditionally harvested by monks who typically drank it as a tea. Currently, you can find various brands of monk fruit extract, some with other sweeteners added, and others in its purest form.
Example Brand of Monk Fruit Sweetener: Monk Fruit in the Raw
Food that Uses Monk Fruit as the Sweetener: Bhu Foods Protein Bars and Cookies
2. Raw Honey
Many people use honey in various foods, but it can also make an excellent all-purpose sweetener. The most notable difference between honey and other sweeteners is its thick, sticky consistency. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t cook with honey because it will strip it of its valuable nutrients, which include vitamin B, iron, and niacin. Instead, use it to top your favorite foods, like oatmeal, pancakes, fruit salad, and other options.
Example Brand of Raw Honey: YS Eco Bee Farms Raw Honey
Benefits of Raw Honey: Antioxidants, phytonutrients, aids digestion, and more.
3. Coconut Sugar
From coconut water to coconut oils, the coconut has risen in popularity in recent years due to its reputation as a health food. The newest coconut product to line the shelves of your favorite supermarket is coconut sugar, and it comes with a lot of benefits that are missing from other sweeteners. Rich in vitamins and excellent for digestion, coconut sugar is a sweetener that is sure to become more popular in the years to come.
Example of Brand of Coconut Sugar: Madhava Coconut Sugar
Healthy Recipe Featuring Coconut Sugar: Homemade Vegan Snickers Bars
4. Banana Puree
Arguably the biggest challenge for those who love bananas is eating them before they go bad. Fortunately, you can take those over ripened bananas and mash them up into a nutritious natural sweetener. Nutritional benefits to banana puree include fiber and potassium, and it’s worth mentioning that they’re flavor is more subtle than other sweeteners. As a healthy alternative to sugar in various desserts and other foods, consider banana puree next time you have bananas that are turning brown.
Common Uses for Banana Puree: Sugar substitute, Baby food, Desserts
Healthy Recipe Featuring Banana Puree: Banana Pumpkin Bread
Stevia has already become an extremely popular sweetener, but not everyone knows about its natural origins. Deriving from a plant in South America, natives have been using Stevia for hundreds of years. Now you can find Stevia in most restaurants and supermarkets, as it’s quickly become the most popular natural sweetener. Due to a somewhat bitter aftertaste, it’s common for a lot of products to mix Stevia with other ingredients to maximize its taste.
Example of a Brand that Sells Stevia: Swanson Green Leaf Stevia Extract
The Taste of Stevia vs Sugar: Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but with an aftertaste.
6. Balsamic Glaze
While not a sweetener that fits into a packet, balsamic glaze is a healthy, grape-based way to add a unique, sweet flavor to many of your favorite dishes. Featuring a distinct flavor that’s all its own, balsamic glaze goes well on Salmon, cheese, fruit, and a variety of other foods. Also known as balsamic reduction, it’s fairly easy to make your own: Simply simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar on medium/low heat and stir frequently until it reduces to a half cup.
Example Brand that Sells Balsamic Vinegar: Roland Foods Balsamic Glaze
Common Uses: Try drizzling it on carrots, pork, salmon, oranges, broccoli, and peaches.
Which Natural Sweetener is Most Ideal for Your Diet?
Whether you go for low-calorie content, maximum taste, or love to experiment with desserts, there is a natural sweetener that is optimal for you. Since each is different in taste and uses, why limit yourself to just one? It’s perfectly reasonable to keep balsamic vinegar on hand for your salmon and banana puree for baking into bread and desserts. Ultimately, the only way to know which natural sweeteners are worthy of a place in your diet plan is by experimenting with them yourself!