Did you know in 1700, the average person consumed only 4 pounds of sugar a year? Today, the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, which is more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that the average American consumes about 18 percent of dietary calories from simple sugars and 2/3 of that amount comes from added sugars in processed foods, rather than from the naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
There are 600,000 processed food items in our environment, and 80% of them contain added sugar.
And artificial sweeteners are just as bad since they are all chemically made or processed. Long-term use of artificial sweeteners has been associated with countless conditions from anxiety and depression to vision problems and weight gain.
When sugar is artificial or processed like in candy and soda, much needed vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are stripped out of the finished product making it more difficult for our bodies to break down the processed food and that’s where all of the health issues come in. Having little to no nutrients is also the reason why artificially sweetened and processed foods are consumed in larger quantities. The body is looking for nutrient satisfaction and, therefore, your desire increases for these products. But again, regardless of what type of sugar it is, all sugar should be consumed in moderation.
Here are 6 simple sugar swaps that you can easily do:
1. Pure Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. This is not a low glycemic sweetener, but can still prove to be beneficial to human health. In 2011, the University of Rhode Island identified 54 beneficial compounds in maple syrup, five of which have never before seen in nature. Twenty of the compounds discovered the previous year in preliminary research play a key role in human health. Some of the compounds maple syrup possesses has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.
2. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is the final grade of molasses produced during the sugar-refining process. It has a very bitter taste and is very rich in many nutrients including iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, folate, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Where white sugar lacks in vitamins and minerals, blackstrap molasses more than makes up for it. Because it is in the most concentrated form, it also means it will contain the greatest concentration of contaminants so organic is highly recommended. Also, due to the common use of sulfur dioxide to either lighten the color or prolong the shelf life of the molasses, unsulphured is also recommended.
3. Organic Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is flavorless and can easily be substituted in recipes that have corn syrup. I have used it in place of honey if I didn’t have any for my homemade granola bars and it works just fine as it is a very similar consistency. It contains thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin K and makes a good choice for people with diabetes. Due to the concern of arsenic, organic is highly recommended.
Sucanat (which is short for Sugar Cane Natural) is ground sugar cane and is a great substitute for brown sugar. It is granular in texture and has a low glycemic index, but can still spike blood sugar if eaten in excess. Sucanat still has the molasses in it so in turn it contains many vitamins and minerals including potassium, iron, calcium, and chromium.
Honey is 25% sweeter than sugar and contains vitamins and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese. According to the FDA, any product that’s gone through the ultra-filtering process and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. Ultra-filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated and sometimes watered down, then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen – however, once the pollen is removed from the product you are no longer able to tell the origin of the honey, which could be a problem because a lot of honey comes from China.
Honey from China has been known to contain illegal antibiotics. But, grocery stores and other places prefer this process because it makes the honey look clear and lasts longer on the shelves. Raw honey, the honey that does contain pollen, is what has the medicinal benefits. You, unfortunately, cannot go by the label on the jar as it has often been confirmed as incorrect through testing. It seems your best bet in buying pure, raw honey is through a farmer’s market, a local co-op, and natural health food stores.
6. Barley Malt
Barley malt comes in powder and syrup concentrate forms. It’s a good choice for those looking to lose weight or who have diabetes or hypoglycemia. Use barley malt with caution though if you have a sensitivity to monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Barley malt tastes just like sugar and contains trace amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. It can substitute for sugar with just a dash since it’s so concentrated – believe it or not a dash will replace 2 teaspoons of sugar!