We know it can be intimidating and stressful to consider removing non-compliant, refined sugars from your meals. It just seems like they are everywhere! Whether you are embarking upon the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP) diet, Whole30 or are just exploring sugar substitutes, you can take comfort that there are delicious options out there, that are nutritious too. Here are our top 5 favorite refined sugar substitutes, in no particular order:
- Maple Syrup. One of the best reasons to consume maple syrup is that it contains a multitude of antioxidants. Antioxidants are only found in trace amounts in refined sugar and corn syrup, and even agave nectar can’t provide the amount of antioxidants that maple syrup can. These antioxidants fight free radicals, which are cells that have been found to cause serious diseases. For the maximum antioxidant benefit, you will want to select the darkest grade of maple syrup, rather than the lighter grades, which contain fewer of these important nutrients. Maple syrup has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce everything from pain caused by arthritis to the risk of heart disease. Sugar, in contrast, is known to increase inflammation and exacerbate conditions that are caused by it. Like honey, it is best to purchase pure maple sugar or syrup. Refined or altered maple syrup loses its micronutrient content and also puts potentially harmful additives into your system. Maple Syrup is lower on Glycemic index by about 10 points than normal refined sugars – making it a better option for diabetics or others sensitive to sugar. All of our eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. Cookie Mixes call for maple syrup to be added as the sweetener (or a liquid sweetener of your choice). And hey, hopefully now you can see why!
- Honey. Honey contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. Minerals found in honey include magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. Natural honey also contains digestive enzymes that help you improve your digestion of some foods and it contains prebiotics that may support the growth of good bacteria in your gut. When it comes to pesky seasonal colds and allergies, as well as those caused by pets or dust mites, honey may be one of the best remedies to treat symptoms. Ideally, honey should be consumed raw, local, and primarily organic. Surprisingly, honey is also antibacterial, making it a great alternative to rubbing alcohol. It can be applied to the skin as a natural protection against infection and has been used to treat acne and other skin conditions.
- Coconut Sugar. Coconut Sugar has a lower Glycemic Index as compared to table sugar –an index of 35 compared to table sugar which has an index of 65. Coconut sugar contains Vitamin C and nitrogen, along with minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron. On another level, many know that electrolytes help the body to remain hydrated as the muscles, nerves, and heart need electrolytes to function efficiently. Coconut sugar has potassium, sodium, and magnesium that may support proper hydration. This sugar is convenient in baking too, as it is a 1:1 ratio with table sugar. We use Coconut Sugar as an ingredient in our Vegan Banana Bread Mix and it is a winner!
- Blackstrap Molasses. Micronutrients in molasses include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, manganese, selenium, and some B vitamins. In one tablespoon, you'll get a gram of protein too! If you're having trouble with constipation, blackstrap molasses may be able to help. While it is not as powerful as an over-the-counter laxative, it has enough magnesium and other nutrients in it to give it a try! Also, because it has lots of iron, you can make it into a tea to help treat iron deficiencies. We use a powdered Molasses in our Pumpkin Bread Mix as one of the sweeteners, giving it a cozy, Fall-like taste!
- Date Sugar. First off, a 3.5 oz serving of dates contains almost 7 grams of fiber! One serving of dates contains a significant amount of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of several vitamins and minerals: 20% of your potassium, 14% of your magnesium, 18% of your copper, 15% of your manganese, 5% of your iron, and 12% of your vitamin B6. Again, one of the date sugar benefits is that it is not processed in any way (other than crushing/grinding the fruit) so it retains all of these minerals. Because of its high fiber content, date sugar has a glycemic index than other sugars: white sugar has a GI of 80, but the GI of date sugar is only 23. Our eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. Frosting Mixes are sweetened with Maple & Date Powder, making them sweet as pie and nutritiously delicious.
All of our eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. baking mixes call for a liquid sweetener of choice (Maple Syrup tends to be the one we recommend!) or use Coconut, Date or Maple Sugar as a part of the dry mix. Overall, not only are these AIP-compliant, but they will have a lower glycemic index and be more nutrient dense than your refined sugar options.
Hopefully, now you can see there are some amazing options for table sugar substitutes that will not only taste delicious but will serve as “food as medicine” for your body. Enjoy!