We’ve already discussed how cardio can be a simple and effective means of reaching your wellness goals. However, no amount of exercise will get you closer to them if your diet isn’t clean.
Continuing our series on healthy lifestyle tweaks, we tackle one of the simplest ways to eat better: replacing table sugar with better options.
THE PROBLEM WITH SUGAR
Contrary to what many people believe, sugar itself isn’t bad—it’s just another source of calories for your body. It’s not the most calorie-dense food type either, since a teaspoon of it contains only about 15 calories.
The problem is that sweet things taste good, and both people and food manufacturers tend to add too much of it to enhance taste. For instance, a single glass of “healthy” store-bought pineapple juice contains about 23 grams or five-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar.
Overconsumption of sugar can cause a host of metabolic problems because it is composed primarily of glucose, the simplest form of carbohydrate. Refined sugar is easily absorbed by the body, so eating sweets can lead to a surge in your blood glucose levels. Over time, this can lead to problems such as insulin resistance—a precursor to diabetes.
YOU’VE GOT CHOICES
But the good news is that you don’t have to quit sugar cold turkey. There are many healthier alternative sweeteners that you can use.
The stevia plant is native to Paraguay and is processed into granules, much like sugar
This all-natural alternative is 30 times sweeter than regular sugar but has none of its calories. Extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, it is often processed into a white, granulated form quite similar to sugar. You can even grow your own plant and use the leaves to sweeten your drinks.
Raw honey is usually darker in color and retains more of its anti-oxidants
While honey actually has slightly more calories than sugar, it’s also sweeter so you can use less of it. Honey has considerably less glucose and offers a bevy of nutrients such as iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium. Be sure to buy raw honey, especially the manuka variant, since it has undergone minimal processing and hence retains more of its natural antioxidants.
Did you know that the sap of coconut flowers can be turned into “sugar?”
Photo Credit: Food Matters
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut flowers, and comes in either block, paste, or granulated form. It has the same calorie content as table sugar, but it also has a lower glycemic index (GI), which is the measure of how fast a certain food raises your blood glucose levels. This sugar alternative is also rich in amino acids, magnesium, and potassium.
Natural Maple Syrup
Real maple syrup is a healthier all-around sweetener
Photo Credit: CBC
Maple syrup is also a great sugar alternative because it contains minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It also has fewer calories than honey, and is about three times sweeter than cane sugar so you can use less of it . Of course, purchase only real maple syrup, not the maple-flavored, sugar-based imitations on grocery shelves.
Applesauce is an ideal sugar substitute for baked treats
If you love baking cookies, brownies, or muffins, consider partly substituting the sugar with homemade applesauce (here’s a recipe). A cup of it contains just over 100 calories, while the same amount of sugar packs a whopping 774 calories. Applesauce is also a great source of fiber and Vitamin C.
ONE MORE THING…
While these substitutes may be better alternatives to sugar, keep in mind that they are still sweeteners. Hence, use them in moderation to avoid any potential health issues.
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