There's no denying that we are all partial to something sweet every once and a while - even the healthiest nutritionists and health coaches out there like to indulge from time to time (I admit, I am guilty of this claim). Sugar is present in most of the foods we consume daily, so it can be difficult to avoid. Things such as; fruit, salad dressings, condiments, soft drinks, snack bars, cereals - the list goes on! It's no wonder commercial businesses and advertisers in the food and drink industry are doing so well, they know there will always be a market for their sugary produce - 'healthy' or not! Just like alcohol and caffeine, sugar too can be a hard addiction to budge - and most of us will already be hooked without even realising.
The question is, how do we avoid falling into the sugary trap? The trick is knowing what types of refined sugar is bad for you. They will normally come in the form of palm sugar, fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose (anything ending in 'ose' is usually a good indication). Another thing to look out for are artificial sweeteners. Popular during the 1970's when low-fat diets were sweeping the globe, Saccharin was the main ingredient used in many mass produced low calorie foods. In laboratory tests, this sweetener showed to cause bladder cancer in rats and unfortunately, this toxic chemical is still present in a number of foods today - so just think twice next time before you reach for a sachet of Sweet n' Low to add to your morning brew.
Luckily, help is at hand in the form of some natural alternatives. There are lots of different variations you can find at your local health food store, but I've picked the top three which I use the most:
1. Rice Syrup
I use brown rice syrup the most out of all other sweeteners because I find it has a steady effect on my blood sugar levels. It's also not overly sweet, so if you are trying to come off sugar, it's a good substitute to start with. Perfect on a couple of rice cakes in the afternoon when you feel like you want something a little sweet.
2. Barley Malt
I came across barley malt when talking to a friend who studies macrobiotic nutrition. Extracted straight from the barley wholegrain, this syrup has a rich flavour which is a great addition to grain porridges and baking. (Unfortunately not GF)
3. Raw Organic Honey
Now, this is a touchy subject amongst health foodies alike. Most of us will eat large quantities of store bought honey and think we are benefiting ourselves - BUT, unless you are buying the raw organic kind, you may as well be eating spoonfuls of the refined white stuff. When opting for raw honey, you will be consuming an array of natural antioxidants which can help with so many things - from burns, to digestive complaints to sore throats! Add 1 tsp to your morning smoothie to keep those coughs and colds at bay :)
Remember whether healthy or unhealthy - sugar is still sugar, so avoid using large quantities of the above as a substitute for the white stuff. Moderation is key, and a healthy mind = a healthy body.