Sugar is one of the biggest contributing factors to disease in the United States. Although it is tasty and easy to find, reducing or getting rid of sugar in your diet is a very worthwhile thing to do. Here is a look at how to do this, and a few different natural sugar substitutes that can satiate any cravings you might have for something sweet.
Sugar Addiction Is Real
Reducing or eliminating sugar in your diet can prove to be very difficult, and there are reasons for this. That’s because sugar is legitimately addictive; In fact, it is about 8 times as addictive as cocaine. Being addicted to sugar, and its frequent diet counterpart flour, is a biological phenomenon, says Dr. Hyman. It is empowered by hormones and neurotransmitters that stimulate sugar cravings.
The Effects of Sugar
It is no secret at all that sugar is unhealthy; Most people are aware of this fact. But what exactly makes sugar so unhealthy? Obesity and diabetes – the most well-known adverse effects of sugar overconsumption – are just two of multiple serious effects sugar has on the body. Credible scientific studies have strongly linked higher sugar intake (as a % of total ingested calories) with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This is due to sugar’s effect on the liver, blood pressure, and bodily inflammation.
Healthy Sugar Substitutes: Stevia
As you cut out sugary foods from your diet, you may choose to use sugar replacements if you still want to enjoy sweet-tasting foods. Satiating any sugar cravings that might occur is another reason, but cravings should disappear within a reasonable number of days (varied somewhat from person to person) if you choose to quit all sugar cold-turkey.
Stevia refers to the Stevia plant, and it also refers to the sweetener harvested from this plant. The Stevia plant is native to South America, and it has been used for centuries as a sweetener. The stevia leaves contain substances called steviol glycosides. These have a very powerful taste that is up to 400x as sweet as sugar, yet contain no calories. Wow! Therefore, a little goes a long way.
Stevia is harvested and made into sweeteners of different forms. Different forms of stevia might contain different steviol glycosides, and they are useful for different purposes in cooking and food preparation.
- Liquid stevia is a form which usually contains a combination of water, stevia, and sometimes other flavors. It is best designed as an additive to drinks (e.g. coffee, tea), or in cooked or baked dishes that don’t call for sugar as a textured ingredient. Stevita is a brand which makes various flavors of liquid stevia, including strawberry and vanilla.
- Pure stevia extracts are quite common. They come in granule form, usually in small packets or in a jar. Pure extracts are very potent, and only require a very tiny serving to have an impact on flavor. Some stevia extracts have a bulking agent added, so that a teaspoon or more becomes the proper serving size. Some bulking agents include polysaccharides and soluble fibers.
Monk fruit is another no-calorie sweetener that is far sweeter by volume than sugar. It is extracted from the ??Siraitia grosvenorii plant native to China. Monk fruit is not nearly as widely used as stevia, but can be just as useful and effective flavor-wise. It is made sweet by substances known as mogrosides.
Sugar alcohols, or polyols, are a type of carbohydrate that occur naturally in many plant foods. While they are not entirely calorie-free, sugar alcohols contain far less calories than sugar (roughly .2 cal/gram, as opposed to 4 cal/gram in sugar). Consuming sugar alcohols in large amounts can cause stomach upset, so mind the recommended serving.
Getting rid of sugar can be difficult, but these healthy sugar substitutes can prove worthwhile during and after the transition away from sugar. The benefits of reducing and/or replacing sugar are enormous for a person’s health in the long term, so consider trying stevia or one of the other natural sweeteners listed above.