Natural "Sweeteners" That Deserve a Sweet Spot in Your Heart (...and Diet)
Prior to jumping into things, let's take a deep breath and acknowledge that we're all dangerously addicted to sugar - that's simply the truth of the matter. We've heard the new trending studies that help show that "sugar is more addictive than crack", and seen the images of "your brain on sugar vs. drugs".
So, before I go on to advocate for the following (REAL) foods to add a sweet kick to your meals and drinks, it's important to remember that anything and everything is only "healthy" in moderation. Boring, and we've heard it all before, but it's still true.
With that said, I was compelled to write this post for 2 main reasons:
1. I was WRONG about a sweetener I thought was "healthy". Oh god, I hate being wrong.
2. I am sick of seeing others make the same mistake, including companies that brand "healthy" food products with added sweeteners that are actually very similar (if not identical) to regular plain old sugar! And I'm not talking about the usual suspects like glucose and corn syrup, but rather I'm referring to ingredients that even health-nuts like me fell for. Coconut sugar being the main traitor. Turns out it's essentially the same as plain white sugar once - at least that's how our body reacts to it.
So, without further ado, let's get straight into what exactly you should be stirring into your chaga tea...
TOP 3 ALL-NATURAL & HEALTHY SWEETENERS:
1. Monk Fruit.
It's a fruit, so natural = check. BUT fruit has calories, carbohydrates, fructose, glucose, etc. - so are we not in the clear? Actually, once dried, the fructose, glucose and related elements become minuscule - having literally ZERO effect on blood sugar levels. Why? It's not sugar that's causing the sweetness - rather it' a kind of antioxidant that it contains! Now we're talking my language. Delicious due to healthiness? Um, yes. Please note that when I say "sweetness", I'm referring to an ACTUAL sweet taste that doesn't make you cringe like if you happen to eat more than 1/8th of a teaspoon of stevia (just not cool). This stuff tastes awesome, with absolutely no aftertaste. It also just so happens to have loads of other nutritional benefits you can read about here. I won't get into that because OBVIOUSLY you're already sold.
2. Date sugar.
This is another REAL food, as "date sugar" is really just dates. Dates, although relatively "high in sugar", should not be feared in moderation - they have some surprising benefits that very much outweigh any arguments for avoiding them. First off, they are brown. Generally speaking, brown foods = good for your digestion (think bananas). This holds true for dates, which - similar to bananas - are high in the healthy fibers, minerals, and vitamins - capable of soothing stomach upsets from constipation all the way to (the opposite) diarrhea.
ALSO, you know how everyone can't stop talking about prebiotics and probiotics these days? I.e. kimchi, kombucha, etc. etc. you know what I'm talking about... Well guess what?! Dates are naturally very high in prebiotics, so they are truly a gut-loving way to sweeten up your baked goods. Note that I don't recommend using it in drinks only because it doesn't really dissolve beautifully (give it a break!). Probably because "date sugar" = dates. Seriously, it's simply finely-grounded dates. That's sort of why I love it to be honest - truly a real food.
I'll be transparent with you - I avoided this one like the plague for way too long. I was put off by the high calorie and sugar content, so just opted to skip it altogether. Then, several David Wolfe Nutrition Certification videos later (these are totally awesome by the way), it was engraved in my head: honey = one of "THE BEST EVER LONGEVITY FOODS"! As long as you're opting for the GOOD STUFF - in other words, generally NOT what's sold at your grocery store, but instead raw honey bought from your local farmers market. So much more than just a sweetener, honey is arguably a medicinal food containing antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids, fiber, trace elements, minerals to enzymes and the list goes on. It's even a detoxifying agent, so go ahead and spoon some into your tea and enjoy*.
*Note that it's best to wait for your hot drink to cool a bit before stirring in the honey, as if it's added to steaming heat, the honey will lose some of its beneficial enzymes - we don't want that happening!
So there you have it folks, 3 different sweeteners to play around with that ACTUALLY taste good and that are ACTUALLY healthy. You're welcome (actually!).