Did you know approximately 75% of Americans eat excessive amounts of sugar — yikes!
Reducing your intake of refined sugar can be challenging, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Thankfully, there are several healthy sweeteners found in nature that are low in calories, and taste will satisfy your sweet tooth.
I know firsthand that navigating through the numerous sweeteners and sugars available can be quite a challenge. But when we look beyond the processed and artificial options, there are plenty of natural sweeteners that are not only good for you but also offer a range of health benefits.
So let’s dive right in…
- Artificial vs. Natural Sweeteners
- Best Sweeteners for Gut Health
- Artificial Sweeteners: A Hidden Danger to Your Health?
- Artificial Sweeteners and Gut Health: What You Need to Know
- The Wrap – Best Sweeteners for Gut Health
- Buy me a coffee and help fuel my creativity & writing. ✍️
Artificial vs. Natural Sweeteners
Ok, first up: let’s start by understanding what makes a sweetener artificial or natural?
Simply put, artificial sweeteners are typically processed and refined, while natural ones are sourced mainly from plants.
Despite their low or zero-calorie content, artificial sweeteners can actually increase sugar cravings and make you eat more! Our bodies are much better at managing natural, whole food sources – therefore, we don’t feel the same craving or in some cases, addiction!
Best Sweeteners for Gut Health
Here is a list of the best natural sweeteners (with a low glycemic index!) for you to use start using. These sweeteners offer several benefits and are easy to find. Enjoy!
1. Raw honey
Raw honey is packed with beneficial enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. The key here is “raw,” as pasteurization destroys most of the goodness.
Consuming local, raw honey can boost your immunity to common allergens in your area. By introducing your body to the bee pollen from local bees, you strengthen your immune system and naturally combat sneezing, itching, and runny noses.
Here’s how to use it: simply drizzle this delicious honey on top of your yogurt, oatmeal, or pancakes. You can even use it for baking!
2. Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is a low glycemic sweetener that is rich in minerals and antioxidants, making it a great choice for gut health.
And did you know that coconut sugar isn’t actually made from coconuts? Surprisingly, it’s derived from the sweet nectar of coconut blossoms. This natural sweetener is not only delicious but also packed with essential vitamins, potassium, and iron.
What’s even more interesting is that coconut sugar has the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as cane sugar. However, it ranks lower on the glycemic index, offering a more stable release of glucose into the bloodstream.
How to use it: Coconut sugar is a fantastic replacement for cane sugar in a variety of treats, such as bread, cupcakes, and muffins. Just substitute it in equal amounts for the perfect outcome!
3. Maple syrup
Maple syrup contains several beneficial compounds that help promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut, as well as providing anti-inflammatory benefits.
Not only that, it has a low glycemic index, making it a fantastic choice for people with metabolic disease. One of the best options is Canada’s Finest Maple Syrup, made from organically certified Canadian maple trees, you can find it on Amazon here.
How to use it: maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes and waffles! You can also use it as a healthier option for salad dressings, baked goods, or even tasty meat glazes.
Molasses is packed with iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This thick and rich syrup, which is made from sugar cane or sugar beet, is packed with essential nutrients.
It’s also a fantastic source of iron, providing 20% of the recommended daily intake.
That’s why I highly recommend it to women dealing with anemia or low ferritin levels. (This was me, now I watch my iron intake regularly – every active woman should do so!)
Additionally, blackstrap molasses is brimming with B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, making it an excellent choice for your overall health and well-being.
How to use it: Molasses can be used as a sweetener in breakfast foods such as oatmeal or pancakes, as well as in sauces and marinades.
Dates have a delicious caramel-like color and taste, and medjool dates, in particular, are renowned for their numerous health benefits. They can boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Making date paste is a breeze – just blend soaked dates with water. For optimal results, soak the dates in filtered water for 8 hours. (I did this a lot during my vegan years!)
How to Use it: Sweeten your smoothies or whip up homemade energy bars or bites using whole dates, date syrup, date paste, or date sugar. (These are my favorite!)
Artificial Sweeteners: A Hidden Danger to Your Health?
One of the worst aspects of artificial sweeteners is their detrimental impact on gut health. These synthetic sugars have been found to disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome, leading to various diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even autoimmunity.
On top of that, artificial sweeteners can bring about unpleasant side effects such as headaches, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
These harmful products are intentionally made to taste extraordinarily sweet, using chemicals that leave your body craving more and more. As a result, real, whole foods may seem bland or uninteresting in comparison.
Common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sorbitol, erythritol, sucralose, xylitol, sucralose, saccharin, and, surprisingly, agave nectar.
Be mindful of these ingredients, as they may lurk in chewing gums, toothpaste, over-the-counter vitamins or medicines, cocktails, salad dressings, ice cream, yogurt, and more.
Beware of products labeled as “low fat” as well. These often contain artificial sweeteners to compensate for the lack of fat. Avoid these “low fat” products at all costs. (and opt for some yummy fatty meat 😉 )
Believe it or not, when a food product claims to be “sugar-free” or “fat-free”, it can actually leave you more addicted to sugar, contribute to weight gain, and leave you feeling even more fatigued due to the added chemicals and toxins used to eliminate sugar and fat.
Pro Tip: It can be intimidating to try and cut all sugar and artificial sugars cold turkey – give yourself a break and start with one meal a day without (artificial) sugars!
Artificial Sweeteners and Gut Health: What You Need to Know
As I’ve mentioned, when it comes to artificial sweeteners, there are some serious concerns to consider, especially in relation to gut health.
These fake sugars can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome, leading to a range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even immune system problems.
Natural Sweeteners: A Better Alternative
In contrast to artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners are typically less processed and contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and, in some cases, fiber.
However, it’s important to consume natural sweeteners in moderation since they still contain (some) sugar and rank on the glycemic index.
But by being mindful of your intake, these natural sweeteners can still be part of a gut-friendly and autoimmune-friendly diet.
Looking to cut all sugar? Consider an animal-based diet! Here’s exactly how I healed on an animal based diet
Debunking the Myth: Stevia and Monk Fruit
Many people believe that stevia and monk fruit are natural sweeteners that are good for the gut. While they can be better options and have historically offered health benefits, it’s advisable to avoid them when you’re in the early stages of healing your gut. (I’ve only recently added back in some of these sugars after healing completely for over six months!)
The problem lies in the processed forms of stevia and monk fruit available on store shelves, which often contain hidden artificial sweeteners like erythritol or xylitol.
Always remember to read the ingredient label!
The Wrap – Best Sweeteners for Gut Health
With all the sweetener options out there, choosing the best one for gut health can be a little overwhelming.
But from homegrown honey to molasses, these picks are great choices to make your meals healthier while still satisfying your sweet tooth.
Let me know your favorite…
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