We all are familiar with the negative effects of eating too much sugar. A diet high in sugar has been linked to a high risk of certain types of cancers including breast, colon, esophageal, and cancer of the small intestine. Why does something so good have to be so terrible to our health? If you're addicted to adding 5 tablespoons to your morning tea or coffee, don't fret. There are plenty substitutes for sugar. Here is a list of healthy sugar alternatives.

Stevia

stevia in the raw

Although this alternative closely resembles sugar, it is vastly different. Stevia contains no calories or carbs, and it doesn't raise your blood sugar. Mainly grown in a warm climate, the Stevia rebaudiana plant is sold in dried leaves, processed into a powder or granulated into sugar substitute. The best thing about stevia is that you don't have to go to a health food store, it is easily accessible at your local grocery store. This is one of the most versatile sweeteners, meaning it can be added to anything, try out this recipe for healthy baked beans using stevia.

Maple Syrup

maple syrup

This Canadian staple is a classic natural sweetener. It is the harvested sap from maple trees and boiled into maple syrup--it doesn't get any more natural than that. Maple Syrup is filled with loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins including manganese, riboflavin, and zinc. However, a drawback of this natural sweetener is that it contains fructose, a sugar made from fruit. Maple syrup not only tastes great on a stack of pancakes but it can be used in dessert as well. Check out this dessert idea for blondies using maple syrup.

Agave

agave syrup

Similar to maple syrup, agave is made from the sap of the blue agave plant and boiled down. Many love this substitute because it is sweeter than sugar--you only need a teaspoon. Though, like maple syrup agave contains the dreaded fructose, the equivalent of sugar. If you're looking for another way to sweeten up your summer sangria, follow this recipe for berry sangria using agave syrup.

Molasses

molasses

This is an old school sugar alternative that is made from the by-product of the sugar-cane refining process. What's great about molasses is that it is high in nutrients including calcium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and iron. As a result of its high iron, molasses helps to relieve PMS symptoms and iron deficiency anemia. With molasses, you're not just limited to making cookies. Check out this recipe for sweet and savory glazed carrot and onions using molasses.

Honey

honey

Made from flower nectar collected by bees that is broken down into simple sugars, honey is one of nature's sweeteners. A common misconception that most consumers have is that all honey is created equal. Most manufacturers market corn syrup as 'natural honey', but only packaging labeled raw honey is the real deal. Raw honey is packed with powerful antioxidants like pinocembrin, pinostrobin, and chrysin, and it is a natural energy source. Honey not only tastes great is a hot cup of tea but it's delicious when it's drizzled over yogurt or a fruit salad.

Xylitol

xylitol

Pronounced zy-li-tawl, this source is made from plant fibers from berries, birch, and cornhusks. Since it is a refined sweetener, Xylitol doesn't have many nutrients or anti-inflammatory agents like some of the previous sweeteners discussed. Though, it is very low in calories making it an ideal substitute to sugar. You can add xylitol to anything you would add cane sugar to including mixed berry muffins.

Lo Han

monkfruit sweetener

Like xylitol, lo han is a substance made from fruit, monk fruit to be exact. Lo han is considered a medicinal with healing qualities. It is not only a sugar substitute but it can be used to relieve a cough and soothe a sore throat.

Brown Rice Syrup

brown rice syrup

This sweetener is the lesser known of the other options, yet it still satisfies your sweet tooth. To produce a syrup, brown rice is cooked and exposed to enzymes that break it down into sugar. A drawback of brown rice syrup is that it contains little to no nutrients and you more than likely will have to go to a health food store to find it.

Coconut Palm Sugar

coconut palm sugar

Being high in vitamin C, potassium, and probiotics coconut palm sugar is among the purest and healthiest sweeteners. When shopping for coconut palm sugar, pay close attention to the ingredients. Some manufacturers mix coconut sugar with regular cane sugar. If you're looking for a brand that keeps it real, check out Navitas Organics Coconut Palm Sugar.

Date Sugar

date sugar

The process of making date sugar is simple: dehydrated dates are grounded into a loose powder. Like whole dates, date sugar is loaded with fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals including heart-healthy potassium and magnesium. In addition, it serves as a natural energy booster making it a great alternative to caffeine.

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