After completing the sugar detox this year, I was happy to hear that many of my clients who participated, told me how easy it had been for them! This is partly due to the fact that in my program, we work consistently towards healthier exchanges for the foods we crave. Before you know it, you’ve traded in your bad habits for the good, without feeling deprived.
One of the best exchanges I’ve personally made over the years, has been with sugar. In fact, it has been the only way I’ve survived my sweet tooth while remaining in good health.
For those of you who can’t imagine giving up or reducing refined sugar, here are the reasons why this would be a good idea in the first place:
- Most added sweeteners, like cane sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup, have a high glycemic index, which will spike your blood sugar, then plummet it, causing anxiety, depression, low energy, brain fog, and sugar cravings.
- Eating refined sugar often causes weight gain, because most of us can’t use all the glucose (energy) right away, and so it will get stored as fat for later use.
- Eating too much high glycemic sugar on a regular basis can lead to hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, pre-diabetes, and finally Type II diabetes.
- Refined sugar is acidic, and therefore inflammatory.
- Refined sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut, thereby lowering your immune system.
- Sugar is extremely addictive.
While it would be great to simply eat real, whole food, and not have any added sweeteners, I like to deal in reality. So if you’re a dessert fiend like me, you might want to know about the healthier alternatives to the ‘hard stuff.’ Without further ado…
My Favorite Sugar Exchanges:
- Coconut Palm Sugar: This natural sweetener looks and tastes like brown sugar, but it has a low glycemic index of 35. The sugar is made by tapping the coconut palm tree blossoms for the syrup (kind of like tapping a maple tree for maple syrup), and dehydrating the syrup to form sugar crystals. Do not confuse coconut palm sugar with palm sugar from the sugar palm tree, which is high glycemic. You can bake with coconut palm sugar instead of regular sugar in a 1:1 ratio, thereby lowering the glycemic index of any dessert. *Note: Coconut palm sugar is still an added sweetener, so use in moderation.
- Coconut Nectar: This is the liquid form of coconut palm sugar. You can use it instead of honey and syrups, for a lower glycemic alternative. This is my personal favorite sweetener!
- Stevia, in my opinion, is the healthiest alternative sweetener. It’s made from the stevia leaf, and has a glycemic index of 0, so it won’t spike your blood sugar at all. It’s extremely sweet, so you’ll only need the tiniest amount. It does have a licorice after-taste if you use too much, so be very sparing in your use. I use liquid stevia drops from a tincture, and 4 tiny drops is enough to sweeten a whole glass of lemonade. The best way to use stevia is to use the leaves themselves. You can sweeten tea by adding crushed stevia leaf to soak with the tea bag. You can even grow your own stevia leaf at home! *Note: The white powdered stevia may be processed with chemicals, and other sweeteners might be added, so check labels.
- Fruit: The best natural sweetener we have is a piece of whole fruit! You can sweeten your oatmeal by adding banana and cinnamon for instance, or you can make oatmeal raisin cookies using applesauce and raisins. Fruit smoothies are a great treat. Dates can be used to sweeten many raw desserts and snacks. You can even bake a whole piece of fruit for natural ‘pie’ filling (i.e. apple or peach, yum!). *Note: Only eat one serving of fruit at a time, or else even the natural low glycemic sugars will add up.
- Xylitol (for gum): This sugar alcohol from the birch tree is very low glycemic and perfect for sweetening gum, rather than the sugar-free gums that use toxic artificial sweeteners. *Note: I don’t recommend using xylitol to bake with however, since sugar alcohols will act like a laxative in your body!
Once you find an exchange you like, you’ll have improved your diet with very little effort, and no deprivation.
If you need more convincing that alternative desserts can satisfy your sweet cravings, check out my banana ice-cream recipe below!
- 1 ripe frozen banana (peel before freezing)
- 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably alcohol-free)
- 1 tsp raw cacao powder (optional)
- small spoonful of unsweetened peanut-butter (optional)
- cacao nibs (optional topping)
Take the banana out of the freezer and cut into small enough pieces for your blender to handle. Put in a blender with vanilla and cacao powder (optional). You can also add a small spoonful of peanut-butter (optional). Blend until smooth (it might take a few times of mixing it with a spatula in between blending, since the pieces are frozen) and serve right away.
Optional: top with a spoonful of cacao nibs.
Yields 1 serving.