The negative impact processed sugar has on our health has been widely covered in the last decade. As such, we all know that high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, fructose, and all sneaky derivatives of sugar found in an excessive amount in all food products are to be avoided. Apart from evidence that link sugar consumption with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other health issues, the stuff is devoid of vitamins and nutrients.
However, knowing what’s good for us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to implement change right away. Let’s be honest, we all want to have our cake and eat it too — preferably with icing on top! Ditching all refined sugar definitely makes that harder.
Thankfully, harder is not impossible, and health conscious eaters have more options than ever before when it comes to sweetening muffins, cakes, brownies, and every other dessert they might possibly want to indulge in. Here are eight of our favorite natural alternatives to processed sugar with plenty of delicious dessert ideas from the Food Monster App to dig your sweet tooth into!
As the saying goes — an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Using applesauce to sweeten your favorite recipes is not only a good way to avoid the negative effects processed sugar has on your health but also you gain a whole lot of nutritional benefits by doing so. Applesauce is a good source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium and can help stabilize your sugar levels thanks to the fiber it contains.
We suggest making this Instant Raw Applesauce (pictured above) or this Homemade Applesauce in the comfort of your own kitchen. If you’re short on time, make sure you pick unsweetened applesauce at the store to reap the most benefits. Then, swap out sugar in favor of wholesome applesauce in muffins, cookies, cakes, brownies, pancakes, and more!
Looking for healthy dessert recipes featuring apples? Check out these Spiced Apple and Almond Butter Blondies, these Spiced Apple Pie Mini Loaves, and this Rosemary Dark Chocolate Apple Crostata.
Sugar-Free Banana Chips/One Green Planet
Filled with healthy sugars, bananas are an energizing snack that also make the perfect replacement for processed sugar in baked goods. This versatile fruit, loaded with potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins, and fiber, adds creaminess and sweetness to smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, crepes, breads, and cakes. You can even use bananas to replace sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese in many of your favorite desserts. Check out How to Use Bananas to Replace Common Dairy Foods to find out more.
If you’re looking to cut down on sugar but still want to enjoy desserts, we suggest you give this 5-Ingredient Sugar-Free Berry Banana Bread, these Raspberry Banana Bars, this Chocolate and Banana Mochi Rice Pudding, and these Banana Chocolate Lavender Bars a try.
3. Dried Fruit
Cherry Bakewell Flapjacks/One Green Planet
From figs to raisins passing by apricots, cherries, blueberries, and even mangoes, there are no lack of options when it comes to dried fruit. Packed with natural sugars, dried fruit are a healthier alternative to sweeten your desserts as they retain the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fresh fruit. Dried figs, by example, are rich in calcium, iron, and magnesium while raisins are a good source of potassium. Moreover, all dried fruit contain high amounts of polyphenols, a type of antioxidants that protect our bodies from inflammation and many diseases.
Want to get all the benefits of dried fruit and satisfy your sweet tooth? You have to make this Nut and Fruit Breakfast Loaf, these Hemp Seed, Oat, Cacao Nib, and Dried Cherry Cookies, these Fig Truffles, and these Vegan Lemon Banana Ricotta Pancakes With Dried Blueberry Compote. You won’t regret it!
4. Lucuma Powder
Lemony Lucuma Tea Pops/One Green Planet
Lucuma powder, derived from the South American fruit of the same name, is a superfood with a unique maple-like sweet taste. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s not only a perfect replacement for processed sugar, it can also benefit your health. Used for centuries for its medicinal properties, lucuma powder is said to have a beneficial impact on stabilizing our blood sugar levels and normalizing our blood pressure.
Not sure how best to use this superfood to sweeten your recipes? Lucuma is especially a great addition to smoothies, ice cream, and raw desserts such as these Raw Lucuma and Cranberry Cinnamon Buns, this Crunchy Chia Chocolate With Maca, Lucuma, Vanilla, and Cashews, these Heart Healthy Raw Pecan Spice Delight Cookies, and these 2-Ingredient Caramel Bites.
5. Yacon Syrup
Pumpkin Waffles With Apple Cider Maple Syrup/One Green Planet
Derived from a root vegetable native of South America that is dried, powdered, and boiled to produce a pleasant syrup reminiscent of molasses in taste, this sugar alternative is nutrient-rich and boasts digestive and fat-loss benefits thanks to its high content in fructooligosaccharides.
These naturally occurring compounds found in plants help reduce constipation and feed the good bacteria in our gut. They might also lower ghrelin, an important hormone that triggers appetite and whose dysregulation is responsible for weight gain. What’s more? Yacon syrup is packed with amino acids and a range of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium.
You can use yacon syrup just like you would maple syrup or molasses. We suggest including it in recipes like this Raw Russian Tahini Fudge, this Superfood Chocolate, this Pomegranate and Pistachio Chocolate Fudge, and these Salted Dark Chocolate Macadamia Ganache Bars.
Date-Sweetened Cinnamon Sticky Buns/One Green Planet
These nature’s candies pack a sugary punch into a nutrient-dense bite which makes them the ideal sugar alternative if you have a raging sweet tooth but still care about health. A handful of dates will give you a good dose of B-vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and copper. Apart from its nutritional status, dates are also a healthier alternative to processed sugar because of their high fiber content which positively impacts our digestion and ensures our blood sugar levels aren’t thrown out of whack. Studies show that this is the case for both healthy individuals and people suffering from diabetes as the most commonly consumed types of dates actually have a low to medium glycemic index.
Want ideas for delicious dessert recipes using dates? You have to make this Healthy Chocolate Orange Sweet Potato Fudge Cake, this Sticky Date Pudding With Butterscotch Sauce, these Healthy Copycat Snickers Bars, and these Date Caramel Hazelnut Balls. We also suggest checking out these 20 Awesome Things You Can Do With Dates.
7. Fig Syrup
Fig lovers, beware! You will become obsessed with this healthy and natural alternative to sugar made with — you’ve guessed it — black mission figs. This wholesome sugary syrup is filled with potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc thanks to the nutritious content of its one and only ingredient — figs. Fig syrup is also a great alternative as figs contain ficin, a proteolytic enzyme that can aid digestion.
You can make it at home by simmering ripe gooey figs in some water until the fruit breaks down. Then, filtering out the fruit will leave you with a delicious and naturally sweetened syrup that can be used in your coffee, in your baked goods, or in sauces and marinades. Short on time? You can also find this creative sugar alternative in health food shops or buy it online.
We suggest using fig syrup to replace maple syrup or other kinds of syrup in your usual favorite recipes. Fig syrup would especially go well on these Savory Chickpea Flour Pancakes With Tamarind Syrup (pictured above), these Classic French Crepes With Vanilla Cashew Cream, this Coffee Cream Cake With Choco Crust and Date Syrup, and this Pear and Raspberry Galette.
Molasses Spelt Cake/One Green Planet
This by-product of raw sugar cane has a robust, but pleasant, bittersweet flavor that lends itself well to marinades, savory dishes that need a hint of sweetness, baked goods, and other desserts. It’s a great alternative to white sugar as its nutritional profile is quite impressive. A tablespoon of molasses will give you 20 percent of your RDA of calcium and over 19 percent of your daily iron needs. This healthier sugar alternative is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.
Not sure how to include molasses in your recipes that usually ask for processed sugar? Get some inspiration by checking out this Pumpkin Molasses Freezer Tart, this Pomegranate and Molasses Upside Down Cake, these Molasses Crinkles, and these Coconut Molasses Ginger Cookies.
Are you looking for more ways to cut out processed sugar from your diet without sacrificing your sweet tooth? We suggest checking out The Best Natural Sugar Alternatives, these Healthy Ways To End Your Sugar Addiction, and these 10 Low Fat, Low Sugar, Raw Vegan Desserts.
Also, if you want more healthy dessert recipes as well as cooking tips for using natural sugar alternatives in baking, then we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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