If your sweet tooth rules your cravings, it’s time to consider some new ways to sweeten your recipes without sugar, the natural way. Having a treat with real sugar or even natural sugars like agave nectar on special occasions like birthdays and holidays are one thing, but when added sugar becomes a regular part of your diet, it’s time to consider a healthier option. Sugar is now thought to be one of the leading reasons behind cancer, obesity, and diabetes. The white stuff (or brown stuff in the form of syrups and natural sugars like palm sugar) may seem harmless due to spiffy marketing or if products are by a trusted name brand, but they’re not.
Some are even labeled raw, organic, unrefined, vegan, etc., but the truth is they’re all the same to your body and detrimental to your health, no matter how natural they may be or how slowly they convert to sugar in the bloodstream. They’re also not pure, whole foods either, which we all know is the healthiest option. When it comes to taming your sweet tooth, try some of these ways to sweeten your recipes without any added sugar whatsoever. Oh and don’t worry, there’s no artificial sweeteners involved in case you’re wondering.
Baking with applesauce is one of my favorite tricks for eliminating most all the sweeteners called for in a recipe. Muffins, cookies, and even cakes all taste amazing with applesauce. This trick even works for brownies, homemade bars, pancakes and plenty more. As a bonus, applesauce is a great stand in for eggs, butter and oil, so it naturally lightens the recipes the entire way around. Just be sure to buy unsweetened, plain applesauce since many varieties include added sugar. Or you can keep things are fresh as possible and just make your own!
Berries are a wonderfully healthy way to sweeten up smoothies, tarts, pies, and muffins without any sugar needed at all. Many nondairy milks contain more added sugar than most candy bars so if you’re using nondairy milk in your smoothies, always buy unsweetened (or unsweetened vanilla) and use berries to sweeten it instead. You can also puree frozen berries to make a sugar-free sorbet that’s not just delicious but also incredibly heart-healthy and low-glycemic. Plus, don’t forget- berries are a must-have when making a quick vegan parfait for dessert!
Bananas are a favorite way for many people to sweeten up smoothies but you can use them in many other recipes too. Puree ripe bananas and use them in baked good to replace eggs, butter, and sugar. You’ll have to use a bit more but they lend a delicious flavor, even in chocolate brownies, a vegan pie, or a raw cake recipe. If you want a milder flavor then just puree them before they turn ripe. They’ll help your cookies and bars hold their texture better too, since the starches haven’t converted to sugars yet making them a better binder for your recipes. You can also use bananas to make natural, sugar-free popsicles or homemade soft serve “ice cream” which are always guaranteed crowd pleasers, no sugar required.
4. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a very concentrated source of sugar so I always say use it sparingly and use whole foods or purees, like those above before using dried fruit. However, for those that are active and need a more potent energy source than fresh fruit, it’s much better to eat an energy bar made with dates, figs, or raisins than it is one made with agave, evaporated cane juice, or brown rice syrup. Plus, so many delicious raw recipes can be made with dates or figs, not to mention they’re great to make a healthier caramel sauce with. Just use them sparingly and always chose fresh fruit over dried whenever you can. Also be mindful when purchasing dried fruit since some types like dried pineapple and dried bananas can contain added, refined sugar during the dehydrating process.
My favorite way to sweeten a recipe without any sugar at all is to use stevia, which is sugar-free, calorie-free and 100 percent natural. Note that stevia is an herb and even comes with medicinal benefits when you choose a healthy kind. Many brands on the market and at the store contain additives like maltodextrin, dextrose, inulin, and erithrytol so always avoid those when possible. While not those ingredients are necessarily harmful, they also don’t lend the same taste or nutritional benefits as pure stevia extract (liquid) which is just stevia leaves that have been soaked with water to make a sweet-tasting, calorie-free, sugar free solution. There’s also no chemicals or artificial sweeteners involved in this extraction method either.
When purchasing stevia at the store, just be sure to read the ingredient list. Even brands that advertise their product as pure stevia may actually contain other ingredients. If it’s pure stevia, the only ingredient will be stevia or stevia and water. You may also see the names Rebiana, Reb-A, or Reb 99, which are just names indicating it is a stronger, better tasting stevia product. Again, be mindful since many top brands advertise the Rebiana feature but still contain additional fillers. You can use stevia in tea, coffee, sugar-free protein bars, homemade salad dressings, oatmeal, fun desserts, smoothies, baked goods, or just about anything else you want. I personally use it in place of most all other sweeteners and can’t imagine trying to rule my sweet tooth without it.
You’ll see I didn’t include natural sugars like maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, molasses, or even honey (which technically isn’t vegan anyway) in this list. While those natural sweeteners may be a few steps less refined than plain sugar, that doesn’t mean they’re healthy for you. They can all still cause a sugar dependency, not to mention they add empty calories with little to no nutrition. Sugar alcohols like xylitol, erithrytol, along with the sweet-flavored, prebiotic fiber inulin may also be a safer option, however they can cause digestive disturbances for some people so always be mindful of that when using them.
The occasional treat every now and then might be OK for some people, but if you have a true sugar dependency, consider some of the healthier alternatives above. You’ll find before long they satisfy you just as much as sugar used to and you’ll likely feel like a new person in no time. How do you sweeten your recipes?
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Image source: 16 Vegan Bakeries That Are Worth Losing Your Teeth Over