Sugar. It makes birthdays and holidays sweeter and is common to most modern households. Despite the fact that research has shown that refined sugars can lead to numerous health problems including diabetes and inflammation, the average American consumes up to 170 pounds of sugar each year. Refined sugars are processed in such a way that vital nutrients and trace minerals are removed; leaving a simple carbohydrate that lacks significant nutritional content. Luckily, a number of natural substitutes exist that may provide relief for your aching sweet tooth while offering the trace minerals, nutrients and health benefits that refined sugars lack.


Honey

Produced by bees and used frequently as a sugar substitute, honey is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to have healing, antibacterial properties. While experts still don’t recommend honey for diabetics and infants, when added to tea, honey has a soothing effect on colds and sore throat symptoms. Raw honey is thought to have more healing properties than pasteurized honey, however some argue that honey in its unpasteurized form may contain harmful bacteria that can do more harm than good. We love honey for its tangy sweetness and recommend using it ¾:1 as a replacement for sugar in recipes.


Stevia

A sugar substitute derived from the Stevia plant, this natural sweetener is native to Brazil and Paraguay and has been shown to be safe for diabetics and those on carbohydrate restricted diets. Stevia also contains the trace minerals and vitamins that refined sugars lack, and with zero calories, Stevia is frequently used in sodas and packaged sweets. Stevia makes a great addition to your morning coffee or tea; just go easy since it’s considerably sweeter than standard table sugar.


Coconut Sugar

Similar in taste to brown sugar and grown in Southeast Asia, coconut sugar has a relatively low glycemic index, and can be substituted 1:1 for regular sugar. Coconut sugar is also less processed than its refined counterparts, and contains magnesium, iron and zinc, which means it has a higher nutritional content than regular table sugar.


While experts caution against the consumption of too much of any kind of sweetener, we like these natural alternatives for their ability to mimic the taste of regular sugar without losing any essential vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. So go ahead, have that slice of birthday cake, just remember to swap that standard refined sugar with one of our favorite substitutes.