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Added sugar is probably the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.

It has been associated with many serious diseases, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Sugar is best kept to a minimum in your diet in order to decrease your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and to help you lose weight or prevent weight gain.

There are a slew of alternative sweeteners out there, but they're not all created equal. All artificial sweeteners — including aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and saccharin — should be avoided due to evidence linking these sweeteners to a possible increased risk of cancer.

Why Sugar Is Bad for You

For starters, there is simply nothing good about sugar. It contains no protein, essential fats, vitamins or minerals. There really is no need for it in the diet.

In fact, there is a long list of reasons why you should avoid it.

Sugar interferes with hormones in your body that regulate hunger and satiety. This can lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain.

It also harms your metabolism, which can lead to increased insulin and fat storage. In fact, many studies have found a strong link between sugar and obesity.

Simply put, people who consume the most sugar are far more likely to become overweight or obese than those who consume the least.

High sugar intake is also associated with some of the world’s most deadly diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

What’s more, sugar is addictive. It causes dopamine to be released in the reward center of the brain, which is the same response activated by addictive drugs. This leads to cravings and can drive overeating.

In short, sugar is incredibly unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, consider the following 8 alternatives.

Stevia

The sweetener you should really consider using on a regular basis — and this is especially good if you have blood sugar issues, if you’re overweight or if you have diabetes — is stevia. is a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of a flowering plant.

There are many types of stevia. Ideally, you should get full, green leaf stevia. Another form of stevia that’s suitable is stevia that’s just ground and part of it is extracted.

There are many brands out there that you should avoid because they’re so highly processed, and they also add in other chemicals. Plus, they come from GMO corn or add in GMO corn derivatives, and we all know we don’t want GMOs in our diets.

Sweet Leaf is one of my favorite brands I use because it’s natural, healthy and delicious. In fact, it even has stevia flavors — you can get chocolate stevia, vanilla stevia, chocolate raspberry stevia and pumpkin pie spice stevia. There are a lot of different brands out there; just make sure you choose the healthiest, most organic type you can find.

The great thing about stevia is there’s no sugar involved at all, making it truly one of the best sugar substitutes around. So if you have diabetes or blood sugar issues, or are looking to lose weight fast, this is a great no-carbohydrate solution.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements performed on diabetic rats found stevia improved diabetic symptoms and insulin reactions after 30 days of stevia consumption.

Again, just like using honey sparingly, you shouldn’t dump this in your foods and go overboard. A little bit goes a long way, so use just a few drops in your morning tea. I love this with my herbal teas in the morning. I add a little bit sometimes to something like a morning smoothie, a little bit to different baking goods, or if I’m making homemade puddings, I’ll put this in there with some chia seeds and coconut milk and coconut oil.

A little bit of stevia is great, especially if you’ve got blood sugar issues or weight loss issues. Try some stevia, my second favorite natural sweetener.

Xylitol

is a sugar alcohol that contains 40% fewer calories than sugar. Eating it may offer dental benefits and protect against osteoporosis.

contains 2.4 calories per gram, which is 40% fewer calories than sugar.

Also, it does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.

Most of the harmful effects associated with regular sugar are due to its high fructose content. However, xylitol contains zero fructose and thus has none of the harmful effects associated with sugar.

On the contrary, is associated with multiple health benefits.

Several studies show that it can improve dental health by reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Moreover, increases your body’s absorption of calcium. This is not only good for your teeth but also your bone density, which can help protect against osteoporosis.

is generally well tolerated, but eating too much of it can cause digestive side effects like gas, bloating and diarrhea.

It’s also important to note that xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. If you own a dog, you may want to keep xylitol out of reach or avoid having it in the house altogether.

Coconut Sugar

Coconuts are in vogue, particularly in the US, where a recent boom in the sale of coconut water has dovetailed with a growth in demand for . Sap from the coconut palm is heated to evaporate its water content and reduce it to usable granules.

Coconut sugar is nutritious and has a low score on the glycemic index, which means you don’t get a buzz followed by a crash.

It tastes similar to brown sugar but is slightly richer. You can substitute coconut sugar for traditional sugar pretty much wherever you use the latter.

Once tapped for sap, the trees can go on producing for 20 years and produce more sugar per hectare than sugar cane. and benefit the local soil.

Maple Syrup

is an excellent natural sweetener. Look for grade B or even grade C that is USDA-certified organic.

Maple syrup is one of the best sugar substitutes because it’s a fantastic sweetener. It’s good especially over things like pancakes and waffles and good in certain recipes where you want more of that earthy flavor along with it.

Maple syrup nutrition has so many benefits in addition to simply being one of the healthier sugar substitutes. That’s because maple syrup has a higher antioxidant capacity than sugar.In fact, according Pharmaceutical Biology, pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants. These antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds, are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases.

Dates

Dates are another natural sweetener to consider. We could throw other fruits here into this category — things like raisins, apricots, other dried fruit and pineapple juices — but the great thing about dates is they’re also very high in fiber and potassium, as well as other vitamins and minerals. In fact, of all the sweeteners I’m going to go over, dates nutrition has the highest nutrient value.

Now in terms of phytochemicals that heal the body, honey is the highest, but in terms of actually vitamins and minerals and fiber content dates are the highest. That fiber actually slows down sugar absorption.

So remember, if we’re comparing this to white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, dates are not sugar. Dates are a food that contains sugar, and this food also has fiber and antioxidants, and minerals like potassium, that help you slowly absorb sugar and help regulate sugar within your body.

That makes dates very sweet, and I actually love making homemade pecan pie with dates like Medjool dates. You’ll find in my “Real Food Diet Cookbook” that we use dates all the time. You can mix some dates with some nut butter and make food bars at home, or you can make protein bars and pies. This is amazing to add with some pecans and cashews and make a homemade piecrust.

Dates are good to use in baking especially. I like to make a smoothie at home with some cashew butter and peaches and throw some dates in there. They’re great to just throw in smoothies as well, and they’re really great if you’re into raw food and vegan foods. Dates are probably the No. 1 natural sweetener used.

This a good thing, because dates have many benefits. The potassium is great for flushing out toxins and balancing electrolytes in the body, so this is great for athletes. Plus, dates have been shown to decrease cholesterol, relieve constipation and boost energy, among other health benefits.

Again, you don’t want to go overboard, but dates are a fantastic sweetener.

Yacon Syrup

is extracted from the yacón plant, which is native to South America and known scientifically as Smallanthus sonchifolius.

It tastes sweet, is dark in color and has a thick consistency similar to molasses.

It has recently gained popularity as a weight loss supplement after being featured on The Dr. Oz Show, a TV show hosted by a famous American doctor.

While one small study found that yacon syrup caused significant weight loss in overweight women, more research is needed to validate this claim.

Yacon syrup contains 40–50% fructooligosaccharides, which are a special type of sugar molecule that the human body cannot digest.

Because these sugar molecules are not digested, yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar, or about 1.3 calories per gram.

What’s more, studies show that fructooligosaccharides can decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin, which may reduce appetite and help you eat less.

They also feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which are incredibly important for your overall health.

Having healthy gut bacteria has been linked to a decreased risk of diabetes and obesity, improved immunity and better brain function.

is generally considered safe, but eating large amounts of it may lead to excess gas, diarrhea or general digestive discomfort.

Another downside to yacon syrup is that you cannot cook or bake with it, as high temperatures break down the structure of the fructooligosaccharides.

Instead, you can use yacon syrup to sweeten your coffee or tea, add it to salad dressings or stir it into oatmeal.

contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar. It is also very high in fructooligosaccharides, which feed the good bacteria in the gut and may help with weight loss.

Transition to Sugar Substitutes

What I would do is get rid of the sugar. If you just are using regular sugar in your baking and cooking, the majority of that sugar is genetically modified. It comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn.

That means regular sugar is unnatural and highly toxic to the body. So why use it? It’s so easy to replace those fake sugars with real sugar, so use these natural sugar substitutes and natural sweeteners instead — and avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs.

So remember these five natural sweeteners: raw honey, stevia, dates, coconut sugar and pure, organic maple syrup. Use those five natural sugar substitutes, and you’re going to be a lot healthier while satisfying your sweet tooth.

Article byGuy Luna