It’s no secret we need to keep an eye on our calorie intake in order to stop the pounds piling on, but there may be other things to watch out for – sugar being public enemy number one.
A diet high in sugars can be a contributing factor to weight gain, but it can also lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes type 1 and 2, heart disease and obesity.
Sugar is often added to food items we deem as healthy, such as yoghurts and cereals, which is why it’s easy to pack on the pounds whilst thinking you’re eating well. Usually, food with high sugar content is void of nutritional value to so it doesn’t provide the essential vitamins, nutrients and proteins we need to keep our bodies moving.
But it doesn’t mean you have to give up the sweet stuff; there are many lower calorie sugar alternatives out there that give you the same taste, with better health benefits and are much kinder to your waistline.
First up is stevia, a natural substitute made from the stevia plant which has a much lower calorie count than your usual sugar, at just 45 cals per tablespoon. It has little to no carbs and is great for keeping blood sugars steady, making it a great alternate for people with diabetes. Stevia is also sweeter than sugar, meaning you need to use less in your tea or coffee but the only downside is it has a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Another great natural sweetener is honey – famed for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, this golden nectar boasts many benefits. Honey has been used in medicine for over 5,000 years as it is full of wound-healing properties, but it’s also a great alternative to sugar, due to its sweet taste. In addition, the amber liquid is packed full of antioxidants, which help protect your body against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
We’ve all heard of coconut oil thanks to the likes of Joe Wicks, but now it’s cooler sister coconut sugar takes centre stage. Coconut sugar is made from the dehydrated and boiled sap of the coconut palm. It has a low-carb content which means it is released into the bloodstream more slowly, keeping blood sugars stable and avoiding the sugar jitters. Unlike many sweet alternatives, coconut sugar boasts a whole host of nutrients such as antioxidants, iron, calcium and potassium.
Last but not least is erythritol, probably the most similar to normal sugar, in appearance and taste. This sugar alternative is the lowest in calories at just 0.24 cal per gram, as opposed to 4 cals per gram for normal sugar. The bonus of erythritol, besides its great taste, is that it doesn’t break down in your system, meaning it keeps blood sugars steady and doesn’t spike insulin levels. Erythritol seems to offer the best of both worlds as it has a great taste, low-calorie content and is the smallest leap from the sugar on your kitchen counter.
When it comes to sugar alternatives, it’s important to note that whilst these products are much better for weight loss and overall health, they are not completely calorie-free. As with most things we enjoy, it’s all about moderation but switching out your morning cornflakes with granulated sugar for a bowl of fruit and honey, can help you reap the rewards when it comes to dropping a dress size or two.
We recommend starting small and making tiny changes in your daily routine, changing the sugar in your tea or try out stevia next time you’re baking with the kids. You’ll soon see the benefits and get used to incorporating these great alternatives into your weekly shopping list.