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natural sugar substitutes
fructose corn syrup
high fructose corn syrup
sugar cane plant
empty calories
fruits and vegetables
whole grains
vitamins and minerals
high fructose corn
white sugar
Natural Sugar Substitutes
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I have a sweet tooth. There's no getting around it. Even though I eat really healthy and fill my plate full of fruits and vegetables, it never fails. At the end of dinner, I always want a little bite of something sweet.

I try to avoid traditional sweets made with white sugar when I need a treat because white sugar is just empty calories. It has no nutritional value because it has been so highly processed and refined. The sugar cane plant in its original, unprocessed form actually contains some vitamins and minerals like manganese, copper, iron, potassium, calcium and Vitamin B. Unfortunately, to get sugar to the state of fine white granules like we are most accustomed to, the sugar cane goes through a number of steps that leave it completely void of any nutrition.

Empty calories. Try to avoid them. White flour and white rice are also on that empty calorie list, too, by the way.

It's always best to choose the foods that most closely resemble their original form. Sugar cane, wheat, rice are all of a brown color, not white. In order to get to the white stage, they must be processed, broken down, and stripped of that brown shell, which also happens to be where the nutritients are. If you want to make a few dietary changes that will have a big impact on your body, start choosing foods that are as natural as possible. Choose whole grains instead of white flour and brown rice instead of white.

When it comes to sweeteners, there are a number of types to choose from that are not as heavily processed as white sugar. The following are some of my favorites.

Agave Nectar. This is a liquid sweetener which comes from the agave plant which is native to Mexico. It is smooth and much lighter than honey, and if you get a good, quality brand, many people who are diabetic are able to use agave without it spiking their blood sugar. This is because it is low in glucose. However, it is very high in fructose, up to 90% in fact, which is higher even than high fructose corn syrup which is only 55%. It does have some trace minerals, however, and a lot of people like this sweetener because of its flavor and consistency. There are also some brands that claim to be raw like Essential Living Foods.

Raw Honey. Raw honey is actually considered a superfood by many people because it is high in live enzymes and has antibiotic properties that help fight some diseases.

Succanat. This is made from extracting the juices of the sugar cane, heating it up and the cooling it to form little brown granules. It's a great substitute for regular brown sugar and contains less sucrose.

Turbinado Sugar. Turbinado sugar is made in a similar way as succanat, but after it is heated and cooled, it is washed and some of the brown coloring is removed.

Brown Rice Syrup. This is a thick syrup made from white rice that has been cultured with enzymes to break down the starch in the rice. It is then boiled down to a syrup. It tends to enter the bloodstream more slowly than regular sugar, and therefore, doesn't spike the blood sugar level as noticeably as white sugar.

Maple Syrup. This comes from the sap of maple trees. It is boiled and minimally processed so that it does retain some of its vitamins and minerals. You must get a quality brand, however, that contains only maple syrup and not a lot of fillers like high fructose corn syrup.

Molasses. Molasses probably retains the most vitamins and minerals of any processed sweetener. It is the leftover juices when cane sugar has been boiled and cooled. It has a strong taste, so it's a little difficult to use as the only substitute for sugar. I'd recommend adding just a bit to one of the other sweeteners.

Dates. The most natural of all, dates are high in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and even have some protein. Medjool dates are my favorite because they are fat and sweet. Remove the pit, and blend a handful of dates together to form a paste. This can be used as a sweetener in lots of raw food dishes and even some cooked ones.

With all of these great substitutes, white sugar really doesn't have much use in a healthy kitchen. Most of these products can be found in health food stores, and even some regular grocery stores have natural food sections where you may find them. Experiment with the some of these natural sweeteners to see which ones work best for you.

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