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Healthy Alternatives for Refined Sugar
We require healthy sugars that come from whole foods like fruits, veggies, and starchy, fiber-rich carbs like beans. What we don’t need to consume is going to be covered in this article.
So that we are all on the same page, I want to explain what I mean when I say “dirty sugar” as I use this phrase quite often.
I am not describing a sugar that is sexy or needs further refining, LOL.
What I call & consider dirty sugars to be are & should be avoided as often as possible:
- Brown Sugar
- Cane Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup (white syrup like Karo)
- Malt Syrup
- Rice Syrup
- Raw Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Typical Pancake/Waffle Syrups (like Mrs. Butterworths)
- Agave Nectar (as bad if not worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup)
- Artificial Sweeteners (I will list those below)
All of these types of sugar are highly processed, lead to many health issues & chronic disease. We will talk about the dangers of these sugars as the month of January progresses on.
Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid
As we go through the month of January, we will also discuss artificial sweeteners & their role in keeping us unhealthy.
Here is a list of artificial sweeteners to be aware of:
- Acesulfame Potassium (Sunnet, Sweet One, Ace K)
- Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
- Saccharin (Sweet N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
This is a hot topic, for sure. Because sugar alcohols have some health benefits and some risks…the jury is still out on whether or not we should consume them.
Again, we will be discussing these subjects more in depth as the month of January goes forward.
However, I want to share a list of sugar alcohols with you so that you’re aware of their existence:
The Good Stuff
So, now that you know the names of dirty sugars, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols, let’s dive into healthier alternatives. This is going to help you have your cake & eat it too.
- Fruit~ this is a no-brainer. Fruit is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and more healthy stuffs. Fruit is not our enemy as many fad diets have tried to convince of. The daily recommended amount to have is about 1 cup of fruit. You will want to confer with your macros to see what is right for YOUR body.
- Veggies~ these powerhouses are a necessary part of our diet (especially greens) and do have natural sugars in them. The daily recommended amount to consume is 3 cups. Again, you will want to check out your macros & nutrient deficiencies to make sure that you’re eating enough veggies (and fruit) to meet your specific dietary needs.
- Stevia~ this comes from an actual plant & provides sweetness without calories. However, there is some chatter about Stevia and it may be due to it usually being packaged with sugar alcohols. You will have to be your own best judge when consuming products that are made with Stevia & other things like sugar alcohols. Some of those products are Truvia & Pyure. While consuming Stevia is healthier, you have to be mindful of what it’s “laced” with and also consume in moderation.
- Coconut Sugar~ I love the way that coconut sugar tastes. It has a brown sugar taste & appearance/texture. While coconut sugar is a tad healthier, it does come with its own issues too. Coconut sugar is still a processed food, just not as the dirty sugars listed above. Coconut sugar consumption will also raise your blood sugar count and when consumed too often can lead to weight gain & weight-gaining health issues. Consume this in moderation. As a point of reference, I use this sweetener maybe 1-2 times per year during the holidays.
- Pure Maple Syrup Grade A or B~ this is another food item that is healthier, but it does raise your glycemic index when consumed. So, use sparingly as an occasional treat.
- Medjool Dates~these are a fresh fruit (even though they appear to be dried-they are not) that have a caramel-like flavor. Since these are a fruit and contain fiber, the release of natural sugars is much slower & sustained than the spikes you will see with dirty sugar, coconut sugar, & maple syrup. It’s best to refrigerate or freeze your dates. There is date syrup, I am not an expert in this syrup so do your own research to make an educated decision for your health.
- Raw Honey~ now as a vegan I do not consume honey products because honey is made by our very important bee population. Honey is meant for their consumption. If we don’t have bees (and other pollinators) we will cease to have human foods. So, I do not consume honey. However, raw honey (not that crap sold next to pancake syrups or jams/jellies made from mostly high fructose corn syrup or agave nectar) has some healing qualities. It must be said that consuming honey will raise your blood sugar & spike your insulin levels much like coconut sugar & maple syrup.
- Blackstrap Molasses~ here is an article by Dr. Josh Axe about this product, as I rarely use it. I am not advocating for use of blackstrap molasses simply because it is made during the process of refining sugar. Since blackstrap molasses is created towards the beginning of the refined sugar process, it is much healthier than sugar…but I am going to let you decide for yourself. I would use in minuscule amounts, for sure.
- Monk fruit Sweetener~ this is MY FAVORITE! I use Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweetener. Sadly, it is made with a sugar alcohol. I was not able to find pure monk fruit sweetener until recently, and it is quite expensive. What’s cool about the monk fruit is that the areas in China & Thailand that grow monk fruit see very little disease.
Now that you know (or you already were in-the-know) the different types of sweeteners out there, you can make more informed decisions for your health & well-being.
There will be more education about sugar this month in our “Plant-Based Self-Healing” Facebook group. This is a group that is centered around natural wellness and plant-based natural remedies.
If you would like to become a member, it is completely free to join and we would love to have you join our kindhearted community!