7 Sugar Swaps to Consider

coconut sugar

Written by Deborah Mitchell for thehealthyshopper.ca

The health hazards of refined sugar (sucrose, which is a 50:50 combination of fructose and glucose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS; typically, 55% fructose and 45% glucose) have been widely published but frequently ignored. After all, most people have a sweet tooth to some degree, and it can be a challenge to avoid all the sources of refined sugar and HFCS because they are in so many foods and beverages, even some that are touted as being healthful.

The not-so-sweet side of sugar include its contribution to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, promotion of cancer growth, immune system suppression, hormone imbalance, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease, among others. If we want to keep on enjoying the sweeter side of food but limit our exposure to the dangers of refined sugar and HFCS, what are our choices?

Here are 7 sugar swaps you can make a part of your lifestyle.

1. Coconut sugar. You’ve heard of coconut water, coconut oil, coconut flour, and there’s also coconut sugar! Although you can use coconut sugar 1:1 as a substitute for refined sugar in a recipe, you will get a lot less sugar but all the sweetness. Coconut sugar consists of about 70 to 79 percent sucrose plus three to nine percent each of fructose and glucose. This caramel-colored sweetener also is much lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar.

2. Fruit. If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, why not go all natural and direct to the source—fruit! Fresh whole fruit (organic preferred) and dried (nonsulphured) deliver vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber along with sweetness.

3. Honey. This nectar from bees can be a nutritious, natural sweetener when used in moderation and if you choose pure, raw, unfiltered products. Ultra-processed honey, which is what you find on most grocery shelves, has had all of its pollen removed, which means you can wave goodbye to honey’s medicinal properties, including infection and allergy fighting abilities. Look for locally sourced honey when shopping.

4. Maple syrup. In moderate amounts, 100 percent pure maple syrup is a wise sugar swap. It contains 24 different antioxidants and the following minerals (per tablespoon): 0.7 mg manganese (33% Recommended Daily Value, or DV), 0.8 mg zinc (6% DV), 13.4 mg calcium (1% DV), 40.8 mg potassium 1% DV), 0.2 mg iron (1% DV), and 2.8 mg magnesium (1% DV).

5. Monk fruit. From southern China comes monk fruit (luo han guo), a gift from nature that is about 300 times sweeter than sugar when in its pure form and about half that sweetness when used in food products. Along with being super sweet, monk fruit boasts antioxidants and vitamins, which may be the reason it’s credited with treating sore throats, diabetes, and other health challenges. Calorie counters will love the fact that it is a zero-calorie sweetener. You can find monk fruit as a powdered sugar substitute combined with dextrose or erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol).

6. Stevia. This super sweet sugar swap grows in Brazil and Paraguay, where people have used the leaves for hundreds of years as a sweetener as well as a treatment for stomach problems and burns. Stevia (Stevia ebaudiana Bertoni) is about 200 times sweeter than refined sugar and has no calories. These sweet benefits may come at a price, however, as there is some concern about stevia causing low blood pressure and interacting with a variety of medications, such as anti-inflammatories, anti-fungals, calcium channel blockers, and others.

7. Yacon. This South American root contains sugars called fructooligosaccharides, which the body does not absorb as it does refined white sugar. This difference results in a lower calorie content and a sweetener that does not cause a spike in blood glucose levels. Its taste has been described as being like molasses, caramel, and honey. Yacon is available as a syrup or dried.

7 Sugar Swaps to Consider

5 Herbs That Help Manage Stress

Girl in rug drinks hot tea in winter

Republished from TheHealthyShopper.ca

Feeling stressed? According to Canadian government statistics, 6.6 million Canadians aged 15 and older said they felt “quite a bit” or “extremely stressful” on most days. That represents nearly one-quarter of the population.
Stress is an automatic response and not always a bad thing. In fact, stress can be a highly motivating, positive force. However, when it is chronic or interferes with your ability to function or enjoy life, it’s time to take steps to manage it in a healthy way.
One way to manage stress is with herbs. Numerous herbal remedies have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, and promote a sense of calm. Here are five of them.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). This Ayurvedic herb is considered to be an adaptogen, which means it helps the body maintain balance and resist stress. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study of 64 individuals with a history of chronic stress, those who took 300 mg of ashwagandha daily for 60 days had a significant reduction in stress scores and a substantial decline in cortisol (a stress hormone) levels when compared with the placebo group.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). “Have a cup of chamomile tea” is a common suggestion when someone says they are feeling stressed or having trouble sleeping. Chamomile is also available as a supplement standardized to contain 1.2% the active ingredient called apigenin. In a University of Pennsylvania Medical Center study, 57 individuals with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder were assigned to take either chamomile extract or placebo for 8 weeks. Those who took chamomile showed a significantly greater decline in anxiety symptoms than those taking placebo.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). This member of the mint family has a long history of reducing anxiety and stress and aiding sleep. One study compared two different doses of lemon balm (300 mg, 600 mg) and placebo in healthy individuals who underwent simulated stress. The 600-mg dose successfully reduced the negative mood effects of the lab-induced stress and significantly increased calmness and alertness.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). If stress or anxiety is keeping you awake, valerian may help. A dose of 150 mg taken two to three times a day has been used to treat insomnia and anxiety. This herb is often combined with lemon balm or St. John’s wort (usually used for depression) for mild to moderate anxiety.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). The leaves and roots of passionflower are used as a supplement or tea to reduce stress and anxiety. It has been shown to be as effective as some benzodiazepines for managing anxiety. For example, 36 individuals with generalized anxiety disorder took either passionflower extract or oxazepam (30 mg/day) for four weeks. Both groups experienced similar improvement, but those taking oxazepam experienced significantly more problems with job performance. Another study found that passionflower tea helped with sleep quality.

Talk to your healthcare provider before you take any herbal remedies, as they may interact with medications or natural supplements you are taking or have an impact on any medical conditions.

5 Herbs That Help Manage Stress