Somewhere along the way, “sweet” and “sugar” got all mixed up and became inseparable from each other. “To have something sweet” tends to mean you’re reaching for candy or dessert. When you’re on weight loss program or trying to eat healthier, you’re told to “cut the sweet stuff”.

But sweet isn’t always a bad word. It all hinges on where something sweet comes from and the kind of sugar it contains.

For example, “natural sugar” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. And refined sugars are absolutely bad for you, yet their origins can be traced back to plants.

Refined Sugar 101

Sugarcane and Sugar Beets

Sweeten Foods Naturally | SpicefitThe most basic refined sugars come from sugarcane or sugar beets. They’re known as white sugar or table sugar and are what you visually recognize as sugar. Sugarcane and beets contain sucrose – a combination of glucose and fructose.

These refined sugars aren’t so bad if you’re only having a teaspoon in the occasional cafe au lait. But, let’s be honest, it’s no longer possible to know how much sugar you’re actually eating when it’s in almost everything you buy!

The worst part is that refined sugars have virtually no vitamins, minerals, or fiber. They contain “empty” calories. When eaten in excess, empty calories can really harm your waistline and wreak havoc your health. Excessive sugar consumption may not only lead to chronic blood sugar problems but could even harm your brain.1

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Sweeten Foods Naturally | SpicefitNext up is the notoriously bad, chemically-made sugar that we know as High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). It’s made from corn but has none of the corn’s benefits.

For starters, not a single nutrient found in corn remains once it’s become HFCS.

Turns out, HFCS is metabolized into fat more rapidly than any other type of sugar. It’s not used by your cells — like glucose — and needs to be converted to fat before it can be used as fuel. This means HFCS can promote much greater weight gain than other sugars.2

Furthermore, too much HFCS can lead to fat accumulating in the liver which could cause serious health problems.3 Unfortunately, HFCS is the cheapest sweetener available to food manufacturers because it’s subsidized by many governments. So, it’s in everything.

Trouble is, all refined sugars raise blood glucose very quickly. This means you won’t feel full and you’ll inevitably face an energy crash. Refined sugars are hiding in everything: breakfast cereals, ketchup, salad dressings, granola bars, yogurt, frozen meals, and fruit juices (to name just a few).

So, What Can You Do?

Well, there are plenty of other ways to add a sweet touch to your food. And no need to go hunting for mysterious ingredients. These sweet ingredients are likely already in your kitchen.

Some of these alternatives still contain calories so you’ll want to use them in moderation. However, they’re not empty calories. They’ve also got plenty of healthy nutrients that will help you feel fuller, longer.

Here are 8 refined-sugar-free ways to satisfy your sweet tooth:

1. Dates

Anyone who loves dates knows how decadently sweet they are. But they’re so much more than just a snack. Dates can be used to sweeten everything from muffins to smoothies, from dressing to your morning cup of coffee.

Whip up a date paste and you can use it in just about anything. Take around 2 cups of dates and soak in a pan of water for around an hour. Drain the liquid and put it aside. Blend the dates whilst adding the reserved liquid a little at a time until a smooth consistency is reached. For use in your coffee, just stir it in.

Sweeten Foods Naturally | SpicefitMedjool dates contain:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin A
  • Dietary fiber4

2. Beets

While refined beet sugar is less than ideal for your body, actual beets that haven’t been touched by a manufacturer are good news!

Beets are one of the sweetest vegetables you’ll find. In fact, your grandmother probably made Red Velvet cake with beets. Of course, you can grate or puree fresh beets and use them to sweeten cakes, muffins, juices, and pasta sauces.

Why are beets so much better than beet sugar? Because beet sugar is not only far more concentrated (ie: you’re getting the sugar of multiple beets) but it’s stripped of every nutrient.

But a whole beet is low in calories and contains the following:Sweeten Foods Naturally | Spicefit

  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Digestive fiber5

3. Carrots

While we’re on the topic of veggies, here’s another fun vegetable – carrots!

Carrots are naturally sugary – which is why carrot cake is such a favorite treat! Like beets you can grate or puree carrots and use them in your baked goods, sauces, and smoothies.

But when substituting beets or carrots the idea is that these veggies replace added sugar. So, if you’re making cakes or pasta sauce, don’t add any other sugar. Rely on the natural sweetness of these super veggies.

Carrots are no strangers to health and wellness. They’re low-calorie, and contain staggering amounts of vitamin A – more than 200% of your daily needs in one carrot! Vitamin A is critical for vision, hence why carrots are said to be good for your eyesight.6 Carrots also contain:

  • PotassiumSweeten Foods Naturally | Spicefit
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Dietary fiber7

4. Apple Sauce

Vegans have been embracing applesauce as a substitute for eggs in baking for years. But it can be a clever sweetener too. Apples are full of natural fructose. Though fructose is bad when it’s refined and concentrated, a whole fruit is eaten in much smaller quantities and is coupled with plenty of fiber and essential nutrients.

Apples contain:Sweeten Foods Naturally | Spicefit

  • Loads of fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B6
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Magnesium
  • Folate
  • Potassium8

If you’re making your own applesauce don’t add sugar. If you’re buying from a store, it should go without saying – no added sugar! Use applesauce to sweeten cakes, muffins, oatmeal, cereals, yogurt, and smoothies.

5. Cinnamon

Dedicated SpiceFit readers know that cinnamon rocks!

Sweeten Foods Naturally | SpicefitCinnamon has more antioxidants than blueberries and may help you to regulate your blood sugar.9,10 Cinnamon is also very high in dietary fiber and contains calcium, iron, and magnesium.11

Often, bakers pair cinnamon with sugar. But it is capable of going it alone. It’s naturally sweet with a wonderfully warm flavor and aroma.

Add cinnamon to your coffee in place of sugar. It lends a beautiful flavor to coffee, especially when you brew it with your coffee. Cinnamon can be added to sweeten cakes, muffins, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cereal, chicken, mixed nuts, bananas, and much more.

6. Bananas

Speaking of bananas, they too can stand on their own as a sweetener. Ever made a smoothie with just milk and banana? You’ll notice how naturally sweet the milk becomes.

The beauty of bananas is that the riper (and darker) they are, the sweeter they become. The best banana bread comes from very ripe bananas (and banana bread shouldn’t need added sugar).

Bananas are a great snack food to keep you feeling full because they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. They also contain:Sweeten Foods Naturally | Spicefit

  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Protein12

To use bananas in place of refined sugar, substitute one cup of sugar for one cup of pureed banana. Or just throw them on your oatmeal, toast, or in your Greek yogurt.

What About Honey and Maple Syrup?

Sweeten Foods Naturally | SpicefitRaw honey and maple syrup are often brought up as great sweetening alternatives but there are conflicting theories about whether or not they’re just pure sugar in disguise.

Yes, honey and maple syrup are basically pure sugar. But, they aren’t full of empty calories like refined sugar.

Raw organic honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals, and 5,000 enzymes!13 While pure maple syrup contains antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc.14

So you’re far better reaching for raw honey or pure maple syrup (in moderation) than refined sugar.

Embrace the Sweetness of Life

With these substitutions, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and take great care of your body. Enjoy discovering how to incorporate these sweeteners into your favorite recipes and delight in the fantastic effect they could have on your waistline.

Learn More:
10 Delicious Breakfast Ideas You Won’t Believe Are Healthy
The Worst Diet Mistakes That Are Sabotaging Your Hard Work
8 Best Veggies for Fiber (And Why You Need to Eat More!)