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How to naturally sweeten food & recipes

Top view of white sugar cubes on turquoise background
Photo credit: Fascinadora/Getty Images

We’ve all heard about sugar being the enemy. It’s horrible for us and terribly addictive.

According to Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine and a clinical nutritionist, adults in America consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily. That’s more than double the recommended amount for men and triple the recommended amount for women. And eating a diet high in added sugars can lead to tons of health issues, including decreased cognitive function, increased risk of heart diseases, leaky gut, fatty liver disease, metabolic diseases and even an increased risk of early death.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this might sound scary. And it is. But don’t fret. You can eliminate unhealthy sugars from your daily diet without giving up sweetness altogether. There are plenty of natural ways to naturally sweeten your food without the use of refined and processed sugars. Here are our three favorite options.

MORE: How to make coffee even better for your brain & body

Honey

Raw honey is a wonderful alternative to sugar. Not only is it naturally sweet and delicious, it also boasts antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It’s lovely drizzled onto a morning cup of oatmeal or yogurt, or spooned into tea. If you’re baking with honey and looking to substitute it for the typical refined sugars you’re used to baking with, it may take some finagling. Do your research on conversions or find a recipe that uses honey.

Maple syrup

This naturally sweet topping isn’t just for pancakes! And we’re talking about all-natural maple syrup, not the processed fake kinds you find in the grocery aisle. Unlike refined sugars, pure maple syrup contains an array of minerals and polyphenols that are good for your body. Like honey, though, if you’re baking with maple syrup, it isn’t a one-to-one swap. Use about three-quarters of a cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquids in the recipe by three tablespoons.

naturally sweet maple syrup
Photo credit: bhofack2/Getty Images

Stevia

Stevia is a sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It’s free of calories and won’t spike your blood sugar. It tastes super sweet, though, so you can use a lot less stevia to sweeten your food or coffee than you would traditional sugar. You’ll want to be sure to read the labels of any stevia products before purchasing, as many conventional brands contain additives. It’s best to select a brand that is entirely made up of stevia or stevia and water. Each brand has its own recommended ratio when swapping stevia for sugar, so pay attention to that as well.

MORE: Our healthier, low-carb Twinkie recipe is a dessert lovers dream

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