I remember the day I decided to completely remove sugar from my son’s diet. He’d just turned two, and had a fever. We gave him some liquid children’s acetaminophen to bring down his temp. Within seconds of drinking the sweet medicine, my boy stood up, ran into the wall with zooming speed, bumped his head, got up and began jumping on the bed.
Not all children react this quickly to the affects of sugar, sugar cane and fructose. But, all of these substances do feed fungal infections, spike blood sugar and cause immune imbalance. “Sugar is toxic beyond its calories,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, USA.
A Sweeter Sweet
Since all of us are now aware of the negative health effects of consuming sugar, the search has been on for alternatives or substitutes for many years. As a result, the market is flooded with many kinds of artificial sweeteners. However, one needs to be careful about which of these substitutes one chooses to replace sugar in their diet.
There are two notable kinds of these alternatives that are claimed to be more ‘natural’ than others:
Stevia Leaves or shrubs, a non-caloric herb native to Paraguay, has been used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer for centuries. The Guarani Indians of Brazil knew the leaves of the wild stevia shrub, a perennial indigenous to the Amambay Mountain region of Paraguay, to have a sweetening power. The leaves were commonly used by them to enhance the taste of their bitter tea-like beverage and medicinal potions, or simply chewed for their sweet taste.
Stevia leaf extract is an excellent natural alternative to cane sugar and man-made sweeteners. You can purchase stevia in powdered or liquid form and use it anywhere that you would normally use sugar. At first taste, you may find it bitter. But, this herb is much sweeter than sugar so it can be used in very moderate amounts. Use it for a short while and sugar will seem dull.
Raw Unprocessed Honey
Raw unprocessed honey is considered humankind’s oldest sweetener. It’s not the same as the processed and refined honey in a jar available on most market shelves and is free of chemicals, pesticides and artificial ingredients.
The use of honey goes back thousands of years to the Pharaohs of Egypt who used it as a sweet delicacy as well as a preservative and a sacred offering. Much before the invention of white sugar, honey was used by people as a sweetener and food. Although honey is one of the best sweeteners in place of sugar, it still contains a lot of fructose and should be used in moderation.
Added Health Benefits
Unlike sugar, stevia helps regulate blood sugar, is calorie free and alkalizing. Some brands add chicory inulin fiber, a prebiotic that helps build babies’ immunity. Get this great tasting herbal supplement in powder or liquid form at health food stores, supermarkets or online. Note that because of FDA regulations, it is not listed as a sweetener, but rather as a supplement.
Raw unprocessed honey is a source of natural antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It contains calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc. Although raw honey is the safest sugar, moderation in use is essential as pointed earlier. If you have elevated insulin or leptin levels, then use of any kind of sugars, including honey, should be limited. Also, honey should NEVER be given to infants under one year old.
Gina Laverde is a Chicago-based writer and researcher whose expertise in natural health stems from her experiences with Body Ecology Diet, Blood Type Diet and homeopathic remedies. Gina believes that we’re in the midst of a serious world health crisis, and that the key to survival lies within our guts.