We all know that sugar is one of the worst things we can put into our body, yet so many of us struggle to give it up. Part of that is because our minds have been wired to think of sweets, like birthday cakes and special-occasion cookies, as celebratory rewards and deserved indulgences.
Sugar is desirable even when you get bombarded with statistics telling you to think otherwise. Two of the world's major health problems, obesity and diabetes, are directly tied to sugar intake and in the US alone, 29 million Americans have diabetes. Those known facts quickly get forgotten at the sight of a sweet treat. The good news is that sugar may never magically become good for you, but you can still enjoy the sweets you love. It's time to get acquainted with sweetener alternatives that come straight from nature.
Sugar can be sneaky. Even if you actively avoid consuming it, it hides in fruit juices, smoothies, energy bars and other everyday goods. Paddy Spence, the CEO of Zevia—a soda alternative made with fruit and natural sweeteners—shared this when he told us his own story of quitting sugar 14 years ago. "At the time, I thought I was eating healthy, consuming meat in moderation, and buying almost exclusively natural and organic products," he says. "However, I realized I was taking in more than 250 grams of sugar per day, or 1,000 calories, from supposed healthy products." As expected, giving up cold turkey is not an easy feat. "My body went into shock from the radical dietary change, but with time, I've learned to manage sugar cravings and adapt my body, which has made this lifestyle change very rewarding."
There are two plant-based sweeteners that Spence turned to when it came to finding alternatives: stevia and monk fruit. Stevia is extracted from leaves of the stevia plant, has zero calories and no effect on blood glucose levels. Monk fruit is grown on vines, crushed, then infused with hot water to release natural sweetness. It also contains zero calories and no effect on blood glucose levels. As for honey, agave and similar "better for you" sweeteners you might've heard of, Spence explains that "in the end, they're all sugar. Natural sweeteners such as Stevia provide the fulfillment you need without experiencing the consequences."