Honey, maple syrup, stevia, date sugar, molasses, yacón syrup, coconut palm sugar — oh my! The natural sweetener section at your grocery store can feel like a sugar rush. By switching out the standard white stuff for an exotic alternative, not only do you get a major flavor upgrade, but you also can complement your active Oxygen lifestyle that demands the best nutrient-rich fuel. Sweet! “These closer-to-nature sweeteners come from bees, trees and fruit, and because they’re less processed than white sugar, most provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, a nutritionist in Washington, D.C. It doesn’t mean you can eat yourself into a sugar coma — moderation is still key when it comes to added sweeteners — but swapping in natural sweeteners can punch up everything from home made protein bars to DIY salad dressings. So put down the nutrient-void processed white sugar and pick up these natural alternatives. Your workout and taste buds will thank you!
honey [endurance boost!] 64 calories per tablespoon
Nutrient news: The darker the honey, the more flavor and antioxidants.
Raw deal: Raw honey doesn’t necessarily have more nutrients or antioxidants; it just hasn’t been heated or filtered.
Tip: If your honey jar has crystallized, put it in a bowl of hot water.
Good news: Studies show that honey can give endurance athletes a natural boost during intense exercise. “Endurance athletes need carbohydrates during exercise to maintain glycogen stores, and honey’s natural sugars are quickly and easily absorbed,” Scritchfield says. Honey also contains oligosaccharides, complex carbs that feed the good bacteria in the gut for better mineral absorption and boosted immunity. Although it has more calories than sugar, it’s sweeter and denser, so you’re likely to use less.
Sweet ideas: “I love honey because it’s a truly natural sweetener with very minimal processing,” says Shauna Sever, author of Real Sweet (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2015). Add a teaspoon to your preworkout smoothie for energy. Saute steamed carrots with 1 tablespoon honey + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar until glazed (two to four minutes) Elevate icing: Beat together â…“ cup raw or regular honey + ½ cup coconut oil + ½ cup cocoa powder + ½ tea spoon vanilla extract.
stevia [no sugar crash!] 0 calories per tablespoon
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