Having a sweet tooth is pretty common, with many people enjoying a sweet treat every now and then. We need sugar in our daily diet, but too much sugar can lead to weight gain that can result in a number of health conditions. To limit sugar intake, many people turn to artificial sweeteners to help their sugar craving. However, artificial sweeteners may not be the healthiest option and there are more natural alternatives to sugar that can help you get your sweet fix instead.

Artificial sweeteners could raise risk of type 2 diabetes

A recent study by researchers at the University of Adelaide found that artificial sweeteners could increase the risk of an individual developing type 2 diabetes. The study found that artificial sweeteners could have an effect on the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, which could lead a person to develop type 2 diabetes. The findings also raise concerns about those who suffer with diabetes, who typically turn to products containing artificial sweeteners to limit their sugar intake.

5 natural alternatives to sugar

If you’re looking to cut your sugar intake, these five alternatives could help to satisfy your sweet tooth while helping you eat a healthier diet.

1. Honey

Honey is a wonderful natural sweetener that can be used in a number of ways to replace added sugar. It’s made up of 80% natural sugars and you can find different varieties in shops that have different tastes and textures. You can use honey to sweeten tea, cereal, porridge and in baking to help you cut back on added sugar. Honey is one of the most popular natural alternatives to sugar as well as being one of the most widely available.

2. Agave nectar

Agave comes from the agave plant grown in Mexico that looks like honey, but has nearly one and a half times the sweetness of your ordinary sugar. While still high in calories, it’s a natural ingredient that you can use in smaller quantities than sugar to give you that sweet taste.

3. Xylitol

Xylitol is a sweetener that is extracted from plants, and contains around 40% less calories than sugar. It’s used widely in Scandinavia, where it is a key ingredient in chewing gum and mints. Xylitol contains ingredients which have been shown to stop mouth bacteria in its tracks – reducing tooth decay.

4. Fruit

Fruit contains its own natural sugars known as fructose, which gives fruit its sweet taste. Fruit also has a number of other benefits, including being high in fibre and vitamins which makes it an essential part of your diet. Fruit is an excellent ingredient to include in different recipes or with breakfast as an alternative to sugary cereals.

5. Date sugar

Dates are a very sweet type of fruit that can be turned into sugars that are a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Dates are a common ingredient in desserts and snacks that can help people to lose weight. When added to recipes with other ingredients like cinnamon, it can really help limit those cravings.

Reducing sugar in your diet

It’s recommended that only 5% of your daily calorie intake comes from sugar. This doesn’t just mean refined sugar, but all sugars – even those that come from fruit. It’s important to keep an eye on your sugar intake, as it can come from some unlikely sources. For example, many processed foods contain added sugar – including ready meals and sandwiches that you may not expect to contain sugar. Always check the label or use the Change4Life Sugar Smart App to see how much sugar your food contains.

Support for type 2 diabetes

If you think you’re displaying typical symptoms of diabetes – make sure you book an appointment with your GP. They can help to diagnose your condition quickly to ensure that you begin treatment to manage it. Type 2 diabetes can lead to a number of other conditions, including blindness and kidney damage – which is why it’s important that you get a diagnosis as soon as possible.

If you suffer from diabetes and begin to experience unusual symptoms or complications, you should seek medical advice by calling 111.

Making an effort to cut your sugar intake down will benefit your health by reducing your risk of developing diabetes. Find out more about the effect of sugar by visiting the NHS Choices website for further information.