It's no secret that the sugar you're putting into your coffee isn't so sweet for your health. The sweetener contains empty calories, and consuming too much of it may contribute to weight gain and cavities. You can switch to artificial sweeteners, which don't contain calories, but they are made from controversial chemicals that offer no nutritional benefit. Choosing a natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup, can give you the sweetness you're after while providing you with some health benefits.
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Bee Smart with Honey
Teaspoon for teaspoon, raw honey contains more calories than sugar, but according to World Shift International, it can actually help with weight loss. Honey is less likely than sugar to cause rapid spikes and drops in your blood sugar levels that increase hunger. Honey also contains vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, sulfur, copper, iodine, zinc, phosphate, vitamin A, vitamin C and various B vitamins. In addition, honey is an antioxidant and acts as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent. Honey may also help control digestive issues like diarrhea, indigestion and stomach ulcers. Start by adding a teaspoon of raw honey to your coffee and stirring until the honey is fully blended. Test for sweetness and then add more if desired.
Go Pure With Maple Syrup
In 2010, researchers from the University of Rhode Island discovered that pure maple syrup contains phenolics -- the same antioxidant compounds that are found in berries. Pure maple syrup also contains 13 other antioxidant compounds, eight of which are exclusive to maple syrup. These antioxidant compounds are reported to have anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. It's important to use pure maple syrup, since the artificial syruplike products don't have the same health benefits. As with honey, start slow with maple syrup, adding a teaspoon at a time to your coffee. Maple syrup will sweeten your coffee while also adding a distinct maple flavor.
Make It Molasses
Like raw honey and pure maple syrup, molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, also has antioxidant properties. In fact, when compared to other sweeteners, like refined sugar, corn syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup and honey, dark and blackstrap molasses showed the highest antioxidant activity. Molasses has a strong, spicy flavor that will likely change the flavor of your coffee, so it may take some getting used to.
Sweeten With Stevia
Stevia is a natural, no-calorie sweetener extracted from the South American stevia plant. The extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it has no effect on blood sugar levels, making it safe for diabetics. A study published in "British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology" in 2000 found that regular use of stevia may lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those with high blood pressure. Stevia is also classified as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal and anti-tumor, according to "Life Extension Magazine." Because stevia is so sweet, you only need a small amount to sweeten your coffee, so start with a half a teaspoon and then adjust to taste.
- University of Rhode Island: URI Pharmacy Researcher Finds Beneficial Compounds in Pure Maple Syrup
- World Shift International: Five Benefits of Honey
- Alabama Cooperative Extension: Health Benefits of Honey
- Life Extension Magazine: Sweet as Sugar: Health Benefits of Stevia and Xylitol
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Sugar Cane and Sugar Beet Molasses, Antioxidant-Rich Alternatives to Refined Sugar
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar
- British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study of the Effectiveness and Tolerability of Oral Stevioside in Human Hypertension