Healthy eating Nutrition By Jim Dillan / March 25, 2013 With people’s increasing intake of sugary processed foods over recent decades leading to skyrocketing levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease and artificial sweeteners being shown to potentially be even worse, are there any better alternatives? Ahead are the two healthiest sweeteners that you can use to replace both table sugar and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. 1. Healthiest Sweetener: Raw Honey Honey has been used for thousands of years, not just for its sweet taste, but as a healing medicine as well. It’s best to buy raw honey where possible that hasn’t been heated. Heating honey can destroy some of the enzymes and other beneficial compounds. Unfortunately, most of the regular honey you find in the supermarket has had much of its medicinal qualities heated and processed out of it. It still healthier than sugar, but not on a par with raw organic honey. Going a step further, if you can find organic raw honey from a local farmer, it is believed to contain beneficial elements that can help your body deal with allergens from the local area. This kind of honey is definitely worth paying a little more for. Raw Honey Health Benefits Antifungal, Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties Raw honey is full of compounds that benefit your digestive system and helps boost your immunity against harmful microorganisms. It is also good for healing a sore throat, especially mixed with a teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon. Wound Healing The same antibacterial properties make raw honey an excellent dressing for treating minor wounds and speeding up their healing. It is often used as a topical acne or eczema skin treatment as well. Antioxidants and Enzymes The antioxidant flavonoid pinocembrin is unique to honey and supports proper enzyme activity for improved digestion. Using raw honey is also believed to help slow down your body’s depletion of digestive enzymes for better health in general. Calming Properties A teaspoon of raw honey can act as a mild sedative and help you relax. Importantly though, raw honey should never be given to children under one year old as their gastrointestinal system is not mature enough to deal with it. 2. Healthiest Sweetener: Stevia The herbal sweetener stevia comes from a perennial bush in South America and has been used for centuries. Its leaves are around 40 times more sweet than table sugar and when powered up it is around 200 times sweeter. Benefits of Stevia Suppress Sugar Cravings with No Calories – Unlike artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which have been shown to promote sugar cravings, stevia is believed to reduce them. It also contains no calories, making it a great replacement for both sugar and artificial sweeteners. Diabetes Benefits – Diabetes diagnosis has risen rapidly in recent years with the increase in high glycemic processed food consumption. Regular sugar has a high glycemic index of 80 and in large amounts will usually promote excessive insulin production that leads to body fat storage and over time an increase in the risk of diabetes. By comparison, stevia has a glycemic index of zero and is believed to be safe for use by diabetics (though checking anything like this with your physician is always recommended). Dental Health – Eating sugary foods and particularly drinking sugar saturated drinks can wear away the protective enamel of your teeth, leading to cavities and other dental problems. Stevia can not only replace destructive sugar, substances in it have been shown to actually help prevent mouth bacteria from adhering to your teeth and forming plaque. Prevent Candida Overgrowth – Candida is a type of yeast in your digestive system that can be beneficial at normal levels, but decidedly dangerous and debilitating when it grows out of control. Candidiasis can lead to a variety of baffling symptoms that many doctors find difficult to diagnose, ranging from headaches and exhaustion, to digestive complaints, bloating and gas, to problems with immunity and allergies. Chronic fatigue syndrome is also commonly associated with candida overgrowth. The candida fungus feeds on simple sugars and the primary cause of an overgrowth is believed to be an excess of sugar fermenting in the digestive system. Stevia is very different structurally to sucrose and is not fermented by the yeast in your digestive tract. Switching to it over sugar were ever possible should greatly reduce your risk of ever having to deal with candidiasis. Read also: What is the best tasting Stevia Conclusion So there’s two healthier alternatives to fattening sugar and highly questionable artificial sweeteners. Switching to these can make a real difference in your energy levels, body weight and overall health. Have you tried using raw honey or stevia before or any other natural sweeteners? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the best way to sweeten foods and drinks without leading to health problems down the track.