How To Ditch Processed Foods: What Sweeteners Should You Use

by lydia on June 27, 2012

One of the best steps you can take towards better health is to simply ditch processed foods and transition to real whole foods. To some that could mean entirely gutting your pantry leaving nothing left to utilize in your kitchen, and needing to make a clean start. In an effort to help those who want to take it one step at a time, let me break it down for you in order of importance (at least how I see it). I’ve already discussed what fats you should choose, and what meats/proteins are best.

Now it’s time to discuss sweeteners. Yes, sugar. I think it’s obvious to most people that refined processed sugars are bad for you, however this leaves people wondering what sugars are the best choices. Today, I’d like to cover the best options and which to ditch, along with the detriments to one’s health from the consumption of refined sugars.


If you haven’t had the chance to read, ‘Sugar Blues’ by William Duffy, you may want to consider checking it out. In it, Duffy, gives the history of sugar along with how it impacted the health of the cultures that began to produce/process and consume it. Fascinating read, and one that will motivate you to make positive changes in your sugar choices and consumption.

In her book,  ‘Lick the Sugar Habit‘, Nancy Appleton gives a quick overview of the detriments of refined sugars on the body;

  • suppresses the immune system
  • causes hyperactivity in children
  • kidney damage
  • mineral deficiencies, especially chromium, copper, calcium and magnesium
  • makes the blood acidic
  • tooth decay
  • advances aging
  • digestive disorders
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • Candida albicans
  • decreased blood flow to the heart
  • causes osteoporosis
  • causes food allergies
  • causes eczema
  • atherosclerosis
  • free radical formation
  • loss of enzyme function
  • increases liver and kidney size
  • brittle tendons
  • migraines
  • blood clots
  • depression

We can’t take our sugar consumption too lightly folks. It’s causing us numerous health maladies, all of which are on the rise. Based on this list, it would be an important step to take by cleaning out one’s pantry of all excess sugars and sticking to minimal amounts of the unrefined organic ones. And may I repeat, minimal amounts.

Sugars to Ditch

White sugar, white powdered sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, agave, yacon syrup, imitation syrups, heated honey, concentrated fruit juices, artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Nutra-sweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet-n-Lo) and acesulfame-K (sweet-One), and  sugar alcohols, such as xylitol.  All of the above sugars are processed to varying degrees and will impact your health in a negative way. Be sure to check all food labels for these types of sugars and avoid them as best as you can. With diabetes on the rise, as well as cancer, heart disease and obesity, we simply must take account of our sugar consumption. If we are going to consume any sugar at all, and hopefully in small amounts, we simply must choose wisely. Based a 2011 USDA estimate, the average American consumes roughly 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is the equivalent of about 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime! (This is close to two tons!) That total does not include natural sweeteners or starches. Yikes, this is alarming! Time to really ditch the junk sugars once and for all and only consume ones with some health benefit, and in very small amounts.

“Refined sugar has lost its minerals and will pick up minerals right out of the tooth…you can take a freshly extracted tooth and soak it in raw sugar solution, and it will have no effect. You soak it in the refined sugar and you will eat it full of holes.” ~ Royal Lee

Healthier Sweetener Choices

Keep in mind that any added excess sugar should be limited. Just because it’s deemed healthier doesn’t mean one should go hog wild consuming it. The reason the following choices are ‘healthier’ is because they have not been processed and are kept as close to whole form as possible, which means they do have some nutritive value, such as minerals. The best sweeteners to choose are; organic maple syrup, maple sugar, unsulfured blackstrap molasses, green stevia leaves and green stevia powder, dehydrated sugar cane juice, malt syrups, coconut or palm sugar, date sugar, sorghum syrup and raw honey, preferably unfiltered. Okay options are non-organic maple syrup and molasses, organic fruit jams and organic brown rice syrup and stevia extracts (liquid and powder).

Making the switch to healthier sweetener options in your home can have a huge impact on your overall health and well being. It’s also imperative that you LIMIT your sugar consumption. Consider reducing your sugar consumption by half right off the bat. Start looking for healthier recipes that use minimal sugar. I try to keep all of my own recipes to no more than 2 tsp. of sugar per serving. That’s just a rule of thumb I try to stick to, and we limit added sugar in my home. It’s totally doable, just take it one day at a time!

For recipes using healthier sweeteners and less added sugars altogether, check out the recipes page here on Divine Health.

(Photo Credit)



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Paleo Suz June 27, 2012 at 9:27 am

Completely agree with your point about natural sugars still being sugar. Often people seem to forget this and think they can have as much as they like, just because it’s natural!

Hilary June 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

Excellent post. Just to say that the classic “Sugar Blues” is still a great resource, informing people of the psychological impact of consuming unrefined sugar.
However, the author is William DUFTY,
not Duffy.

Marina at My Busy Children June 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm

you really inspired me to cut down the sugar.

OT: the link to ‘Sugar Blues’ by William Duffy is broken

Laura Black July 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I’ve read the same thing about agave being processed. I use raw, organic agave, it’s clear and unprocessed. It might qualify for your list of acceptable sweeteners. Great article.

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