Health honey

Natural sugar options, like honey, are better for you than refined sugars because they may contain some nutrients, but they still add calories. Honey has some vitamins and antioxidants, as well as some antibacterial properties.

We all know we should be eating less sugar. In fact, most Americans should have far less sugar in their diets than they do. On average, Americans eat an astounding 42.5 teaspoons of sugar a day, more than three times the recommended 13.3 teaspoons.

Taking donuts and churros out of your diet are some obvious ways to cut back on sugar, but getting down to the recommended amount could be easier said than done. If you want to be healthier, but you like your sweets as well, here are some things you should know about sugar and options for sweetening your food.

What is refined sugar?

The sugar that you add to your baked goods by the cupful is most likely refined sugars. Refined sugars are white and brown crystals that have been processed from sugar cane or sugar beets. These sugars are what you are probably buying in bags at the grocery store. In processed foods, another refined sugar that may be added is high-fructose corn syrup. These sugars do not have nutritional value, but they have plenty of calories.

Pick natural sugars

Natural sugar options are better for you than refined sugars because they may contain some nutrients, but they still add calories. Some natural options include honey, pure maple syrup and agave. Honey has some vitamins and antioxidants, as well as some antibacterial properties. Agave is sweeter than sugar, so it can be added in smaller amounts.

Try some stevia

Stevia is gaining popularity as a natural sugar substitute. It has no calories, but unlike other sweeteners, it comes from a plant and has no artificial ingredients. It is also much sweeter than sugar but contains no carbohydrates. It is a versatile sweetener and can often be used just like sugar — even in baking.

Eat more fruit

One sweetener you can consume without feeling guilty is fruit, though the calories in fruit may seem like a diet killer. However, fruit contains fiber that helps keep you full longer. Your body also has to work harder to get the sugar from fruit, as opposed to the instant reward refined sugar provides.

“The best way to sweeten your food without using sugar is to use a naturally sweet ingredient: fruit,” says Elcio Zanatta, CEO of Aubergine and Company. “Fruit has the added benefit of healthy vitamins and minerals and can be used in a variety of dishes for a sweet, but not sugary, taste.”

Cutting back on added sugar in your diet could seem like a tall order, but it may be easier to accomplish than you might think. Your body does not need this sugar to function, so focus on healthy options like fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook is a health care technology consultant and VP of marketing at Simplus, a Platinum Salesforce Partner.