In the 1800s, Americans consumed on average five pounds of sugar per year. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American in today’s age consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year. That’s over a 3,000 percent increase! How is that even possible? It’s because sugar has become such a huge part of our everyday diet, to the point where most of us don’t realize how much we’re actually consuming. The types of sugars we consume and how much we take in has changed dramatically over time. Today we get most of our sugars from two main forms: table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. But before these processed sugars and artificial sweeteners (shown to be detrimental to our health) were introduced to the market, we relied on natural sweeteners. Let’s take a look at the top four most nutritious natural sugars and their benefits: 1. Honey Feeling lethargic in the morning? Replace the sugar in your tea with honey for a refreshing surge of energy! Honey is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, folate, iron, manganese, and fluoride. It’s also known for its immune-boosting properties due to its numerous bioactive compounds (181 to be exact) that fight inflammation and also give honey its anti-cancer properties. Honey also contains strong antioxidants, such as quercetin and caffeic acid, explaining its effectiveness for instantly boosting energy and performance. The glucose in honey is quickly absorbed by the body to provide an instant boost in energy while the fructose is absorbed more slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar and provides sustained energy. So if you’re looking for a quick energy kick such as before or after a workout, honey can suffice! Be careful of processed or refined honey as they lack many of these benefits altogether. Make sure to check out these delicious honey-containing desserts! Naturally Sweetened Cashew Coconut Honey Cookies Chocolate Honey Bars Honey Strawberry Basil Jello 2. Blackstrap Molasses Blackstrap molasses is touted as a superfood among all natural sweeteners, not to mention it’s the highest and most nutritious of all grades of molasses. It’s created as a byproduct from the process of creating refined sugar and contains the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product. It contains vital vitamins and minerals (unlike refined sugar, which has zero nutritional value), such as vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, manganese, copper, iron and selenium. What sets it apart from refined sugar is its ability to break down slowly in the body, preventing spikes in blood sugar, making it a good option for diabetics. If you’re feeling tired or weak, you may be suffering from iron deficiency. Enter blackstrap molasses. In fact, just one tablespoon of molasses has as much iron as a chicken breast! It’s also a great safeguard against bone related conditions like osteoporosis due to its high calcium and magnesium content. Give blackstrap molasses a try in these Sweet Potato Date Cookies! 3. Maple Syrup When I say maple syrup, I’m talking about pure maple syrup — not the processed form consisting of high fructose corn syrup and caramel color dye most of us dump onto our pancakes. The health benefits come from the nutrients and minerals found in pure maple syrup, such as manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, and various antioxidants. All these minerals help our bodies in hundreds of ways — whether it’s boosting brain health to building and maintaining stronger bones to protecting us from the damaging effects of free radicals to preventing heart disease, stroke, or atherosclerosis. It’s certainly convincing enough to drop the refined sugar and substitute maple syrup in place of your normal sweetener in cakes, breads, granola bars, or even in your coffee or tea! Try these recipes that call for pure maple syrup: Decadent Layered Berry Pie Maple-Peanut Sesame Chicken Tasty Baked Tofu 4. Dates Dates are such an incredibly nutritious sweetener that the scope of health benefits will impress you! First, they’re a great source of natural sugars like glucose and fructose, making them the perfect afternoon snack for a quick energy boost. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients, while promoting colon health and boosting heart health by binding with LDL (bad) cholesterol and getting rid of them. Dates are an excellent source of copper and iron by ensuring the production and maintenance of healthy oxygen-containing red blood cells, keeping you from feeling sluggish. They’re also rich in essential minerals, such as calcium (great for bone health), magnesium (anti-inflammatory, reduces blood pressure, supports heart health) and copper. What’s more, they protect from damaging free radicals and the development of many cancers (lung, prostate, colon, breast, pancreatic, to name a few). The list of benefits goes on and on. Use dates as a paste, a sweetener or simply eat them as they are! Make sure to check out our nutritious recipes that use dates: Lemon Coconut Power-Bites Avocado Date Chocolate Pudding 5 Ingredient Brain Boosting Avocado Coconut Milk Shake Want more? You might also like: Cutting Out Sugar? 10 Surprising Foods Full of Hidden Sweeteners Sugar: What It’s Really Doing to Your Body 10 New Sugar-Free Snack Ideas You Haven’t Thought Of Going Sugar-Free? Your Handy Food Guide of What to Eat, What to Avoid Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.