Has your household’s cache of leftover Easter candy been depleted yet?
Back when my kids were really little, I used one of my favorite treats as “filler” for their Easter baskets—much to my kids’ dismay: “Oh, darn! That’s right! You despise Hershey’s Special Dark! Sorry, I keep forgetting!” was my tired refrain when they would root through their baskets for the jellybeans, gummy candy, and Peeps—you know, the good stuff—and then scrunch their noses at what remained.
It didn’t take long for my kids to catch on: The chocolate was for me not them.
My kids are older now, and my signature move is no longer effective. But I’ll tell you one thing that hasn’t changed: I still love sugar. And I am especially fond of adding it to my morning coffee. Maybe you do, too.
But here’s the thing: Not all sugar is created equal. There’s a difference between natural sugars and added sugars. Have you ever wondered why you crave sugar but then feel terrible after eating, for instance, a cookie? California-based Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research (CHEAR), which provides evidence-based treatments for individuals who struggle with their weight and eating habits, explained why in one of their recent blogs:
“Foods containing natural sugars [i.e., apples, bananas, Greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes] offer nutrients that keep your body healthy, provide fast yet stable energy, and keep your metabolism stable. Added sugars, on the other hand, are harmful in large quantities. Added sugars are typically processed quickly, either immediately used for energy or sent directly to the liver for fat storage. Your blood glucose level drops quickly after eating added sugars, known as a sugar crash, and that leaves you hungry, irritable, and usually craving another pickup. When this happens, you may not be able to make smart choices about what and how much to eat which could contribute to weight gain.”
And so, with that in mind, the following are a few ways of sweetening your coffee—without adding tons of artificial sugar.
You’ve likely heard of this option before. A popular coffee sweetener, Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant. It’s actually 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, you only need a pinch or two to sweeten up your cup of Joe. Pro tip: When purchasing Stevia, search for a minimally processed variety made with 100% pure stevia extract, which will ensure that your sweetener is free from artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Organic Coconut Sugar
This one is my personal favorite. Adding coconut sugar to your coffee is a delicious and natural way to sweeten your coffee. Not only will coconut sugar sweeten your coffee, it will also add a unique flavor that you can’t get elsewhere.
Dates…in coffee? Yup. Dates are one of the best natural sweeteners. Who knew? Date paste is a great way to boost your coffee’s flavor while simultaneously satisfying your sweet tooth. Additionally, dates are jam-packed with nutritional benefits: They’re high in antioxidants, fiber, and trace vitamins and minerals. Use the following recipe to make date paste:
• Cover 2 cups of pitted dates with water and allow to soak for an hour.
• Once thoroughly soaked, drain the dates and reserve the soaking liquid.
• Using a blender, blend the dates and slowly add some of the soaking liquid until you have a smooth paste.
• Stir this homemade paste into your daily coffee or use as a jam.
Oh, goodness. Be still, my beating heart. If you’re a fan of mochas, then this one is truly for you. To sweeten your morning coffee, take a square of dark chocolate and add it to your steaming coffee cup. Doing so will allow the chocolate to melt into your beverage and blend a rich taste through your drink. Plus, the texture of dark chocolate will add a creaminess to your coffee that’s—chef’s kiss—out of this world.
Use cinnamon in its powdered form or as a dried stick—it’s a spice that can be used to sweeten just about anything. It’s often used as a natural replacement for table sugar or brown sugar, and it’s loaded with health benefits. One of cinnamon’s greatest qualities is its beneficial impact on blood sugar levels. Furthermore, cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory properties may ward off headaches and other health issues caused by inflammation. Caution, though: When it comes to adding cinnamon to your coffee, a little goes a long way.
Courtney Conover is wife, mom, yoga instructor, and Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor.