White sugar is proven to raise your risk of all chronic diseases, but that doesn't mean you have to give up sweet foods to eat smart. "Alternative sweeteners are more popular than ever, and unlike table sugar, they have added health benefits." And most fall lower on the glycemic index, which means they won't spike your blood sugar like white sugar will.
It may sound like a gimmicky name for an artificial sweetener, but stevia is actually a natural sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the South American stevia plant. "It's one of your best options because it has no calories or carbs, and studies suggest it may help control insulin resistance," says holistic nutritionist Lisa Turner.
Best uses: Flavor oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, and drinks with just a touch – stevia is far sweeter than sugar, and leaves a bitter, licorice-like aftertaste if you overdo it.
Credit: Photograph by Svend Lindbaek