Cutting back on sugar consumption

I want to cut back on my sugar consumption, but I know I should avoid artificial sweeteners. Which natural sugar alternatives are the best to use?

Cutting back on sugar consumption

We are constantly being told what we should or shouldn’t do when it comes to eating sugars and fats in particular. The advice in the ’80s and ’90s was to switch to low-fat options and replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, but now we are in an age where the benefits of wholefoods with little or no processing are recognised.

Artificial sweeteners for tea, coffee, and baking may not be flying off the supermarket shelves any more, but they still account for the lion’s share of the additives market (around $1.5bn or €1.35bn annually worldwide).

The target market is still weight-conscious people, despite scientific evidence from as long ago as 1988 showing a clear link between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and an increase in appetite.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudania) is often touted as the best alternative to sugar, as it doesn’t cause an appetite increase and works to improve insulin sensitivity. It is 100% natural, being a shrub native to Paraguay. However, it would appear that even this straightforward natural sweetener has been made into various compounds such as Truvia (stevia combined with erythritol) and PureVia (stevia and dextrose) — both of which have been shown to have negative effects on the body.

I have found it relatively easy to grow my own stevia in a pot at home, and use the fresh or dried leaves. It is worth noting that, even straight from the plant, this sweet leaf has a strong and distinctive flavour, and is not to everybody’s liking.

You can purchase water-extracted organic stevia drops, which seems to improve the flavour, or use pure stevia powder. This should be a light green colour, not white as I have seen with some some stevia products.

The best method in cutting back on sugar is to simply reduce your intake of sugar, rather than keeping up your sweet intake and replacing sugar with another form of sweetener, natural or otherwise. You can also choose healthier forms of sugar — rapadura, coconut sugar, or evaporated cane juice.

The herb Gymnema sylvestre is often used by natural health practitioners to help reduce sweet cravings. In Sri Lanka, the leaves are chewed to suppress the desire for sweet foods, but you can also brew the dried leaf into a tea, or take as a supplement in capsule or tincture form. Gymnema has been shown to block excessive blood sugar by boosting insulin levels.

Can you please recommend DEET-free mosquito repellents, preferably safe for children as well?

DEET (N, N-diethyl-metatoluamide) is found in many conventional insect repellents. While it is effective in repelling mosquitos and other bugs, it has also been linked to nerve damage, allergies, and even death.

One of the best ways to avoid being plagued by mosquitos is to cover up the skin with light clothing, and avoid any floral scents or perfumes, since these attract mosquitos.

For children or those with sensitive skin, you could try Mosquitan patches, which have a non-permeable adhesive layer so that the essential oils won’t come directly into contact with the skin. Mosquitan has a kids’ pack, suitable from birth, or a family pack for older children and adults where you activate the patch by scratching it. This can be worn on the skin as well as applied to clothing and bedding.

Made in Italy, find these patches online through, where a pack of 24 costs around €12.50.

A Vogel has a herbal insect repellent, which utilises neem seed oil and essential oils of bergamot, rosemary, and eucalyptus to provide protection against bites when applied every three hours.

According to a study in India, mixing neem and coconut oils together provides protection for 12 hours, so it may be worth rubbing coconut oil into the skin before applying this product. A Vogel’s Herbal Insect Repellent is available in health stores where it costs €6.95 for 50ml.

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