As a Paleo chef and best-selling Paleo dessert cookbook author, one of the things I get asked about most often is how to make paleo-friendly sweets, and having a sweet tooth myself, I totally understand!
Sugar is so readily available to us, and is snuck into just about everything these days. Our society is addicted to sugar more than we realize, so eliminating or cutting back on it can be one of the most challenging aspects of improving your health or changing your diet.
But this doesn’t have to mean no desserts!
Even if you are trying to reduce or eliminate refined sugars, it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite sweet treats.
I’ve been perfecting the art of sugar-free baking and I’m going to share the best ways – and one surprising way – to replace sugar in all of your favorite dessert recipes. But first, let’s talk about why you should even consider sugar-free baking in the first place.
Reasons to Try Sugar-Free Baking
By now we all know that sugar isn’t good for us, so even if you’re not paleo or keto, simply being conscious of your health will likely lead you to want to cut back on refined sugars. It really has no health benefits, and too much sugar can contribute to a long list of health problems.
Here are just a few reasons to cut sugar out of your diet:
- Sugar has addictive qualities (hello, cravings!)
- Sugar suppresses your immune system by inhibiting your white blood cell functions so you can’t fight infections as efficiently
- Sugar retains more water than salt, leading to bloating
- Sugar inhibits the hormone in your body that tells you that you’re full. This can cause overeating which will lead to fat storage and weight gain
- Sugar can cause mood crashes and exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Sugar contributes to aging by causing oxidative stress
- Sugar has been linked to many chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer
And I’m sure that’s not an exhaustive list.
Cutting out or reducing sugar is guaranteed to have a huge impact on your health. You’ll see major shifts in your energy, in your body, in your mental clarity, and the way you feel overall.
Sugar Alternatives for Sugar-Free Baking
While there are a large number of sugar substitutes out there, they do have their limitations. This is especially true when it comes to alternative sweeteners like sugar alcohols. Some people report digestive issues like bloating and gas, and many people simply don’t like the taste.
My go-to healthy sweetener options include refined sugar alternatives like coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, and maple syrup.
But one thing I don’t talk about as much is fruit options for replacing sugar – fruits like over-ripe bananas!
Especially with banana bread being the baking sweetheart over the last couple years during the pandemic, I wanted to give a quick breakdown of this overlooked sugar-alternative.
Bananas add moisture, binding, and structure to a baked recipe. They don’t add as much moisture as honey or maple syrup, but they may add more moisture than coconut sugar depending on ripeness. This is definitely something you’ll want to take into consideration when you’re substituting, and adjust amounts according to your moisture needs in a given recipe.
Here’s some ways you can use bananas in baking:
- First – look for bananas that are completely yellow with some brown spotting (no green spots at all!). The more brown spotting, the riper they are – meaning they’ll have a sweeter taste. Do not use bananas that are completely brown as they are most often over-ripe and beginning to ferment. The only exception is if you have been storing your bananas in the refrigerator. This will turn the skins brown but the fruit will still be firm.
- Sub mashed bananas 1:1 for butter in a baking recipe.
- Use 1 banana to replace 1 egg in baking recipes (not recommended for recipes calling for more than 2 eggs, as eggs provide leavening which bananas do not).
- Use half the amount of mashed overripe banana to sub out sugar in a recipe.
- Substitute equal amounts mashed overripe banana for honey in a recipe (you may also need to add a couple of tablespoons of water if the bananas are on the drier side).
Yes, bananas will make your recipe taste more like…banana. If that’s not what you’re going for, you can try another fruit substitution like applesauce or just stick to Paleo-friendly natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup!
If you want more truly healthy baking recipes right at your fingertips check out my book Paleo Sweets – it’s free, you just cover a small shipping fee. You’ll get 70+ tasty recipes for paleo versions of chocolate chip cookies, vanilla cheesecake, caramel brownies, carrot cake, mint chocolate chip ice cream, pumpkin pie and more!