While the tendency for refined sugars to wreak havoc on our bodies’ health is a well-known fact, artificial chemical sweeteners may not turn out to be the wonderful solution that commercial advertising would have us believe. Research on these products continue as many scientists and health professionals believe they pose numerous health risks and should be avoided. But for those who have a hard time giving up their sweet tooth, nature has provided plenty of sweet alternatives.

Dates are an excellent choice when looking for a sweet substitute, and can be found in syrup and granulated sugar form. Wonderfully delicious and naturally sweet, dates have an impressive list of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals and are a rich source of dietary fiber, iron, calcium, B vitamins and potassium.

Coconut palm sugar, the new rage in the natural health community, is madefrom the sugary sap of coconut palm trees. The sugar is naturally rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Palm sugar looks, tastes, dissolves and melts almost exactly like sugar, but is completely natural, unrefined and low on the glycemic index.

With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, honey has been used for centuries as a remedy for many health ailments. When buying honey, make sure to choose a brand that is pure, unprocessed and raw.

Stevia may be the best sugar alternative. The natural sweetener, made from the leaves of the stevia plant, is very sweet and contains no calories or sugar. Stevia is a safer alternative to other artificial sweeteners, can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, has a glycemic index rating of less than 1, and does not cause any of the numerous problems associated with sugar consumption.

Whichever sweetener you choose, bear in mind that the Rambam recommended eating a small amount of sweet foods at the beginning of the meal in order to aid digestion, but stressed that even natural sweeteners should be used sparingly.