Americans love sugar: On average, we eat about 17 teaspoons of added sugar daily in the form of table sugar, honey, syrups, and more. New dietary guidelines suggest we drastically reduce this intake. Fortunately, there are plenty of naturally sweet foods to flavor recipes.
Heat boosts the sweetness of fruits. Berries, which are in season now and get their rich color from disease-fighting anthocyanins, are great candidates for a quick sauté.
A syrup stand-in on French toast; a mixer for oatmeal or Greek yogurt
Coat a medium skillet with 2 tsp grapeseed oil and place over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup berries; cook, stirring often, until soft, 3–4 minutes. Mix berries into cooked oatmeal, along with slivered almonds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a dash of nutmeg.
See also Blackberry-Grapefruit Granita
Because fruit is comprised largely of water and sugar, drying concentrates its sugar content, amping up sweetness. Dried dates in particular add a high sweet factor, plus nutrition in the form of fiber—just one Medjool date delivers up to 6 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake.
A honey substitute in smoothies; blended with almond milk and ice for a healthy shake; a binder in fruit-and-nut bar recipes
Blend a pitted Medjool date with a frozen banana, almond milk, and cinnamon.
See also The Fruit You Need to Reverse Osteoporosis
Veggies have natural sugars, too. When onions are cooked over low, slow heat, their complex sugars break down into simpler ones, yielding a slightly sweet flavor. Onions also contain the antioxidant quercetin, which may help lower your risk for certain cancers.
Topping for a sandwich, baked potato, or pizza; an omelet filling
Heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add ½ sliced onion, cover, and cook until golden, 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook while stirring until onion browns, 5–10 minutes. Fold a few spoonfuls into an omelet with goat cheese.
See also 4 Natural Sugar Swaps for Baking Healthier Treats