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Sugar is a hot topic right now, and quite frankly, it’s about dang time!

There are many reasons sugar is so controversial. It causes massive inflammation in the body leading to disease and is a huge source of the obesity epidemic in America. For dancers, sugar is really a double-edged sword. We crave a little something sweet for our muscles after working so hard all day, but we don’t want all the calories and energy crash that comes along with processed sugar. Alas, there is hope! Here are some great, natural sugar substitutes that will keep you looking and feeling great.

Stevia

Stevia is an extract from a plant native to South America that is a relative of the sunflower. Stevia is naturally very sweet (sweeter than sugar) and has no calories. As a bonus, it also has very little impact on blood sugar levels, so it won’t cause energy spikes or crashes. Stevia has a unique taste, but if used sparsely, it tastes great in beverages, and even baked goods.

Stevia can be bought at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and most health food stores.

Agave

Agave is made from the agave plant -yes, the same plant used to make tequila- but the kind you can buy in the store has still been processed. Agave also has about 60 calories per tablespoon, but is sweeter than sugar, so only a little is needed to add sweetness to foods and beverages.

One of the greatest benefits of agave is that it has little impact on the glycemic index and will not raise blood sugar. Another bonus is that it tastes great and can be used to sweeten anything.

Agave can be purchased at almost any grocery store throughout the country now. Note, however, that the organic, raw variety is less processed and better for health.

Lakanto

Lakanto is made from the extract of the luo han guo plant from Japan and is a completely natural, no calorie sweetener. Lakanto has no effect on blood sugar, and in Japan has actually proven to help people with blood sugar and diabetes issues. Lakanto also tastes great and can be used exactly like sugar in any recipe. The down side to Lakanto is that the only place to find it in the US is on Donna Gates’ website, bodyecology.com and is very expensive, but totally worth the splurge.

Bottom line, there are natural, delicious sweeteners out there to keep even discerning dancers happy. But, ultimately, reducing sugar in your diet is really the way to go.

Written by Keenan Mclaren

Keenan McLaren is from Boston, MA where she began her ballet training at the age of 8. She trained at the Boston Ballet School for 10 years, and upon graduating from high school, secured a job as an apprentice with Ballet Austin II. After one season in Austin, Keenan then joined Dayton Ballet, where she danced for 5 seasons, performing many principal and soloist roles, as well as had many roles created on her by such choreographers as Christopher Fleming, Gregory Robinson, Steven Mills, Jeffrey Hughes, and Alan Hineline. In the fall of 2010, Keenan moved to Philadelphia to join the newly established BalletFleming, where she had the opportunity to dance many principal roles as well and set and ballet mistress many of Mr. Fleming’s works. For the upcoming season, Keenan is thrilled to be joining Nashville Ballet.
In her free time, Keenan is an avid yogi and yoga teacher, having just completed her training with Baron Baptiste. She is also a huge foodie and loves cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, especially with raw and vegan foods. Keenan also loves photography, particularly black and white film. In 2008, she won a Dance Magazine Photo contest and hopes to one day become a dance photographer.