Those of us with a sweet tooth often struggle to find alternatives that aren’t packed with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aka Splenda. This seemingly innocent powder in the yellow packet (and in cough medicines, cookies and more) decreases the good bacteria in your gut; inhibits the absorption of certain medications; releases toxins during baking; and affects your body’s response to insulin, according to new research review published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews.

It also makes this author’s tummy feel topsy turvy in the smallest amounts every time.

Research published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2013 found that sugar substitutes are linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity. So how does a cake-lovin’, doughnut-craving cookie monster who values her health minimize the risk?

Bananas are a delicious alternative. You can use bananas instead of fat and sugar in many instances. Ripe ones are especially sweet and especially easy to mash. So embrace the brown spots and try these options.

Ways To Use Bananas Instead of Fat and Sugar

  1. use bananas insteadEggs. If you’re making brownies, cookies or other chewy baked goods, use bananas instead of eggs. One ripe mashed banana equals one whole egg. The banana lends an even more satisfying chewiness and density to the finished product.
  2. Butter. The real deal adds 1,600 calories and 177 grams of fat per cup to a dish! Use bananas instead of butter and lighten up. Bananas offer the moisture that comes from butter with a much better nutritional profile as well. To swap out the butter, use half the amount of mashed banana and check the consistency; if it’s too dry, add a little more mashed banana at a time until the texure is right. You may find you need to add a little butter back in, but it’s better than the full amount.
  3. Oil. Quick breads such as zucchini and pumpkin often call for oil, which in addition to sometimes making them taste heavy or greasy, adds loads of calories and fat. Use bananas instead of oil, mashed in equal measure. Really ripe bananas are helpful here; they provide the sweetness and silkiness that makes these types of breads dessert alternatives.
  4. Fillings. Recently we experimented with freezer peanut butter cups, which called for dark, organic, Fair Trade chocolate and unsweetened almond milk melted together to form the top and bottom, with a quarter-cup of nut butter, some vanilla extract and a ripe banana mashed for the filling. The suggestion to use bananas instead of extra nut butter and sugar saved gobs of calories and fat while adding a smooth creaminess and rich freshness to the filling that doesn’t have the aftertaste of regular peanut butter cups.

Bananas are a wonderfully nutritious fruit. Granted, as any South Beach Diet devotee knows, they’re high in natural sugars. But they also offer a great deal of potassium, fiber, manganese, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. They pack all of these important vitamins and minerals into just 200 calories per mashed cup—a bonus compared with the calories in butter listed above!

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