Healthy Sugar Alternatives

We all have a sweet tooth every now and again. Learn how to satisfy your cravings with out compromising your health with some great healthy sugar alternatives. Healthy sugar alternatives taste great and don't lead to the same health concerns that refined sugars do.

Overconsumption of refined sugars can lead to weight gain, hypoglycemia, diabetes, bad cholesterol, increased risk for heart disease and more.  In some cases sugar may even be the cause of learning and attention disabilities that children are diagnosed with. Sugar causes havoc on our bodies!

Stevia – is an herb that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years by the Paraguay Indians.  It can be up to 30x sweeter than sugar and has almost no calories and ….no sugar!  It can be used the same way that people use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or even in baking (this needs special recipes since it's measured amount is so much sweeter than sugar.) Make sure you select green stevia which is the natural stuff. White stevia is mixed with artificial sweeteners.

Palm Sugar – comes from the nectar of coconut trees and has a naturally low glycemic index (GI) – a measure of foods impact to your blood sugar.  Its lower in carbs than typical sugar and a little less sweet but it can be used in baking just as you would use regular sugar.

Date sugar – is made from dehydrates ground dates and can be used in similar ways to brown sugar. The benefit here is that it has all the nutrition of the whole date.  Its still sugar but it will be easier on your blood sugar balancing than any refined sugar will be and it has other vitamins and minerals in it so its not just an empty calorie.

Brown rice syrup – is a sweetener made by steeping brown rice with enzymes. It creates a smooth sweet liquid extract that has a buttery nutty flavor. It can be great in baking desserts too. Brown rice syrup is a polysaccharide or complex sugar. This means that it will take longer to digest so a sugar crash is much more unlikely.  

Barley Malt – is made from dried sprouted barley that are cooked very slowly until they form a sweet, dark syrup. It has a malty flavor and is great in baking.  Just like brown rice syrup, barley malt is a complex sugar and so it less likely to create a dramatic sugar crash after ingestion. Because of its similarity to molasses, it can be a great substitute for molasses. Make sure you read the label carefully because some barley malts have corn syrup added to them and corn syrup will diminish all the good stuff the barley malt has to offer.

Xylitol – is a sugar alcohol. It tastes as sweet as sugar but has almost half the amount of calories that white sugar has. Plus, xylitol is absorbed and metabolized very slowly so your body does not produce any insulin spikes or raise your blood sugar levels to an extreme like white sugar does.

It can be traded out and used exactly the same as white sugar but with none of the harmful effects of sugar. The only complaint is that it can be hard to digest and cause mild gas and bloating. This will however, go away with time. The key is to start off with smaller quantities and work your way up.  

When you need to find a way to eat a healthy treat, look for choices like the ones listed above. Baking a cake or some cookies made from scratch will save your health. Once you have tried them out once and know what works for you the second time around will be a piece of cake….literally!  Be sure to tell us if you have any favorite recipes where you have swapped out white sugar for a healthier sweetener.

4 Comment(s)

  1. I’m curious as to why agave wasn’t profiled. The literature I’ve read makes it seem as good, if not better, a substitute for sugar as those detailed in your article.

    Tanya | Reply

  2. The claims that agave "nectar" manufacturers have made do not live up to scrutiny. For more information:

    Nancy | Reply

  3. Agave is one of the WORST sweeteners out there!  The research that came out of UCLA last August showed that it was the fructose is refined sweeteners that caused cancer cells to proliferate and agave can be up to 90% fructose.  As a whole food/unprocessed chef, I don't think any of the sweeteners listed above could be considered healthy except for the dates.  According to the USDA, AHA and AMA we are supposed to consume no more than 5% of our calories from processed or refined sweeteners.  For most people that is about 5 teaspoons.  Like oil and salt, if you ask me what the healthiest sugar is the answer in NONE.  The healthiers dessert is fruit.  According to nutrtional experts like Dr. Furhman, things like Stevia and Xyliotl just perpetuate your desire for MORE sweet and  by using these insanely overly sweet substitutes, you never overcome your sugar addiction and find fruit satisfying.
    Love & Kale,
    Chef AJ

    .Chef AJ | Reply

  4. Xylitol is an amazing substance.  I have been using it for almost 10 years now, with unexpected benefits!  I have been taking 1 gram per 3 lbs of body weight per day during that time period because I knew it would help cavities and help stave off osteoporosis at that level, but I got more than I bargained for:
    1) not only did i have no cavities, but my gingivits totally seems to be a thing of the past!  Gums returned to normal.
    2) No more colds or sinus infections….this is huge, because I had polyps removed from my nose, making me MORE susceptible to colds because of larger openings in my sinus cavities.
    3) Here's the kicker:  My allergies to dust, dust mites and pets (especially cats!) have disappeared.  I now have 2 cats that I can hold as much as I like; I used to be deathly allergie to them.
    This is a substance made naturally in human bodies.  Some of the improvements to my health are probably because taking this substance replaced the loss of xylitol in my body–this happens as you age.
    Note that although this–and many other sugar alcohols are great for humans, do NOT feed these substances to your pets, because they don't produce sugar alcohols and they (especially xylitol) can cause serious harm–even death–to your pets.
    Policosanol, in pill form, is a combination of sugar alcohols that can help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.  D-Mannitol (mannose) can be used effectively for many digestive, lung and kidney conditions (read and see your naturopathic doctor about this). 
    Note that taking too many sugar alcohols at once without building up your tolerance slowly can cause diahhrea.  Once built up, the 1 gram per 3 lbs of body weight per day is easily attainable.  Best results for your teeth are from chewing Xylitol gum regularly, 3-5x per day.  For sinuses xylitol nasal sprays or rinses are great, and good xylitol toothpastes and mouthwashes are great for your gums.
    Another great, benign sugar alcohol alternative is Erythritol.  At .8 calories per ounce, it is the lowst-calorie sugar alcohol–only 20% of the calories of sugar.  Although it does not have the health benefits of some of the other sugar alcohols, it does not seem to cause diahhrea to the degree that many other sugar alcohols do, and is thus a great alternative for dieters and diabetics that want to lose weight, because your body can tolerate more of it with no side effects.
    Hope this helps!

    Laurie | Reply

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