Can you indulge in your sweet tooth healthfully? These 6 healthy, all-natural sugar substitutes. Plus, learn which option didn’t make the list (spoiler: agave nectar!).
Ooh baby, do I have a sweet tooth.
Don’t we all?
But refined sugar is considered to be as addictive as a drug, and potentially as detrimental to your health.
And while there are a ton of sugar-free sweetener alternatives on the market — I’m talking about calorie-free, chemical “artificial sweeteners” here — they are even more unhealthy than just plain ol’ sugar! Many people turn to these artificial sweeteners thinking they will help them lose weight without sacrificing taste, but this is the one of the WORST food lies out there. If you have any of these around your home, please throw them away right now.
Did you do it?
I’m serious, I mean right now.
OK now that’s taken care of, let’s look at some healthy, natural sugar substitutes to turn to instead!
NOTE: Each of these healthier sweetener options — with the exception of stevia — is still high in natural sugars. So it’s important to consume them in moderation so as not to spike your blood sugar levels to unhealthy levels and set your body off that that “blood sugar roller coaster” that’s to blame for crazy sugar cravings, “hanger,” and that mid-afternoon energy slump.
6 Healthy Sweeteners: All-Natural Sugar Substitutes
Naturally I put raw honey first — it’s only one of my favorite things in the whole wide world! Not only do I use it frequently in the kitchen, but raw honey also makes for a really awesome, single-ingredient face mask since. But we’re not talking skin here…
Raw honey has so many wonderful health benefits. It’s a natural antibacterial, boosts the immune system, promotes digestive health, and is high in antioxidants.
Stevia is probably one of the most well-known and popular natural sweeteners. The sweet leaves have been used by humans for hundreds of years and by diabetic patients in Asia for decades.
While it is not a significant source of nutrition, the great thing about stevia is that it will not affect blood sugar levels at all, making it a great all-natural sugar alternative for diabetics. It is also calorie-free.
I’m a personal fan of this liquid stevia, which is a whole-leaf extract and does not contain any other ingredients. Powdered stevia, on the other hand, contains unnecessary fillers. Best yet, the liquid extract is super-duper sweet — just a drop will do ya!
Coconut sugar contains traces of iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, we well as antioxidants. It also contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption.
Coconut sugar tastes like brown sugar more so than white sugar. I particularly like it for baking, since it does not affect the consistency of the final product, unlike maple syrup and molasses. However, I do not find it sweet enough for tea or coffee.
Pure Maple Syrup
Nope, not the kind with the bottle shaped like a jolly old woman. That’s not real maple syrup — check the ingredient list and you’ll see it’s mostly high fructose corn syrup with some artificial colorings, flavors, and sweeteners.
Pure maple syrup, on the other hand, contains only evaporated maple tree sap. It is high in manganese and zinc: 100 grams of syrup provides 22% and 3.7% of their RDVs respectively. Manganese is necessary for several enzymes that are needed for energy production and antioxidant defenses. Zinc is essential for optimal immune system function. Deficiencies of either may lower white blood cell counts and reduce immune system responses.
Dried Dates & Date Sugar
Dried dates are basically nature’s candy. (Fun fact: one of my favorite things in the world is a dried date with almond butter! SO GOOD.) They’re a great addition to certain recipes like homemade granola bars and smoothies to add some sweetness.
Date sugar is essentially just dried dates pulverized into a powder. Since it doesn’t melt, date sugar can’ be used as a direct substitute for sugar. So for example, you wouldn’t want to put it in your coffee. That being said, it’s GREAT for baking — use just 2/3 the amount of date sugar in place of brown or white sugar called for in your recipe. It may otherwise be too sweet!
Molasses is a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar. But unlike refined sugar, molasses carries some significant health benefits. One serving (2 tablespoons) of molasses has about 30% of the daily iron requirement for premenopausal women, as well as 14% of our RDV of copper, an important trace mineral whose peptides help rebuild the skin structure that supports healthy hair.It is also high in vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants.
Be sure to select unsulfured, organic sugarcane molasses.
One natural sweetener that didn’t make the list: agave nectar.
This syrupy sweetener does have a low-glycemic index, but that’s just because it’s mostly fructose, the most damaging form of sugar. In fact, agave nectar has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market — yes, even high fructose corn syrup!
According to Healthline:
“Agave nectar may just be the unhealthiest sweetener in the world. It makes regular sugar look healthy in comparison.”
Now that’s a very bold statement.