6 Healthy Sweeteners: All-Natural Sugar Substitutes
Nutrition Real Food Recipes
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.
Definitely! Glad it was helpful 🙂
Thanks for sharing about these healthy, natural sugar substitutes. It can be confusing with all that’s out on the market now.
Carol, the Whole Foods 365 brand certified organic liquid stevia is great! If you have a WF locally I suggest picking up a bottle 🙂
Great recommendations! Honey is as healthy for you as it is sweet:). Wish I could use it, but I seem to be allergic/sensitive to it. I agree agave nectar isn’t good for you. I tend to opt for either maple syrup or dates.
Use and love them all! And completely agree with your comment above about Splenda. BOO!
Absolutely love these and yes to all of them as I use them on a daily basis! What a difference it makes.
Great article. Important info. I am still trying to find my fave Stevia.. Will try your liquid version. I have used the SweetLeaf ‘brand’ powdered form..
Thanks for ‘calling out’ Agave syrup. So many still think it’s healthy.
I’m an avid oatmeal eater every morning for breakfast. I love the stuff. But which is better Stevia or Brown sugar?
As I’ve cut my refined sugars intake, and increased my water intake, I’ve noticed a spike in my energy. However, now that we are into winter, drinking hot liquids is what’s really helping me stay hydrated. But usually I like them sweet… I used to reach for sugar, but now I have enjoyed stevia in my chai tea with almond milk. If I had my way, I’d drink 3 hot drinks a day and 3 packets of stevia a day!! What do you think? Is that dangerous??
How do i get one of your templates
Thank you! I’m curious about which sugar from this list might harden the best for peanut brittle?
Hi, Nancy. Sorry for the belated reply – I put this on the back burner because I had never heard of this product and wanted to research it a bit more (and then it kind of slipped my mind!!). Have you wound up trying it by this point?
I’m still not sure! I personally use and love stevia and so don’t think I’d ever use this. BUT Based on the ingredients, it looks pretty good.
P.S. Your art is AMAZING!
Hi Nadia, I have enjoyed reading your blog articles and have a question I hope you can answer. There’s a new sugar substitute on the market called Just Like Sugar. It is made of chicory root and orange peel. I am on a strict no-sugar diet (to combat candida) and was told Stevia was something I could use without any harmful chemicals remaining in the product from processing (like Xylitol) as long as I use the green leaves or green powder. I am wondering if Just Like Sugar would be a good sugar substitute as well, like Stevia, with no potential negative health effects? I have researched it online, but could not find any third-party reliable reports on the product, so am still skeptical. I would value your opinion. Thank you!
So glad to hear it! Just remember that it’s still important to consume these natural sweeteners in moderation since they still cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels.
At 51 (oh so young), it is time to completely cut out sugar, as much as can be done. I suspect that raw honey and pure Canadian Maple surrup may be the better alternatives to anything processed. With eczema, my homoeopathy doctor indicated that a yeast infection had reduced the kidney filter, and yeast and sugar products would create more eczema. Too much refined sugar for too long. This post has been helpful in making a decision as to what sources I should choose from.
You mention that powdered Stevia has unnecessary fillers. Are those unnecessary fillers unhealthy or simply unnecessary? Do you know anything more about the fillers?
You state that powdered stevia contains unnecessary fillers. Are those unnecessary fillers actually unhealthy, or are they simply unnecessary?
I would never buy the stuff. Fructose has been shown to have more of an effect on glucose levels and cause more inflammation than glucose, but at least fructose from fruit has fiber to show absorption and vitamins and minerals to temper the effect. Granulated fructose doesn’t have that. Plus how the heck do they make it?? It’s a processed food. Best to always stick to REAL foods you can find in nature!
Thank you for this article… I was wondering what’s your take on granulated fructose… the question popped up in the comments but I couldn’t find an answer… It would be great to get some info. 🙂
I will celebrate my DOB of 80 years this Sept. I just told I had type pre diabetes. Now I have to learn how to cook for myself not 5 or 6 people. I will be searching for healthy recipe and menu’s. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks