The Run Down On Natural Sugar Substitutes

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natural sugar substitutes

Today I’m super happy to introduce you to Jedha from Good Food Eating! She has written an amazing post all about Sugar that schooled me in some facts that I was clueless about.  Please take a second and visit her site!

Most of us know that refined sugar and carbohydrates are not good for us to eat or give to our kids, but the truth is we still love our treats!

Thankfully there are loads of natural sugar substitutes you can use instead so today I’d like to share the run down on some of them. I’ll also include a comparison of their nutritional profiles so you can make a better choice about what goes into your body.

Natural Sugar Substitute Options

natural sugar substitutes

Stevia

Stevia is an herb from South America that comes in both powder and liquid form. Stevia is low GI, contains no calories and has been attributed in some studies to aiding the pancreas and improving digestion. It’s great for people with diabetes, insulin resistance, and high blood sugars because it doesn’t cause a blood sugar response and may even help lower blood sugars post meal.

The white powder is a processed form of stevia, that’s the only downfall. And although you can get green leaf stevia, it doesn’t taste quite as sweet. Liquid stevia extract is often a better choice because it’s less processed, that’s my preferred option so you might try a liquid as well.

Here’s the pros and cons of stevia based on solid research:

  • Stevia has no calories – good
  • Stevia does not cause cancer – good
  • Stevia does not cause toxic effects – good
  • Stevia shows a positive influence on food intake, blood sugar and insulin – good
  • Stevia doesn’t affect vitamins and minerals in food – good
  • Stevia still makes things taste sweet – good
  • Stevia may be chemically processed – bad

Overall the consensus indicates that stevia is a good choice of natural sweetener.

Stevia is my choice of natural sugar substitute because I like to follow a low sugar diet. It can be used in cakes, bakes, and anything you want to add sweetness to.

Kelly has some wonderful dessert recipes that would work well with stevia.

Replace the honey for stevia in this Dark Chocolate Pudding, or this amazing Strawberry Mousse. Or you might like to try my super simple sugar free homemade chocolate.

What about some other natural sugar substitutes?

Xylitol or Erythritol

Promoted more recently as healthy sugar substitutes, the ‘tols’ are sugar alcohols. Not really sugar or alcohol but named that way. The ‘tols’ are claimed to be natural because sugar alcohols are naturally occurring in lots of fruits and veggies. But these ‘tols’ are processed from pure glucose and sucrose taken from wheat and cornstarch.

The end result is a zero calorie sweetener that does not affect blood sugar, so again a possible option for diabetics or people with blood sugar problems. However, they do cause diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, gas and headaches in some people. Research doesn’t suggest any other reported harmful effects, but it does leave you questioning, don’t you think? If you were to choose a ‘tol’, erythritol tends to be the more easily digested of the two.

Maple syrup

This amazing syrup is tapped straight from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees. Being that it is 100% natural it contains all it’s vitamin and mineral content too and tastes delicious in bakes and cakes.

Molasses

Molasses is the thick, dark brown, uncrystallized juice obtained from raw sugar during the refining process. This is what’s left after stripping white sugar away and the good thing is it’s loaded with nutrients.

Molasses contains high mineral content such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Blackstrap molasses is a more mature version and has even more nutrients that regular molasses. Molasses can be used the same way as honey and can replace sugar in anything you make or bake. You may just have to test the amount you put it, as it doesn’t have a strong flavor.

natural sugar substitutes

Raw Honey

There is a difference between regular honey you buy at the store and raw honey. Regular honey is heat extracted, often to high heats that destroy all the beneficial components. Raw honey is most often cold extracted and therefore it is fully unprocessed and retains all of the nutrients bees have to offer. This includes propolis, bee pollen, honeycomb, and wax, that all contain beneficial properties. I go for raw honey every time.

Raw honey has many health benefits including:

  • beneficial enzymes that stay active
  • antioxidants
  • vitamins and minerals
  • anti-viral properties
  • anti-bacterial properties
  • anti-inflammatory properties
  • and the list goes on
natural sugar substitutes

Kelly has loads of amazing desserts that contain honey!

Rapadura sugar

This is one that many people have never heard of. It’s the dark sugar granules evaporated from pure cane juice with a taste that is a cross between sugar and molasses.

Rapadura sugar is usually produced organically, does not contain chemicals or anti-caking agents, and does not get separated from molasses in the refining process. That means many of the vitamins and minerals have been retained. This is a great one as a direct one to one substitute for sugar.

Natural Sugar Substitutes: Nutritional Comparison

1 Tablespoon (20g)

Molasses 58 cal, 15g carb/sugar, 7mg sodium, 41mg calcium, 0.94mg iron, 293mg potassium, 0.134mg niacin.

Blackstrap molasses – 47 cal, 12g carb/sugar, 172mg calcium, 3.5 mg iron, 43mg magnesium, 8 mg phosphorus, 498mg potassium, 11mg sodium, 3.6mcg selenium, 0.216mg niacin.

Rapadura sugar – 45 cal, 12g carb/sugar, 5.7g iron, 3.6g vitamin C.

Raw honey – 70 cal, 17g carb/sugar, 11mg potassium, antibacterial and antiviral.

Maple syrup – 52 cal, 13-14g carb/sugar, 4mg phosphorus, 42mg potassium, 2mg sodium, 1g calcium.

Stevia & ‘tols’ – 0 cal, 0 nutrients.

I hope you find this information useful in deciding what natural sugar substitute suits you and your family – Jedha

Jedha

About the Author

Jedha Dening is the Nutritionist and Health Coach behind Good Food Eating. She’s also a Mom, researcher, passionate writer, creator of various online nutrition and health programs, and the host of the Good Food Eating Podcast. When she’s not cooking, researching or writing about nutrition, she can usually be found in the great outdoors gardening, bushwalking, or kayaking. You can connect with Jedha over on Google Plus, Facebook or Pinterest.

14 Comments

  1. Jenny April 18, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Is Rapadura sugar the same as organic Turbinado? I use an organic raw cane sugar/stevia blend made by Pure Via.

    Reply
    1. Kelly Bejelly April 18, 2014 at 10:48 am

      I don’t consider it the same hun. Rapadura is more “raw” to me. I hope that makes sense.

      Reply
  2. Sara Priebe April 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    What about coconut sugar?

    Reply
  3. Sheila April 19, 2014 at 9:36 am

    What about coconut palm sugar. How does it fit in a healthy diet?

    Reply
    1. Kelly Bejelly April 19, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I use coconut palm sugar in my diet as I find I have the least reactions to it. Hopefully Jedha will chime in!

      Reply
    2. Jedha @ Good Food Eating April 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Coconut palm sugar is a good natural sugar source as it’s just extracted and dehydrated from the coconut palm. It’s the same in calories as sucrose/sugar, it is much lower in GI at around 35. It’s a good choice in that it’s low in fructose with around 70-80%sucrose/ 10-20% fructose. Normal sugar is 50/50. In a healthy diet coconut sugar fits perfectly fineif that’s the one you choose to eat.

      I think one thing to remember is that any type of sugar, even if it is a more natural sbstitute, is still added sugar. For best health, we really don’t need to much extra sugar in our diet. Hope that helps answer the question

      Reply
  4. Denice April 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    What are your thoughts on Swerve?

    Reply
    1. Kelly Bejelly April 21, 2014 at 9:02 am

      I’ll check in with Jedha and ask her.

      Reply
    2. Jedha @ Good Food Eating April 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Swerve is made with Erythritol, it’s a sugar alcohol. There’s info about those above. I have looked at the research and it doesn’t suggest any reported harmful effects but some people do react with some abdominal discomfort, though this does tend to be more with Xylitol than erythritol. I am always a bit skeptical about ‘new’ manufactured products. In the end though, I think we just gather the facts and decide for ourselves.

      Here an article I wrote with info about erythritol http://goodfoodeating.com/3512/what-is-erythritol/

      Reply
  5. Kim A. August 12, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Some forms of Xylitol are made from berries, oats, mushrooms and birch sap. My family uses xylitol made from 100% birch sap. We try to avoid corn products as much as possible. A good brand is by Ultimate Life and also one sold by https://www.icechipscandy.com/ They sell xylitol made from birch to avoid GMO corn. As for stomach upset, I can attest to that. Too much can cause some tummy rumbling and diarrhea. So we also do half and half with either coconut sugar, liquid stevia, coconut nectar or raw honey.
    I think xylitol is a good option for those needing to control blood sugar but must check what its made of to avoid potential allergic reaction.

    Reply
  6. Merry September 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Great post….thanks for taking the time to give us the information.

    Reply

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