10 Little-Known Natural Sugar Substitutes
The Quest for the Best White Sugar Substitute
Given the benefits of quitting sugar, many people on a clean eating diet are searching for the best natural white sugar substitute possible. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy options! In this post, you’ll find a list of the best white sugar substitutes available today. For example, how to choose the best healthy natural sweeteners for coffee or how to swap sugar substitutes when baking.
Natural sugar alternatives are truly a gift from Mother Earth. They don’t get a lot of publicity, but they taste great and they’re a lot better for your body and mind. As you’ll see, there are plenty of safe sugar alternatives from which to choose!
Natural Sugar Substitutes: Overview
- The Top 6 Best Low-Fructose Sugar Alternatives
- Four More Natural Sugar Substitutes That Are Better Than Refined Sugar
- Five Delicious & Healthy Sugar Alternatives for Sweetening Coffee
Healthy Substitutes for Sugar:
The 6 Best Low-Fructose Sugars
First, let’s look at the best low-fructose sugar substitutes for refined sugar. These are ultra-healthy options because, unlike refined white sugar, they don’t cause your blood sugar levels to surge rapidly. (Which messes with your body’s insulin production, putting you at greater risk for diabetes. It also interferes with your mood and energy levels.)
Many popular alternatives to refined sugar are sugar alcohols, a type of carbohydrate. Overall, sugar alcohols are quite healthy natural sugar substitutes. However, they may cause digestive distress in some individuals.
Other popular alternatives to sugar are slightly different , and they typically come from naturally sweet plant extracts.
It’s fascinating to understand why this sugar alcohol triggers positive health effects! For one thing, the human body doesn’t have the enzymes required to break down erythritol. That is why it simply passes through your body, unchanged. Also, one gram of erythritol only has 0.24 calories. In contrast, a gram of sugar contains 4 calories per gram. These factors explain why erythitol is not known for causing weight gain!
Erythritol is type of sugar alcohol with an extremely similar taste profile to mainstream refined white sugar. Most professionals believe it to be extremely safe, and it has a good reputation when it comes to potential side effects. In fact, it is objectively the healthiest white sugar substitute available today!
This white sugar substitute is healthier than “regular sugar” because it won’t cause your blood sugar levels or glucose levels to dramatically increase. Studies also show that it won’t impact triglycerides, cholesterol, or any other important bio-markers.
Furthermore, erythritol is actually good for you!
Here are some of the top health benefits of erythritol:
- Encourages better dental health, specifically by preventing cavities in kids’ teeth and preventing tooth decay.
- Since your blood stream soaks up most of the erythritol before it even has the chance to reach your colon, this is the sugar alcohol least likely to cause GI discomfort.
- Another incredible benefit of erythritol is that it might be beneficial for people with diabetes. This is because it promotes healthier blood vessels, which diminishes the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
2. Xylitol (Birch Sugar)
Xylitol, another type of sugar alcohol, is extracted for human consumption from corn or birch wood. It also exists naturally in several different types of fruits and vegetables.
Xylitol has a lot of health benefits going for it because it:
- Contains zero fructose, the most damaging component in artificial sugars.
- It also has 40% less calories than regular sugar.
- Since this natural sugar substitute doesn’t induce insulin spikes, it’s safer for people with diabetes or high blood sugar.
- Another health benefit of Xylitol is that multiple studies have correlated it with better dental health.
- Finally, Xylitol facilitates better absorption of calcium in your body, which can improve bone health.
- According to animal studies, xylitol may help increase collagen production. Collagen is responsible for keeping your skin and hair looking healthy and youthful.
3. Pure Stevia Products
This zero calorie natural sweetener is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana, a local shrub in South America. It is a strong contender for the absolute best sugar substitute for coffee because it has plenty of health benefits and no negative side effects. Stevia does have a slight licorice flavor to it, which can be bad or good. It all depends on your own unique preferences.
Stevia is typically sold in both liquid and powder forms. These powders and liquids are all different and will consist of various natural and artificial additives depending on the brand of each particular Stevia product. It might take trying a few different brands before deciding on your favorite.
Make sure to select organic, whole, unrefined Stevia products. You should also check to make sure that you’re choosing a Stevia product that hasn’t been tainted with high-glycemic sugars, since this undoes the whole “healthy sugar substitute” goal.
The following are some health benefits of Stevia:
- According to an extensive study, one of the sweetest compounds in Stevia is capable of reducing blood pressure by 6-14%.
- Furthermore, Stevia may be an effective treatment for diabetes. Like xylitol, it lowers both insulin and blood sugar levels.
- Some types of Stevia plants might actually fight cancer! One study found that an ingredient called glycoside, found in certain types of Stevia plants, promotes breast cancer cell death. Another study confirms these findings by linking glycoside to a reduced risk for breast, leukemia, stomach, and lung cancers.
Stevia tastes great in a variety of recipes. Here are a few examples:
- You can never go wrong stirring a little bit of Stevia into a tasty parfait of plain yogurt, fruit, and muesli.
- It’s also an excellent natural sweetener for coffee and tea.
- If you want to sweeten your oatmeal or hot breakfast cereal, just add a little bit of Stevia, and voila! Your breakfast is a little sweeter yet still clean and healthy.
- Finally, many people like to use Stevia in their smoothie bowls. (Find vegetarian and vegan smoothie bowl recipes here.)
4. Yacon Syrup
This sweet, thick syrup comes from the yacón plant, which is native to South America. This plant came into the public spotlight after being featured on the Dr. Oz Show. A fledgling study also found it to be an effective treatment for both insulin resistance and obesity.
Fructooligosaccharides, which make up nearly 50% of Yacon Syrup’s composition, are indigestible. This may at least partially account for the weight loss. There is also published evidence that fructooligosaccharides inhibit certain hunger hormones, causing you eat less than before.
But Yacon syrup has even more health benefits:
- Since this thick, natural sugar alternative encourages the growth of healthy gut bacteria, it helps support a stronger immune system. A healthier gut also alleviates symptoms of IBS and improves mental well-being.
- Another benefit of yacon syrup is that it may balance your “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Unlike certain sugar substitutes, yacon actually improves the health of your liver. This can help you prevent unwanted weight gain and fatty liver disease.
Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol that is about half as sweet as cane sugar. However, it contains only about half the number of calories as traditional sugar. This is definitely a favorite in weight loss circles! Sorbitol occurs naturally in many healthy fruits, including blackberries, apples, cherries, avocados, and plums.
Although side effects aren’t expected, it’s always smart to be aware of the allergies that exist. The clinical term for discomfort associated with Sorbitol is “Sorbitol Intolerance,” and symptoms include digestive problems like cramps and bloating.
Here are some of the top health benefits of sorbitol:
- Sorbitol may help prevent tooth decay.
- Since it has a low low-glycemic rating and is low in calories, this is a great natural sweetener for people with diabetes.
Sorbitol is great for baked goods because it helps lock in moisture. There are also some great frozen dessert recipes with sorbitol as a key ingredient. I suggest checking out this homemade gummy bear recipe as well as watching this mouth-watering recipe for Passionfruit Ganache!
In contrast to the remaining white sugar substitutes on this list, organic dates are truly sustainable as part of a long-term healthy diet. Even though they’re very sweet, they have beneficial effects for people with diabetes. Dates are also overflowing with healthy nutrients.
Furthermore, you can use dates as a white sugar substitute in a variety of ways: pureed Medjool dates, date sugar, and date syrup are all options. You can buy date sugar and date syrup if you’re in a time crunch. (Just make sure they’re organic!)
(Check out the the full list in the 9 Life-Changing Health Benefits of Dates in order to learn more!)
Here are some easy and healthy ways to use dates as a substitute for white sugar:
- Make a heavenly vegan cheesecake sweetened with chopped Medjool dates.
- If you need a healthy white sugar substitute for baking, try making your own date paste. Simply use a one-to-one ratio when you are using it as an alternative to sugar in baking recipes.
- Date paste is also delicious slathered over toast or pancakes!
4 Natural Sugar Substitutes That Are Healthier Than Refined Sugar
Some of these natural sugar substitutes are healthier than others. But they all beat refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup by a landslide!
For each natural sugar alternative in the list below, you’ll find a detailed profile with a brief description and a summary for each.
Is there anything better than raw, organic honey? This is one of the most popular out of all the natural sugar substitutes from which to choose. It is comprised of two types of sugar molecules: fructose and glucose.
Although honey has a multitude of health benefits, and it’s a much better alternative than sugar, you should still use it in moderation. This is because it’s rather high in calories and sugars.
But let’s take a look at the health benefits of honey:
- Eating local honey is an effective holistic remedy for seasonal allergies. (If only all allergy treatments were so pleasant!)
- Honey has a sublime nutrition profile. It’s a good source of antioxidants, amino acids, and both B and C vitamins.
- Since honey is a naturally soothing antiseptic, it’s perfect for comforting sore throats and speeding up recovery time from the common cold.
If you like baking, then these 4 rules for successfully swapping honey for sugar will likely be a huge help!
2. Agave Nectar (Agave Syrup)
The agave nectar substitute for sugar is a popular choice. It comes from the Mexican agave plant, and it’s similar to honey in its taste. This makes it a terrific vegan honey alternative to honey!
Agave nectar is particularly delicious over fresh, heart-healthy pancakes. It’s also a very low glycemic index food.
However, you should use an agave syrup substitute for sugar sparingly. This is because it contains a substantial amount of fructose, and high amounts of fructose can really take a toll on your body. The only organ well-equipped to process fructose is your liver, and it can easily get “overwhelmed” by this particular sugar molecule. As a result, your body transforms the fructose into fat. And not a healthy kind of fat!
Studies have shown that consuming fructose can lead to the following health problems:
To help put things into perspective, it’s helpful to realize that agave syrup is nearly 90% pure fructose. In comparison, white sugar is actually the healthier choice!
Given these facts, remember to use the agave nectar substitute for sugar sparingly. Drizzle a tiny teaspoonful over your breakfast cereal or into your tea every now and then, but don’t go overboard! Think of this as a “special treat,” and use it wisely.
3. Coconut Sugar
Coconut palm sugar is more nutritious than white sugar because it contains antioxidants, fiber, and some important minerals like zinc and potassium. (You can watch a video of how coconut sugar is made here.) Since coconut sugar has a type of fiber called inulin, it has a better glycemic index rating than traditional sugar. The inulin is believed to regulate the way your body absorbs the glucose.
Although coconut palm sugar doesn’t have as much fructose as agave, it is roughly 40% fructose. Therefore, this isn’t one of those natural sugar substitutes that you can use liberally. Instead, stick to a teaspoon in your coffee or tea. Moderation is key! It’s also great to use as an occasional white sugar substitute for baking.
4. Maple Sugar/Syrup
Like coconut palm sugar, maple syrup is a healthier option than white sugar because of its nutrients. (Remember, white sugar is basically “empty calories” with no nutritional value whatsoever.) However, it’s still very full of sugars, so don’t go overboard!
Here are some of the health benefits of maple sugar and syrup:
- Maple syrup is a natural source of manganese, potassium, iron, zinc, and calcium.
- According to a study published by the Canada Forest Service Publications, there may be nearly 25 individual types of antioxidants in maple syrup. Antioxidants help prevent a host of diseases, ranging from skin cancer to Alzheimer’s.
There are a variety of ways to use maple sugar and syrup as a substitute for white sugar:
- According to Tablespoon.com, it makes a great white sugar substitute for baking. Simply swap three quarters of a cup of maple syrup per cup of white sugar.
How to Sweeten Coffee Without Sugar:
The 5 Healthiest Coffee Sweeteners
First, let’s be honest about the most important thing in the morning, right alongside a beautiful muesli breakfast: a nice hot cup of coffee or tea. If you’re like me, you appreciate an extra touch of sweetness to balance out the bitter flavor profile of tea and coffee drinks.
Here are five healthy natural alternatives to sugar that work well with coffee:
- Add a scoop of homemade Medjool date paste or syrup into a hot cup of coffee or tea and stir.
- In truth, you can mix most of the natural sugar alternatives on this list with your coffee or tea! It really comes down to your preferred flavor combination. Xylitol, erythritol, birch sugar, and coconut palm granules work great.
- Maple syrup/sugar and agave syrup are both tasty in coffee. In contrast, honey is best reserved for tea and only tea.
- One of my favorite combinations is pure whipped maple syrup with coffee! The benefit of homemade maple butter is that, in addition to sweetening your coffee, you can spread it on toast. It also makes a divine healthy pancake topping!
- And last but not least, Stevia’s licorice flavor lends itself particularly well to certain teas. For example, it blends extremely well with Anis-flavored teas.
I hope this list has been helpful on your search for the best white sugar substitute for you. Reducing your sugar intake by using natural alternatives is a respectable task, and it has amazing implications for your health!
If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest checking out Baking and Cooking with Sugar Substitutes. It’s a healthy, extensive guide for newbies. You might also enjoy How to Make Vanilla Sugar and What is Muscovado Sugar?
There certainly is a wealth of helpful resources out there! But the endless options can be a little overwhelming. That’s why I find Pinterest so helpful: it’s an incredibly convenient place to keep all of your favorite healthy eating tips and recipes together in one place.
I think you’ll find the following three boards especially inspiring to follow:
Thanks for visiting Mu Mu Muesli’s natural wellness blog! Have fun experimenting with all of the various natural sugar substitutes available to you.