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Healthy Sugar Alternatives: 7 You Need To Know About
  /   Dr. John Snow

Healthy Sugar Alternatives: 7 You Need To Know About

Let’s face it – Americans often consume too much sugar. In fact, the average American consumes about 77 grams of sugar a day. This is more than triple the recommended daily maximum for sugar intake. 

Sugar creeps its way into almost everything we eat and drink, from fruit juice to carbohydrates and smoothies, and it doesn’t provide any nutritional value. 

Worst of all, sugar hides in the foods your children love.

It’s time to kick sugar out of the kitchen, but no one wants to eliminate sweet foods entirely. We all deserve a little treat from time to time. Here are some valuable sugar alternatives to stock in your pantry when you or your kids need something with a sweet taste. 

Why Avoid Sugar?

Refined table sugar plays no role in human wellness. It doesn’t contain any essential vitamins or minerals your body needs to sustain itself. Refined sugar is also high in calories, and overconsumption of refined sugar can contribute to certain health conditions. 

So, if you never ate refined sugar again, you’d be absolutely fine. 

Did we mention that sugar is also horrible for your teeth? When they find sugar on your teeth, they’ll begin to eat it. They digest the sugar and expel acid, which becomes trapped against your teeth. This acid erodes teeth, causing cavities that only a dentist can help repair. 

What About Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are a bit controversial. Although low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have been declared safe by the FDA, many people have their doubts. 

Some research loosely correlates artificial sweeteners to serious health complications, but this research isn’t definitive. 

Aside from the controversy, there’s no real reason to use artificial sweeteners. If the entire point of eliminating sugar from your household is to enhance your family’s wellness, why replace it with something artificial?

What About Raw Sugar, Brown Sugar, or Coconut Sugar?

Many people opt for alternatives to refined sugar that are just different types of sugar. These alternatives aren’t functionally much different. The only thing separating things like raw sugar, brown sugar, and coconut sugar from refined table sugar is a single process. 

Naturally occurring sugar is brown in hue. This is the only state in which sugar contains vitamins and minerals. When white table sugar is refined, it’s processed to remove these vitamins and minerals. The resulting byproduct is referred to as molasses.

While brown sugar is significantly less processed, it’s still sugar. It may contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, but it also contains many calories. It will also impact blood sugar levels in the same way.

Sweeteners like agave nectar often slip in under the radar. Agave nectar comes with a health halo. Agave nectar may be lower on the glycemic index, but it contains more empty calories than refined sugar. 

It’s perfectly fine to use these alternative sugars to replace refined sugar if you prefer the way they taste, but they aren’t meaningfully healthier than white sugar. 

Is it Better To Eat Healthy Sugar Alternatives?

Zero-calorie, naturally-derived sugar alternatives won’t lead to weight gain. Many healthy sugar alternatives like molasses, honey, and yacon syrup contain calories. 

Overconsumption of these healthier alternatives will still have the same effects as overconsumption of sugar. You should always consume sweetened foods and drinks in moderation, even if they don’t contain refined sugar. 

1. Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana, also known as sweetleaf or candy leaf, is a plant that naturally produces a very sweet compound. The leaves can be processed to remove and concentrate the sweet compound, which is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. 

Because a little goes such a long way, stevia is technically a calorie-free sweetener. It’s a natural zero-calorie alternative to sweeteners like aspartame.

Some people detect a slight bitterness in the aftertaste of stevia. This aftertaste may or may not be noticeable to you. It all depends on how you use your stevia. 

When you use stevia to make homemade lemonade, you might find that the sourness of the lemon disguises the bitter finish of the stevia. 

2. Xylitol

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. Many plants can be used to produce xylitol, but it’s most commonly derived from birch trees. Many people feel that xylitol is the closest to natural sugar. It’s easy to bake with and mix into drinks, although it tastes slightly less sweet than regular sugar.

Xylitol has a unique superpower. It helps to form a protective layer over your teeth. When you chew gum containing xylitol, you’re helping ward off plaque formation. That’s why dentists recommend xylitol as a sweetener for chewing gum. 

3. Maple Syrup

Although maple syrup is calorically similar to sugar, it has more benefits to offer. Because real maple syrup comes directly from a tree and is not refined or processed, it contains naturally occurring minerals that sugar does not. Maple syrup contains substantial amounts of riboflavin and manganese. 

It’s important to remember that real maple syrup is not the same thing as pancake syrup. The syrup in clear plastic bottles is made with corn syrup and maple flavoring. If you choose to use maple syrup, opt for genuine maple syrup. 

4. Honey

Although calorically similar to sugar, honey boasts far more benefits. Honey contains a wealth of trace vitamins and minerals. Unlike sugar’s mundane sweetness, honey boasts a rich and unique flavor that makes it more of an addition to a dish than a mere ingredient.

It also acts as a versatile wellness tool. Honey can provide holistic relief for a sore throat and support skin healing when applied topically. It also boasts a wealth of antioxidants, which work to promote cellular health. It’s always good to keep a jar of organic, sustainably-sourced honey in the house. 

5. Molasses

Molasses is the inverse of refined sugar. When sugarcane or sugar beets are harvested, the sugar is extracted and filtered. Everything except the sucrose is removed, and molasses is the residue left after the crystallization of sucrose.

Molasses has a deep, rich, sweet flavor. Its brown color results from all the vitamins and minerals that have become concentrated. Molasses contain substantial amounts of minerals like manganese, iron, magnesium, and copper. It’s an excellent sugar substitute for baked goods like cookies. 

6. Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is derived from the yacon plant's roots, a flowering daisy native to South America. Yacon’s natural sweetness rivals sugar, but it comes with a few unique advantages. The sweet compounds in yacon’s roots are called fructooligosaccharides

Fructooligosaccharides work similarly to dietary fiber. When you consume the fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup, they help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. This can help to promote bowel regularity or ease constipation.

Just be mindful of your yacon syrup consumption. If you consume a lot of yacon syrup in a short period, you may experience digestive issues. It’s best to save yacon syrup for occasions where your gut needs a little extra help getting things moving. 

7. Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is native to southern China, where locals have used it throughout history in natural preparations. Monk fruit contains naturally sweet compounds called mogrosides, which are up to 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is a tropical melon 100 times sweeter than sugar, and also includes a touch of mannitol, a naturally-occurring sweetener found in strawberries and pumpkins. 

Due to the erythritol found in monk fruit, it is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and passes through your digestive system undigested. Like dietary fiber, the body isn’t able to break them down. They pass gently and safely through your body. Because monk fruit can’t be digested, it doesn’t add calories to foods or drinks. 

Hiya Is Sweetened Naturally

Many children’s gummy vitamins contain sugar, just like gummy candy. Would you give your child a piece of candy and tell them that it’s good for them? Neither would we.

Hiya’s once-daily children’s chewable multivitamin is naturally sweetened with zero added sugar. 

Monk fruit and mannitol makes Hiya sweet enough for children to chew without a fuss. It won’t add sugar or empty calories to your child’s daily diet. If your child’s pediatrician agrees that they would benefit from using a multivitamin, stay away from the gummy junk. 

Hiya was made with your kids in mind.

 

Sources:

Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States | FDA

Honey in wound healing: An updated review | Degruyter

Prebiotic Oligosaccharides: Special Focus on Fructooligosaccharides, Its Biosynthesis and Bioactivity | PubMed

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