Sugar Alternatives

So here is the skinny on sugar.  The average American eats over 20 teaspoons of sugar a day.  This adds up to approximately 142 pounds a year. Too much processed sugar in the diet has been shown to be a big risk factor in many of the western diseases: obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes Type II, to name just a few.  There are some studies that indicate that sugar maybe worse than salt if you consume too much. Sugar comes in many forms, let’s talk about a few.

  • Glucose is the most common form of sugar and is the chief form of energy used by our bodies.
  • Fructose is another simple sugar and is found in fruits, vegetables and honey.
  • Sucrose (or table sugar) is a combination of glucose and fructose-it is highly processed, high on the glycemic index, so spikes blood sugar levels and void of any nutrition
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) made from GM corn, is highly processed and contains both fructose and glucose (usually more fructose so it spikes blood sugar) NOT recommended.
  • Artificial Sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspertame, saccharin, sucralose, neotame, and advantame). these sweeteners can have a negative impact on health.  Research suggests that artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain in that they can encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence (Yang 2010).

Healthy Alternatives:

  • Agave nectar:  agave nectar is obtained from the juice of the blue agave plant. Agave syrups are 1.4x sweeter than sugar, so less can be used to reduce caloric intake. Low on the glycemic index and will spike blood sugar levels as it is mainly fructose. Good substitute for baking.  NOT recommended for diabetics
  • Raw Honey:  a whole food so it is minimally processed. Considered a superfood by alternative health care practitioners as it contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and phytonutrients.  Comes in a variety of flavors, but it is higher on the glycemic index and will spike blood sugar.  NOT recommended for diabetics.
  • Stevia:  a leafy herb, that is 200-300x sweeter than sucrose.  0 calories and does not affect blood sugar so good for diabetics.  Get unrefined version which is green or brown.  Good for baking.
  • Barley Malt:  made from sprouted Barley and considered more of a whole food and one of the healthiest sweeteners.  Comes in syrup or powder.
  • Black Strap Molasses: made from cane sugar or sugar beets but with the nutrients preserved.  Contains iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Considered alkalizing and very healthy-however, it has a very unique flavor
  • Chicory Root  made from the root of a perennial plant, contains zero calories and tastes, bakes and measures like real sugar, but does not spike blood sugar.
  • Rapadura/Sucanat made from evaporating the juice of sugarcane plant, so it unrefined.  Comes in fine powder and contains vitamins and minerals
  • Maple Syrup made from the sap of the maple tree and can be highly processed depending on the brand.  Contains many minerals and is good alternative for baking.  Grade B is a better choice.

Recommendations of what foods to incorporate to help alleviate the sweet cravings include:

  • Sweet vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and sweet bell peppers.
  • Season with sweet spices such as cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, clove and cardamom. (Banks, 2013).


MUIH. (2015). Natural Sweeteners. NUTR 682: Cooking with Whole Foods Lab 2.  Retrieved from

Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010 Jun;83(2):101-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 20589192; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2892765.

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