Posted: 04 Mar 2024 By:  Reading time: minutes remaining

The Healthiest Replacement For Sugar

In this blog post, you will discover the healthiest replacement for sugar. Learn about natural sweeteners, artificial ones, and sugar alcohols. Discover which ones are the most beneficial and the ones to avoid.

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The information is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe treat or cure cancer.This information is not intended as medical advice, please refer to a qualified healthcare professional.

Why White Sugar Is Bad And How To Find The Healthiest Replacement For Sugar

When people talk about sugar, they mean white table sugar, a processed carb. It's a mistake to vilify all carbs based on table sugar. Sucrose, or white sugar, is not the same as sugar in vegetables in its complete form.

Table sugar is when you extract and refine sugar from a sugar cane or sugar beet. In this refinement, you bleach the sugar and create an unnatural product. It doesn't contain any vitamins or minerals.

White sugar is as addictive as cocaine or opium. Therefore, many food producers add sugar to their products. When you eat plants or fruits, they have protective shells made of fiber. Our bodies can't digest fiber, but it is still helpful for creating poop.

It also protects the plant from oxidation. Oxidation is when oxygen breaks down the plant or fruit. It takes time for the body to digest fiber and carbohydrates. Therefore, we can get a slow release of glucose. You also get access to nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. 

sugar and needels

The blood sugar level rises immediately when you eat white sugar

But when you create white sugar, you remove the fiber and nutrients. What's left are empty calories. Because no fiber is left, the body can digest the sugar fast. 

Therefore, the blood sugar level rises immediately. The body now needs to get rid of excess sugar in the bloodstream. Even if table sugar is unhealthy, it doesn't cause cancer

However, that doesn't mean that you should consume table sugar. It's an unhealthy, processed food. But if you want to add sweetness to your food, there are healthier alternatives.

In the rest of this blog post, I will mention natural sweeteners and then artificial ones. In the last part of this blog post, I will talk about different types of sugar alcohol.

Let's explore the healthiest replacement for sugar from natural sweeteners.

Natural Sweeteners

There are different kinds of sweeteners on the market. This section will discuss natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, and more. Even if there are many substitutes for table sugar, the majority are not better than it.

So, which sweeteners are the healthiest replacement for sugar? The Journal of the American Dietetic Association wanted to answer that question. The scientists measured the anti-oxidant content of sweeteners. 

Anti-oxidants protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are a byproduct of your metabolism. The body can also make free radicals after exposure to environmental toxins. 

Free radicals are unstable molecules that may damage your cells when present in large amounts. Too many free radicals may lead to oxidative stress and diseases like cancer.

The sweetener study tested sweeteners such as:

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Date sugar
  • Light brown sugar
  • Honey
  • White sugar
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Corn syrup
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Raw Cane Sugar
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Dark molasses

Each sweetener had different anti-oxidant levels. Refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar contained minimal anti-oxidant activity. Date sugar and blackstrap molasses had the highest amount. Maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey showed little anti-oxidant capacity.

They were not much better than white sugar. Barley malt and brown rice malt syrup had more anti-oxidants than white sugar. 

Healthiest replacement for sugar diagram

Date sugar and blackstrap molasses were the best sweetener in a study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Date sugar was the healthiest replacement for sugar. It contained the most nutrients of all sweeteners. Date sugar is not like white sugar. It's whole dried dates pulverized into a powder. Date sugar is a plant food with fiber, so there is a thickening effect. It is great for smoothies or hot chocolate.

Blackstrap molasses was in second place and not far away from date sugar. Molasses come from crushed sugarcane. If you only need to know the healthiest replacement for sugar, it's date sugar and blackstrap molasses in second place.

In the rest of this section, I will explain every sweetener in greater detail. I'll start with the winners and then other sweeteners on this list.

Date sugar

Date sugar consists of dehydrated dates ground to resemble granulated sugar. It still has fiber that won't dissolve in hot liquids or baked goods. Date sugar has a sweet, butterscotch-like flavor. 

You should not confuse date sugar with date palm sugar. Palm sugar comes from the sap of the sugar palm tree. The manufacturer boils the sugar palm sap until the sap is dry and crystallized. It does not have the same nutritional profile as date sugar. 

A pile of dates, the healthiest replacement for sugar

Date sugar consists of dehydrated dates ground to resemble granulated sugar

You can replace date sugar with granulated or brown sugar in baking recipes. Date sugar is a whole food. It contains natural glucose and fructose.

Date sugar tends to form clumps due to its sticky nature. Most date sugar shares the same benefits as whole dates. That is because it retains most of the date fruit's nutritional contents. 

Unlike white sugar, date sugar contains nutrients other than sugar. It has trace amounts of iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Date sugar also has anti-oxidants and dietary fiber, up to one gram. It is a significant natural source of sugar with excellent sweetening power.

Date sugar is a great substitute for baked goods or smoothies. It has more carbohydrates than honey and sugar. Date sugar can replace white sugar one to one. But if you want your foods to be less sweet, use 2/3 cup date sugar for 1 cup white sugar. 

You can also use it to substitute brown sugar in cookies to create a sweeter taste but a similar flavor. However, it is insoluble in water, unlike sugar.

Date Sugar

Date sugar contains trace amounts of iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It also has anti-oxidants and dietary fiber, up to one gram. It is a significant natural source of sugar with excellent sweetening power.

Healthy

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Another healthy sweetener is molasses.

Molasses

Molasses comes from crushed sugarcane. You create molasses by crushing the sugarcane and boiling the juice to remove the water. 

Sugar production starts with boiling sugarcane juice to crystallize the sugar. It is then filtered to separate it from the juice. Sugar leaves a thick, brown liquid called molasses.

The end product is an acidic, bittersweet, and mineral-rich syrup called molasses. Its dark color and flavor come from the caramelization of fructose and glucose. 

A spoon with molasses

Molasses is a sweetener you get by crushing the sugarcane and boiling the juice to remove the water, picture by Fab Rand

Molasses can be light or dark, depending on the concentration. You concentrate it further by boiling it more. If you continue even more, you get a blackstrap. Blackstrap molasses develops during the third boiling. 

It is a black, bitter, and salty sludge. Black molasses is thicker and darker than regular molasses. Most varieties of blackstrap molasses use sugarcane or sugar beet. 

But you can use other foods to create a similar product. Pure sorghum, for example, is sometimes referred to as sorghum molasses. It is often confused with blackstrap molasses.

Blackstrap molasses is more nutrient-dense than other types of molasses. People often use it as a sweetener, spread, or topping for yogurt or oatmeal.

Blackstrap molasses is a nutrient-rich sugar byproduct. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B6. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. But blackstrap molasses packs plenty of nutrients.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a nutrient-rich sugar byproduct. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B6. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. But blackstrap molasses packs plenty of nutrients.

Healthy

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The third sweetener in this section is white sugar, or table sugar.

White Sugar

White sugar comes from sugar canes or sugar beets. Another name for it is granulated sugar or table sugar. You create white sugar by extracting juice from the sugar cane or sugar beets.

The manufacturers boil the cane juice to evaporate the water. Centrifuges clarify the raw sugar by spinning the sugar at high speeds. The goal is to remove the sticky brown syrup(molasses) that coats sugar crystals. 

After the refinement, the sugar runs through a natural carbon filtration system. It removes impurities and further whitens the sugar granules. The resulting table sugar is pure sucrose. White sugar is 100% carbohydrates without any nutrients. 

sugar cubes

White sugar is an unhealthy, processed food with no nutrients

White sugar sweetens many foods, including baked goods, beverages, and savory dishes. Processed table sugar comes in different variations and sizes. 

Different Types Of White Sugar

Superfine sugar is sometimes called caster sugar. It is like white table sugar but with smaller crystal sizes than regular sugar. Desserts such as meringue, mousse, or whipped cream often use it. 

Superfine sugar is a common sweetener in cold drinks like iced tea or lemonade. It dissolves quicker than regular sugar. 

Powdered sugar is also called confectioners' sugar. It is a finely ground white sugar mixed with a small amount of cornstarch. Powdered sugar is an ingredient in frosting, icing, and creamy desserts.

Sugar cubes are square pieces of plain white sugar pressed into a cube form. 

Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses mixed back into refined white sugar. The moisture in the molasses makes brown sugar softer than white sugar. 

Dark brown sugar contains more molasses and is darker and sticky. It has a stronger flavor than light brown sugar, which has a mild caramel flavor.

Turbinado sugar is a lightly refined sugar made from the first pressing of sugar cane. It has more flavor and natural molasses than white sugar and larger crystals.

Muscovado sugar is unrefined sugar and retains its natural molasses. Food processors heat the sugar cane plant and extract the liquid. Most of the liquid evaporates, creating sugar with a dark brown color and a strong molasses flavor.

Demerara sugar is like muscovado sugar but less processed. Muscovado sugar has a higher molasses and moisture content than demerara sugar. Demerara sugar has a drier, coarser texture than muscovado sugar. Its crystals are also larger.

White sugar

All forms of white sugar have no nutrients and spike your blood sugar. They are addictive and have adverse health effects.

Avoid

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Brown rice syrup is another sweetener made from rice.

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup comes from brown rice. Asia, Europe, and the United States produce most of it. You can use this syrup in baking and cooking to sweeten foods with fewer calories.

Brown rice syrup is also called rice malt syrup, rice syrup, or maltose syrup. You make it by cooking brown rice and exposing it to natural enzymes.

A small bowl of brown rice

Brown rice syrup comes from brown rice that you cook and expose to natural enzymes

These break down and turn the rice's starches into sugars. The resulting sweet liquid is then boiled and reduced into a light brown syrup.

The syrup is often all-natural and organic. It contains no fructose or gluten, low glucose levels, and has a high glycemic index. It's often used in rice milk and processed foods. You can also find it in granola bars and beverages. 

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is often all-natural and organic. It contains no fructose or gluten and spikes blood sugar levels more than white sugar. Brown rice syrup has some anti-oxidants and nutrients like calcium.

It is not much healthier than white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other sugar alternatives.

Avoid

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Corn syrup is another sweetener in many products.

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch. It's less sweet than ordinary table sugar. You can find it in candy, jams, jellies, frostings, and baked goods.

Corn syrup consists of pure glucose, a simple sugar. It provides moisture to the finished product to keep it smooth. Corn syrup is a common baking ingredient available in supermarkets.

corn starch

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch

High-fructose corn syrup is not the same as corn syrup. It's a commercial sweetener. Manufacturers change ordinary corn syrup using enzymes. They convert some of the glucose to fructose. 

High-fructose corn syrup is about 1.75 times sweeter than table sugar. It is also cheaper than white sugar. Unlike corn syrup, you can't find high-fructose corn syrup in supermarkets. In America high-fructose corn syrup comes from GMOs.

Corn syrup is available in light and dark. Light corn syrup is colorless and has a pure, sweet flavor. Dark corn syrup is corn syrup mixed with molasses. It has a darker color and a more toasty, caramel-like flavor. 

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup have no nutrients and spike your blood glucose. They have no benefit to your body and are found in unhealthy products. High-fructose corn syrup often uses GMO corn.

Avoid

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You can also use honey to sweeten your food or beverages.

Honey

Honey is a thick golden liquid that bees make from the nectar of flowering plants. When water evaporates from the nectar, the end product is honey. Bees perform the vital service of pollinating fruits, legumes, and vegetables. 

Honeybees don't hibernate in winter. Instead, they stay active in their hives. During the coldest months, honeybees cluster together to keep warm. They eat the honey they hoarded for weeks.

Jar of honey with honey dipper

Honey is a thick golden liquid that bees make from the nectar of flowering plants

Female worker bees produce honey. Forager bees fill their stomachs with nectar from flowers. When they return to the hive, they convert it into honey.

Worker bees fly up to 3.1 miles (5 km) searching for flowers and nectar, visiting between 50 and 100 flowers per trip. Nectar is the main ingredient for honey and the primary energy source for bees.

Bees swarming on honeycomb

Forager bees fill their stomachs with nectar from flowers and convert it into honey in the hive.

There are many varieties of honey. The color, taste, smell, and texture vary between varieties. The distinguishing factor is the type of flower that the bee visits. Clover honey is different from lavender honey. Some other varieties include:

  • Acacia
  • Chestnut
  • Sage
  • Alfafa
  • Orange blossom

Honey has more vitamins and minerals per gram than other sugars, such as table sugar. However, you must eat many calories to get enough micronutrients. Therefore, it negates any expected health benefit.

Honey

Honey has more vitamins and minerals per gram than other sugars, such as table sugar. However, you must eat many calories to get enough micronutrients. Therefore, it negates any expected health benefit.

Regular honey goes through pasteurization and filtration, which removes many nutrients. Most health benefits of honey come from raw honey.

Avoid or limit

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Agave syrup is a processed sweetener that comes from the agave plant.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup comes from the agave plant, native to dry regions in Mexico. It comes from two varieties of agave: blue and salmiana. Blue agave is famous for its use in tequila.

The agave plant contains inulin, a non-sweet, non-digestible water-soluble carbohydrate. It also has other carbohydrates and sugars. Agave syrup comes from harvesting and processing the core of the agave plant. You make it by heating, juicing, filtering, and evaporating it into a liquid sweetener.

Blue agave plant in the park

Agave syrup comes from the agave plant, native to dry regions in Mexico

Agave syrup contributes extra calories to one's diet without providing nutrients. One tablespoon of agave syrup has about 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Around 80% of the sugars in agave syrup are fructose, and 20% are glucose. 

Our bodies break agave syrup down for energy like other sugars. Agave syrup has less of an impact on blood glucose levels than most sugars. This effect has to do with its higher fructose content.

The plant is first cut and pressed to extract the sugary sap. This sap is high in sugar and also contains healthy fiber like fructans. 

The fructans break down into fructose by exposing the sap to heat. It's the same way we make other unhealthy sweeteners. This process destroys all the health-promoting properties of the agave plant. 

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup has less of an impact on blood glucose levels than most sugars. However, it doesn't contain any nutrients and is not healthier than white sugar.

Avoid

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Another sweetener is barley malt syrup.

Barley Malt Syrup

Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener from barley. Many commercial foods use it to provide sweetening in frozen or packaged foods. You create this sweetener by toasting sprouted barley and grinding it into a powder.

Toasted barley malt

Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener from barley

The manufacturer uses barley as a dry product or makes barley malt syrup. You make barley malt syrup by mixing dry malted barley and water, then mash and filter it. Excess water evaporates, and what's left is a sweet liquid with about 75-80% solids remaining. 

Barley malt syrup has a high maltose concentration but is not as sweet as regular sugar. The final product is often sweet enough to produce tasty foods. It also tends to cause lower blood glucose levels.

Barley Malt Syrup

Barley malt syrup has a high maltose concentration but is not as sweet as regular sugar. It also tends to cause lower blood glucose levels.

Barley malt syrup has more anti-oxidants and nutrients than white sugar. It is not a good source of minerals and vitamins in general. Barley malt syrup does contain a decent amount of potassium. Use it in moderation.

Limit

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The next sweetener is maple syrup.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees. These trees store starch in their trunks and roots in cold climates before winter. The starch converts to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring. 

The maple syrup production process starts from natural phenomena. When springtime nights are below freezing, the maple tree absorbs water from the soil. 

Warmer weather creates pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree. It is then easy to collect the precious maple sap. 

You tap maple trees by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the sap. Heating evaporates much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. Different regions gather the sap between early March and late April.

Extraction of sap from maple tree

Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees

The Indigenous peoples of North America first made maple syrup. European settlers adopted the practice and changed production methods. Technological improvements in the 1970s further refined the process. 

Canada and The United States produce most of the world's maple syrup. The Canadian province of Quebec is the largest producer. It's responsible for 70% of the world's output.

It takes 40 gallons(151 l) of sap to make 1 gallon(3.8 l) of syrup. When you boil the juice to remove water, you concentrate the sugar that makes maple syrup.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup contains some nutrients and anti-oxidants but is also high in sugar. It is a less harmful version of sugar. Maple syrup is less processed and has a lower glycemic index than sugar. Use in moderation.

Limit

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Coconut sugar is another alternative sugar substitute.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener from the sap of coconut palm flowers. Southeast Asia produces and consumes most coconut sugar. It's popular in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Coconut sugar is often a sugar substitute. 

Coconut sugar comes from the coconut tree and is a type of palm sugar harvested from the sap of the plant's flowers. The process of removing coconut sap is like how we take maple syrup from trees.

Coconut flowers

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener from the sap of coconut palm flowers, picture by Dick Culbert

Both are clear liquids that get boiled down into brown syrup. Coconut sugar has a toasty, caramel-like flavor similar to brown sugar. The manufacturer bottles the syrup or presses it into blocks. Or crystalize it like refined sugar.

Coconut sugar

Coconut has more nutrients than table sugar. It won't cause a spike as high as typical white sugar.

It's similar to regular table sugar, although it is less processed and contains few nutrients. If you're going to use coconut sugar, use it sparingly.

Limit

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The next sweetener on this list is maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. It's processed like table sugar. Manufacturers make it by cooking starches and adding acids or enzymes. The resulting white powder is water-soluble and has a neutral taste.

Maltodextrin works as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of processed food. Therefore, you can find it in instant puddings, gelatins, sauces, and salad dressings. Manufacturers mix it with artificial sweeteners in canned fruits, desserts, and powdered drinks.

Maltodextrin is also a preservative that increases the shelf life of packaged foods. It's inexpensive and easy to produce. Maltodextrin has four calories per gram, the same as table sugar.

Maltodextrin is often present in foods in only small amounts. It has a high glycemic index (GI) value, which can cause a spike in your blood sugar.

Maltodetrin powder

Maltodextrin is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat.

Your body can digest maltodextrin as fast as table sugar. Maltodextrin is helpful if you need a quick boost of calories and energy. However, it has a GI ranging from 106 to 136, higher than table sugar. Limiting your maltodextrin intake helps keep your gut bacteria healthy.

Maltodextrin is gluten-free, even when made from wheat. The processing that wheat starches undergo to make maltodextrin turns it gluten-free.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a sweetener and a carb with no nutritional value, as white sugar. Some people with chronic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) take maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin can provide a quick solution if someone's blood sugar level gets too low. It sometimes comes from GMO corn, which can have toxic pesticides.

Maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than sugar. If you eat too many foods containing maltodextrin, your diet is below par.

Avoid

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Another exotic sweetener on this list is monk fruit

Monk Fruit(Luo han guo)

Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo or Swingle fruit, is a small round fruit from southern China. Monk fruit sweeteners are no-calorie sweeteners. This sweetener is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar. 

You can find it in soft drinks, juices, dairy products, desserts, candies, and condiments. Monk fruit sweeteners are stable at high temperatures. Therefore, it's used in baked goods.

Three round monk fruits

Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo or Swingle fruit, is a small round fruit from southern China

There are several brands of monk fruit sweeteners, such as:

  • Monk Fruit In The Raw®
  • SweetLeaf®
  • SPLENDA® Monk Fruit Sweetener
  • Whole Earth®

Eastern medicine used monk fruit for centuries. Monk fruit sweeteners start by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit. Then, you crush the fruit, collect the juice, and dry it into a concentrated powder.

The monk fruit extract is often blended with erythritol to make it taste and look more like table sugar. The FDA didn't approve its use as a sweetener until 2010.

Monk fruit contains natural sugars, such as fructose and glucose. The natural sugars in monk fruit aren't responsible for its sweetness. Instead, it gets its intense sweetness from unique anti-oxidants called mogrosides.

During processing, you separate mogrosides from the fresh-pressed juice. Therefore, monk fruit sweetener does not contain fructose or glucose.

Monk Fruit

Monk fruit sweetener has zero calories or carbs. It will not raise blood sugar levels. Monk fruit is high in unique anti-oxidants called mogrosides. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS).

Monk fruit sweeteners often contain erythritol, which may increase heart problems, including heart attack and stroke. Read about erythritol to find out more.

Avoid or limit

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Stevia is a plant that you use to create a sweetener.

Stevia

Stevia sweeteners have no-calories. They are 200-350 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) plant.

It's an herbal shrub native to South America. Humans have used the stevia plant for food and medicinal purposes for centuries. 

You create stevia sweeteners by extracting steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant. Then, you purify them to remove some of the bitter taste. 

A stevia plant

You create stevia sweeteners by extracting steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant

The upper gastrointestinal tract doesn't absorb stevia. Therefore, it does not provide any calories or impact blood glucose levels. When stevia reaches the colon, gut microbes remove the glucose molecules and use them as an energy source. The liver metabolizes it and excretes it in urine.

You can find stevia in:

  • Diet sodas
  • Canned fruits
  • Dairy products
  • Cereals
  • Syrups
  • Light or low-sugar juice
  • Condiments
  • Baked goods
  • Chocolate and candy

Stevia is stable at high temperatures and used in baked goods. You can find stevia under different tabletop sweetener brands, such as: 

  • Truvia
  • Stevia In The Raw
  • Naturals Stevia Sweetener
  • Enliten
  • Pure Via
  • SPLENDA
  • SweetLeaf

There's a big difference between the stevia you buy at the grocery store and the one you may grow at home.

Many Stevia Products Have Little Stevia In Them

Stevia products in grocery stores, such as Truvia and Stevia in the Raw, don't contain whole stevia leaves. They come from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A).

Many stevia products have little stevia in them at all. Reb-A is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Sweeteners made with Reb-A combine with different sweeteners, such as erythritol and dextrose.

Truvia website of stevia sweetener

Stevia products in grocery stores like Truvia and Stevia in the Raw don't contain whole stevia leaves.

For example, Truvia is a blend of Reb-A and erythritol. Stevia in The Raw is a blend of Reb-A and dextrose.

Stevia

Stevia has almost no calories or nutrients. If you have diabetes, stevia may help you keep your blood sugar level in check.

Japanese researchers in the 90s found that stevioside, the active ingredient in stevia, was harmless.

The World Health Organization recommends against taking non-sugar sweeteners including stevia.

Stevia sweeteners often contain erythritol, which may increase heart problems, including heart attack and stroke. Read about erythritol to find out more.

Avoid or limit

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The next category of sweeteners is artificial sweeteners.

The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners taste like sugar but have fewer calories. Most have fewer than three calories per teaspoon. People with diabetes use these sweeteners. They don't affect their blood sugar level in the same way as sugar. 

Artificial sweeteners also give you that sweet taste your body craves. The issue is that artificial sweeteners can be up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. They bombard your nervous system with dopamine-releasing sweetness. 

But soon, the excitement quiets down, and your brain wants that feeling back. You can, therefore, crave more artificially sweetened foods.

Artificial sweeteners affect the brain and may make us overeat. They may also increase depression. Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive.

Some types of sweeteners have no calories. Examples include acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Other artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, have few calories.

Sweetener

Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie or calorie-free chemical substances used instead of sugar

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) guideline. WHO made a systematic review of the available evidence. The organization recommends against using NSS to control body weight or reduce diseases.

Non-sugar sweeteners do not have any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or kids. The review also suggests that long-term use of NSS can have adverse health effects.

NSS may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and adult mortality. The recommendation includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified sweeteners not classified as sugars.

Common NSS include artificial sweeteners such as acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, or sucralose. WHO's recommendation also comprises natural sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit.

You can find artificial sweeteners in junk food you shouldn't eat anyway. Therefore, you should avoid every one of them.

The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS. Examples include toothpaste, skin creams, and medications.

Low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols) are not considered NSS. Therefore, they are not part of the recommendation.

Let's start with the first artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium.

Acesulfame Potassium

Acesulfame potassium is a no-calorie sweetener used in foods and beverages. It provides sweetness without the added calories contained in sugars. 

German researchers developed acesulfame potassium in 1967. Europe approved it in 1983, and the U.S. five years later.

Food manufacturers often combine acesulfame potassium with other artificial sweeteners. You can find it in combination with sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. They provide a more sugar-like taste than acesulfame potassium offers on its own.

Different chocolates and candies

You can find acesulfame potassium in baked goods, beverages, candies, chocolates, dairy products, and desserts

Acesulfame potassium is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar. You only need small amounts to match the sweetness of sugar. Acesulfame potassium retains its sweetness at a wide range of temperatures. It also withstands many food-processing conditions. 

Acesulfame potassium is in baked goods, beverages, candies, chocolates, dairy products, and desserts. You can find acesulfame potassium under different names. It's either Ace-K, acesulfame K, or acesulfame potassium.

Acesulfame potassium is an ingredient in some tabletop sweeteners. The most common brand of this sweetener in the U.S. is Equal® Original. You can also find it under the names Sunett and Sweet One.

Acesulfame potassium provides a sweet taste right after you consume it. You absorb it into your blood from the gut. Later, your kidneys filter acesulfame potassium and excrete it in urine. Small amounts of acesulfame potassium can also end up in breast milk.

Acesulfame Potassium

Acesulfame potassium contains no nutrients or calories. It doesn't spike your blood glucose. Artificial sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat. 

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). Food containing acesulfame potassium is unhealthy.

Avoid

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The next sweetener on this list is aspartame.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used for decades. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame works together with other sweeteners or food components. It minimizes bitter flavors and enhances the taste.

Aspartame consists of two amino acids called aspartic acid and phenylalanine. When ingested, it breaks down into these amino acids. Aspartame digestion also yields a small amount of methanol. It is a compound in foods like fruits and vegetables and their juices.

Adding sweetener to coffee

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used for decades

Aspartame is not well-suited for use in baked foods. High temperatures can cause it to lose its sweetness.

The most common brand of aspartame tabletop sweetener in the U.S. is Equal®. Brands outside the U.S. include Canderel® (in Europe) and Pal Sweet® (in Asia).

You can find aspartame in:

  • Diet sodas
  • Flavored waters
  • Sugar free desserts
  • Chewing gum
  • Sauces
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Chewable vitamins
  • Light or low-sugar juices
  • Dairy products
  • Ice cream and popsicles
  • Syrups and condiments
  • Low-calorie sweeteners
  • Prescription drugs

Aspartame has some disturbing health effects.

Aspartame May Cause Depression

The controversy surrounding aspartame's neurological effects began in the 1980s. People with a history of depression experienced severe reactions.

The National Institutes of Health followed hundred of thousands of Americans for a decade. They found that drinking sweetened beverages may increase depression risk among older adults.

A study compared people on a high or low aspartame diet. According to the FDA, 50mg of aspartame a day is safe. The high aspartame group had 25 mg of the sweetener.

depressed person

Aspartame may cause depression

However, the participants in that group had more irritable moods and depression. They also performed worse on specific brain function tests.

Aspartame may cause headaches, insomnia, and seizures. The World Health Organization(IARC) classifies aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2B). The organization notes there is limited evidence for cancer in lab animals. 

The Group 2B classification is the third highest among the four levels. They use it when there is no convincing evidence for human cancer. Or when there is compelling evidence for cancer in lab animals, but not both.

Aspartame

Aspartame has few calories and no nutrients. It doesn't spike your blood glucose. Aspartame affects the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat. It may lead to headaches, insomnia, and seizures.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Aspartame exists in unhealthy processed food you shouldn't eat anyway.

Avoid

Red traffic light

Another artificial sweetener is neotame.

Neotame

Neotame is an artificial sweetener. It has a chemical structure similar to aspartame than other synthetic sweeteners. But it's more heat stable and used in cooking and baking.

Neotame resulted from a long-term research program by NutraSweet. The company wanted to create a new high-intensity sweetener with good taste. French scientists Claude Nofre and Jean-Marie Tinti worked with the company.

Neotame, a fine white powder, in a jar

Neotame is an artificial sweetener that has a chemical structure similar to aspartame, picture by  Goldenshimmer

They tinkered with aspartame and tested several chemicals. Later, the scientists selected the best-tasting one and called it neotame. Neotame is 7000 to 13 000 times sweeter than regular table sugar.

Like other artificial sweeteners, you only need a small amount to use it as a flavor enhancer. Neotame is less expensive than refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Neotame provides zero calories and has a sweet, sugar-like taste. It is functional in a wide array of beverages and foods. Manufacturers use it alone or blended with other sweeteners. 

You can find it in:

  • Puddings
  • Canned fruits
  • Jams
  • Syrups
  • Frozen desserts
  • Chewing gum
  • Gelatin mixes
  • Fruit juices
  • Jellies
  • Baked goods
  • Soft drinks

Neotame

Neotame is closely related to aspartame. It doesn't contain any nutrients or calories. Neotame doesn't spike your blood glucose.

Artifical sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Neotame exists in unhealthy processed food you shouldn't eat anyway.

Avoid

Red traffic light

The next sweetener on this list is saccharin.

Saccharin

Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners on the market. It's the original zero-calorie sweetener. It dates back to the 19th century. Researcher Constantine Fahlberg, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, discovered it in the 1870s. 

It wasn't until the 60s and 70s that saccharin became famous as a sugar replacement. Saccharin comes from a laboratory. You create it by oxidizing the chemicals o-toluene sulfonamide or phthalic anhydride. Saccharin looks like white powder.

Both saccharin and sugar provide a sweet taste. However, saccharin is 200–700 times sweeter than sugar. Saccharin is calorie-free, while sugar provides four calories per gram. 

Humans can't break down saccharin, so it leaves your body unchanged. Saccharin has an unpleasant, bitter aftertaste. Therefore, manufacturers often mix it with other low or zero-calorie sweeteners.

Historical wrapping of saccharin in a box

Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners on the market and dates back to the 19th century

Food manufacturers use it to sweeten foods and beverages. They use saccharin because it's stable and has a long shelf life.

You can find saccharin in low-calorie candies, jams, jellies, and cookies. Some medicines also use it. You can find saccharin under brands such as Equal® Saccharin, Sugar Twin ®, and Sweet'N Low®.

For a time, the FDA banned the sweetener and all products containing it. In 2000, the National Institutes of Health lifted the ban.

The organization also removed the warning label from all saccharin products sold in the U.S. Researchers still don't rule out saccharin's possible cancer-causing effects. 

Saccharin

When we consume saccharin, our bodies don't break it down or use it for energy. Instead, saccharin passes through the body unchanged, providing no calories.

It doesn't contain any nutrients or calories. Saccharin doesn't spike your blood glucose. 

Artifical sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Avoid

Red traffic light

Sucralose is the next sweetener I'm going to discuss.

Sucralose

Sucralose is a no-calorie artificial sweetener. Like other no-calorie sweeteners, sucralose is intensely sweet. It is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. 

Sucralose begins with regular table sugar (sucrose). However, sucralose is not sugar. You replace three hydroxyl groups with three chlorine atoms. Sucralose's structure prevents enzymes in the digestive tract from breaking it down.

The FDA allows sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener. It means you can use it as an ingredient in any food or beverage. Sucralose stays stable under a wide range of conditions. 

Splenda logo

The most common sucralose brand in the U.S. is Splenda® Original

You can find it in frozen foods like ice cream, desserts, or baked goods. Sucralose is common in both cooking and baking. It's also added to thousands of food products worldwide. Sucralose is also in tabletop sweeteners. 

There are many brands of sucralose-based tabletop sweeteners. The most common brand in the U.S. is Splenda® Original.

The body can't absorb more than 85% of consumed sucralose. It doesn't break down the small amount that it absorbs. Thus, sucralose does not provide any calories. Your body excretes absorbed sucralose in the urine.

Sucralose

When we consume sucralose, our bodies don't break it down or use it for energy. Instead, sucralose passes through the body unchanged, providing no calories. 

It doesn't contain any nutrients or calories. Sucralose doesn't spike your blood glucose. 

Artifical sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Avoid

Red traffic light

Advantame is another artificial sweetener you should avoid.

Advantame

Advantame is the newest and sweetest artificial sweetener on the block. It's 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. The FDA approved it in May 2014.

Advantame came from the Japanese food and biotech company Ajinomoto's research project. The company wanted to find a high-intensity sweetener tasting like sugar.

Advantame is a close relative to aspartame, another unhealthy sweetener. It has similar taste and properties as aspartame.

Advantame website

The company Ajinomoto invented advantame

Advantame has the e-number E969. It comes from aspartame and vanillin. Vanillin is a synthetic version of vanilla. It comes from lignin or guaiacol, both extracted from wood.

Advantame has similar taste and properties as aspartame. Because advantame is heat stable, manufacturers use it in cooking and baking.

You can find it in:

  • Soft drinks
  • Chewing gum
  • Frostings
  • Gelatins
  • Jams and jellies
  • Fruit juices
  • Syrups
  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Frozen desserts
  • Puddings
  • Processed fruits
  • Toppings

Advantame

Advantame contains no calories, nutrients, and doesn't raise your blood sugar. It has similar taste and properties as aspartame, an unhealthy sweetener.

Artifical sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Avoid

Red traffic light

Cyclamate is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners. Find out more next.

Cyclamate

Cyclamate is the second oldest artificial sweetener invented, after saccharin. In 1939, Dr. Sveda, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, took a smoking break in the laboratory. 

He discovered that the cigarette tasted sweet. Later, he examined bottles and cans in the lab until he found the source. When Dr. Sveda worked for DuPont, the company got a patent on cyclamate. They wanted to use cyclamate to hide the bitter taste in antibiotics and sleeping pills. 

Dupont logo

DuPont got patents for cyclamate

The United States approved cyclamate as a sweetener in 1951. But the FDA later banned it in 1970. Animal studies suggested that cyclamate caused cancer. However, Canada, Europe, and other countries still permit it.

Cyclamate is a calorie-free sweetener, 30 times sweeter than sugar. It doesn't raise your blood sugar. Cyclamate is stable, has a long shelf life, and can withstand heat. It has the e-number E952.

Cyclamates refer to salts of cyclamic acid (cyclohexylsulfamic acid). 

You can find it in:

  • Table-top sweeteners
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cakes
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts
  • Chewing gum 
  • Salad dressings
  • Soft drinks
  • Dairy products
  • Baked products
  • Preserved vegetables
  • Jams and jellies
  • Candies

Cyclamate

Cyclamate contains no calories, nutrients, and doesn't raise your blood sugar. It has no benefit to the body and is artificial. The U.S. has already banned it for its cancer risk.

Artifical sweeteners affect the brain and may cause depression or make us overeat.

Both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. The World Health Organization recommends against non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). 

Avoid

Red traffic light

The last category of sweeteners is sugar alcohol.

Should You Consume Sugar Alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate and have a chemical structure that's like sugar. They are also known as polyols. Sugar alcohols are hybrids of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules.

They occur naturally in some foods. But most sugar alcohols found in packaged foods are manmade and manufactured. Food manufacturers use these sugar alcohols to sweeten their products while reducing calories.

Fruits and berries

Some sugar alcohols come from fruits and vegetables

Sugar alcohols stimulate the tongue's sweet taste buds. They add flavor without extra sugar or calories.

Some sugar alcohols come from fruits and vegetables. Unlike sugar, which has about four calories per gram, sugar alcohols have over 2. 

They taste almost as sweet as sugar with almost half the calories. Unlike regular sugar, sugar alcohols don't cause sudden blood sugar spikes.

Sugar alcohols don't cause dental diseases.

Sugar Alcohols Can Prevent Dental Plaque But Cause Stomach Problems

Sugar alcohols don't react to dental plaque like sugar, so they don't contribute to tooth decay. You may see xylitol as an ingredient in your toothpaste. It helps make it taste better while it's cleaning your teeth.

Your body can't absorb or fully digest sugar alcohols. It can lead to unpleasant stomach problems soon after eating them. Sugar alcohols linger in your intestines and ferment, leading to diarrhea.

A woman experiencing stomach ache

Sugar alcohols may lead to stomach problems and diarrhea if you overconsume them

In a 2006 British study, researchers gave participants either sugar or sugar alcohol. Participants who took xylitol reported bloating, gas, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

Erythritol appeared to have milder effects on the stomach. It only increases nausea and gas when consumed in large doses. 

Sugar alcohols such as xylitol can be okay in small amounts. But if you consume too much, you can get diarrhea. They don't provide you with any nutrients.

The first sugar alcohol I'm going to mention is sorbitol.

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a type of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol or polyol. They are water-soluble compounds that occur in many fruits and vegetables. 

Sugar alcohols develop in various plants as a result of photosynthesis. Sorbitol exists in berries like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. It's also part of apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, peaches, and plums.

Close-up of a bearded man's mouth blowing a chewing gum

Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol are common in sugar-free chewing gum

Sorbitol helps preserve moisture, add sweetness, and provide texture to products. It also supports oral health. Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol are common in sugar-free chewing gum.

Like most sugar alcohols, sorbitol is neither as sweet nor calorie-dense as sugar. Sorbitol is about 60% as sweet as sugar and has about 35% fewer calories per gram. Sorbitol consumption helps lower blood glucose levels.

The small intestine doesn't absorb sorbitol well, so the remaining sorbitol ferments in the large intestine. Fermentation of sorbitol in the large intestine can create bloating, gas, and diarrhea. There are no formal recommendations for sorbitol intake.

Sorbitol

The small intestine doesn't absorb sorbitol well, so the remaining sorbitol ferments in the large intestine. Therefore sorbitol doesn't provide you with nutrients.

Fermentation of sorbitol in the large intestine can create bloating, gas, and diarrhea. There are no formal recommendations for sorbitol intake.

Sugar alcohols like sorbitol don’t contribute to the formation of cavities.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

Another familiar sugar alcohol is xylitol.

Xylitol

Xylitol is another sugar alcohol or polyol. They are water-soluble compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers make xylitol from birch bark and corn. The FDA approved it in 1963.

The name xylitol comes from the word "xylose" or "wood sugar" because it came first from birch trees. It has a cooling sensation in the mouth when consumed. 

A toothbrush with toothpaste

You can find xylitol in breath mints, mouthwash, and toothpaste

Xylitol has a chemical structure like sugar but has fewer calories. Sugar has about four calories per gram, and xylitol has just 2.4.

Although it's lower in calories, xylitol is equal to the sweetness of sugar. This property makes xylitol unique because most sugar alcohols are not as sweet as sugar.

Xylitol stops the growth of oral bacteria in plaque and saliva. It's popular in sugar-free chewing gum. You can find it in breath mints, mouthwash, and toothpaste.

Xylitol

Unlike sugar, the small intestine doesn't fully absorb xylitol. Therefore, it doesn't spike your blood sugar level and is helpful for people with diabetes.

Bacteria in the large intestine ferment any unabsorbed xylitol. Therefore, overconsumption of xylitol can produce abdominal gas and diarrhea.

Like other sugar alcohols, xylitol contains no vitamins, minerals, or protein. Therefore, it provides only empty calories. Xylitol is okay in moderation. Don't overconsume.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

The following sugar alcohol comes from milk.

Lactitol

Lactitol or lactitol monohydrate is a sweetener that comes from cow's milk. Lactose makes milk sweet. Lactitol (beta-galactosido-sorbitol) is a crystalline sugar alcohol. 

It's a reduced-calorie sweetener with a sweetness of roughly 40% of sugar. Lactitol has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels.

Jars with milk

Lactitol or lactitol monohydrate come from cow's milk

You can find lactitol in ice cream, cookies, chocolates, and candies. It hides on food labels as E966. Baked goods, processed meals, and chewing gum are other sources of lactitol. Lactitol has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels. 

Lactitol

Lactitol is known to cause diarrhea when consuming more than 20 grams. It is indigestible in the small intestine and arrives untouched in the large intestine.

Some stores sell it as a laxative for constipation. Lactitol doesn't cause dental caries or spike your blood sugar level.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

Another sugar alcohol is mannitol.

Mannitol

Mannitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol. It is part of fresh mushrooms, algae, and the bark of the manna ash tree. Fruits and vegetables contain small quantities.

You can find mannitol in chocolate coatings, confections, and chewing gums. It keeps pieces of gum from sticking to its wrapping. 

Manna ash tree

Mannitol is part of fresh mushrooms, algae, and the bark of the manna ash tree, picture by Jean-Pol Grandmont

Mannitol has a high melting point and color retention at high temperatures. It's also useful as an anti-caking agent due to its minimal ability to absorb water.

Like most sugar alcohols, mannitol is neither as sweet nor as calorie–dense as sugar.

Mannitol

When eaten in excessive amounts, mannitol can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Mannitol is about half as sweet as sugar and has about 60% fewer calories per gram. Like xylitol, mannitol is good for oral health and doesn't spike blood sugar.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

Erythritol is the next sugar alcohol on this list.

Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol or polyol. It occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Producers create it by fermenting a simple sugar derived from corn called dextrose.

Erythritol is a zero-calorie sweetener that also helps foods retain moisture. Its lack of calories makes it unique among sugar alcohols. Most of them have around two calories per gram.

More than 60 countries approved erythritol. Japan was the first country to accept erythritol in foods in 1990.  

A man having a heart attack

A recent study showed that erythritol may increase heart problems, including heart attack and stroke

Like most sugar alcohols, erythritol is not as sweet as sugar. It's only about 60-80% as sweet. Erythritol has positive effects on oral health and blood sugar. 

You can find erythritol in: 

  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Chocolates
  • Beverages
  • Chewing gums
  • Tabletop sweetener packets

Erythritol

The body can't digest erythritol, so it does not provide calories. Sugar alcohols can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea in excessive amounts.

But erythritol is better tolerated than sorbitol or mannitol. Foods that contain erythritol do not need to carry that warning label.

A recent study showed that erythritol may increase heart problems, including heart attack and stroke. Therefore, you should avoid it for the time being.

Avoid

Red traffic light

The next sugar alcohol I'm going to talk about is maltitol.

Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol. It comes from starches that are rich in maltose. You can find it in food items such as: 

  • Baked goods
  • Sugar-free chocolates
  • Hard candies
  • Chewing gum
  • Chocolate coatings
  • Ice cream

Like most sugar alcohols, maltitol is neither as sweet nor as calorie–dense as sugar. Maltitol is about 90% as sweet as sugar and has almost half as many calories per gram.

A young woman enjoying chocolate at home kitchen

You can find maltitol in sugar-free chocolates or chocolate coatings

Maltitol has positive effects on oral health and blood sugar. But it still affects blood glucose.

Maltitol

Sugar alcohols tend to cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. But maltitol is better tolerated than other sugar alcohols.

Therefore, it doesn't need a warning on products that use it. But, high consumption of maltitol may have a laxative effect.

Maltitol, and other sugar alcohols, also don’t cause cavities or tooth decay. It still has a glycemic index. While not as high as sugar, it still has an effect on blood glucose.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

The last sweetener on this list is isomalt.

Isomalt

Isomalt is a sugar substitute made of sugar alcohol. It is sugar-free and lower in calories than white sugar. Isomalt sugar is best known when making sugar sculptures. You can also find it in sugar-free candy, chewing gum, baked goods, and chocolate. 

Isomalt has about half the sweetness of sugar and is lower in calories. It has a much higher resistance to crystallization and humidity than sugar. It keeps its clear color until it reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit(204C°).

A gingerbread house with decorations

Gemstones, windows for gingerbread houses, and glamorous sparkling mosaics use isomalt

It will not caramelize the way sugar does and won't take on a light brown to yellow color. This property makes it suitable for cakes with a transparent color.

Gemstones, windows for gingerbread houses, and glamorous sparkling mosaics use isomalt. You can sculpt or mold isomalt into pretty much any shape.

Isomalt is sticky and hard to remove when it's hot. It's not something you want to stick to your skin and can cause severe burns.

Like other sugar alcohols, the body's intestine cannot fully absorb it. Therefore, you may experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea if you eat a lot.

Isomalt

Isomalt is a low-calorie option compared to sugar. It has a low glycemic impact, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar levels. Isomalt will not damage teeth your teeth.

Like other sugar alcohols, the body's intestine cannot fully absorb isomalt. Therefore, you may experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea if you eat a lot.

Avoid or limit

Red and yellow traffic light

Summary

White sugar has empty calories and spikes your blood sugar.

Date sugar is the healthiest replacement for sugar, and blackstrap molasses is not far behind.

Date sugar consists of dehydrated dates ground to resemble granulated sugar.

Molasses comes from crushed sugarcane and contains nutrients.

White sugar comes from sugar canes or sugar beets.

Brown rice syrup comes from brown rice that you cook and expose to natural enzymes.

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch.

Honey is a thick golden liquid that bees make from the nectar of flowering plants.

Agave syrup comes from the agave plant, native to dry regions in Mexico.

Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener from barley.

Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees.

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener from the sap of coconut palm flowers.

Maltodextrin is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat.

Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo or Swingle fruit, is a small round fruit from southern China.

You create stevia sweeteners by extracting steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant.

Stevia products in grocery stores like Truvia and Stevia in the Raw don't contain whole stevia leaves.

Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie or calorie-free chemical substances used instead of sugar.

Acesulfame potassium is a no-calorie artificial sweetener used in foods and beverages.

Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that may cause depression and other health issues.

Neotame is an artificial sweetener that has a chemical structure similar to aspartame.

Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners on the market and dates back to the 19th century.

Sucralose is a no-calorie artificial sweetener.

Advantame is a no-calorie artificial sweetener that comes from aspartame and vanillin.

Cyclamate is the second oldest artificial sweetener invented, after saccharin. 

Sugar alcohols are hybrids of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules.

Sugar alcohols may lead to stomach problems and diarrhea if you overconsume them.

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol often found in dental products.

Lactitol or lactitol monohydrate is a sweetener that comes from cow's milk.

Mannitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol or polyol that may cause heart issues.

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that comes from starches that are rich in maltose.

Isomalt is a sugar substitute made of sugar alcohol, best known when making sugar sculptures.


How To Use The Healthiest Replacement For Sugar

1. Sweeten your food with fruits and berries

2. Avoid artificial sweeteners

3. Limit your use of sugar alcohols

4. Use healthy sweeteners like date sugar and molasses

Action Steps

Natural sugars are far better than artificial sweeteners or regular table sugar. A lot of fruits and berries are high in natural sugars. That makes things like mangoes, bananas, and pineapples taste sweet.

Your body doesn't process natural sugars as quickly as sugars or artificial sweeteners. Eating natural sugars doesn't give you that same rollercoaster effect.

Our body digests added sugars fast, so you don't feel full after eating them. Natural sugars have fiber, which fills up your stomach. You can enjoy them without lighting up your brain's centers, leaving you wanting more.

The best way to sweeten your food is by using fruits and berries. Add them to your porridge or smoothies. Or put lemon juice in your tea.

Avoid artificial sweeteners by not eating foods labeled as "low calorie," "no calories," "low sugar," and "no sugar added." It's a warning that they contain artificial sweeteners.

Even foods you may not think of as sweet can contain a lot of sugar or sugar alternatives. That includes foods like:

  • Salad dressings
  • Cheese
  • Jams
  • Juices
  • Yogurts
  • Pasta sauce
  • Crackers
  • Jellies
  • Nutritional bars

Most sugar alcohols can be okay in small amounts. But they may cause stomach issues if your overconsume them. If you need to use sweeteners, use date sugar or blackstrap molasses.

Date sugar is the healthiest replacement for sugar, and blackstrap molasses is not far behind. These sweeteners have some nutrients. 

Learn More About A Healthy Plant-Based Diet

Mixed vegetables

Read our free diet guide to discover how to eat a nutritious plant-based diet. Learn more about carbohydrates, protein, and fat.


Read our nutrition guide to learn how to eat a nutritious diet.

Resources:


About the author 

Simon Persson

Simon Persson is a holistic cancer blogger passionate about natural health remedies. When he is not blogging, he enjoys nature, cooking, sports, and learning about the latest gadgets on the market.

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