5 Natural sugar alternatives that may or may not be good for you

5 Natural sugar alternatives that may or may not be good for you

Sugar is one of those guilty pleasure for me. I LOVE sweets! Who doesn’t?! Most of us know that too much sugar and processed foods are bad for your health, but how bad is it really?

Sugar could possibly be one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet. Not only does it cause cavities and other major dental issues, it has been associated with many serious diseases, like diabetes, cancer and obesity.

About half of all American adults (about 117 million individuals) have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese. – Health.gov

According to the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day.  For women, the number is lower: 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day. Consider that one 12-ounce can of soda contains 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar! 

How sugar breaks down in your body

Certain foods can make your blood sugar levels spike elevate very fast. The more slowly digesteble carbs are like those in vegetables and whole grains. Carbohydrates such as refined sugars, bread, processed foods, potatoes and some pasta break down quickly and change into glucose. When you consume too much of the “quicker” carbohydrates, you can have a hard time controlling your blood sugar levels, resulting in possibly needing  insulin and diabetes medications to maintain them. The glycemic index helps us be able to monitor those levels.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

WebMd explains the Glycemic index as a number that gives you an idea about how fast your body converts the carbs in a food into glucose. Two foods with the same amount of carbohydrates can have different glycemic index numbers.

The smaller the number, the less impact the food has on your blood sugar.

  • 55 or less = Low (good)
  • 56- 69 = Medium
  • 70 or higher = High (bad)

After trying all of these forms of sugar alternatives, I have come to the point where I believe that when it comes to consuming sugars, moderation is the key. You be the judge.

Coconut sugar:

Coconut sugar is also sometimes called coconut palm sugar. It’s a natural sugar made from coconut palm sap. Coconut sugar looks brown sugar but the particles area a bit more granulated. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar, because it contains a fiber called inulin, which can slow down glucose absorption. It has a glycemic index (GI) of 35, refined sugar has a GI of 65-70. Although coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index, it is still high in frutose and has the same amount of calories as regular refined sugar.

I love the taste of coconut sugar, but I do find myself using a lot of it when I use it to bake, as if it were refined sugar. This alternative is probably my favorite to for taste.

Agave nectar:

Agave nectar is made from the agave plant. The sap from the plant is boiled make the nectar. The sugars in agave are also fermented to make tequila. Agave nectar is similar to honey is taste and it has a low GI of 10-19, depending on the product. Agave is a higher-calorie sweetener than table sugar. It contains 21 calories per teaspoon, compared with table sugar’s 16 calories per teaspoon. Agave nectar is low in glucose and doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as refined sugar. It does contain a lot of fructose, which can increase insulin resistance.

Maple syrup:

Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. When buying maple syrup, make sure to read food labels carefully (100% maple syrup not maple flavored syrup). The glycemic index of maple syrup is around 54. According to healthline.com, maple syrup contains a small amount of minerals, such as manganese and zinc. The high sugar content may affect your blood sugar levels — though maple syrup may be a better option than regular sugar in that regard. This implies that maple syrup raises blood sugar slower than regular sugar.

Honey:

Honey is thick, sweet nectar like liquid made by honeybees. Honey has a glycemic index of 45-65. According to heathline.com, It is low in vitamins and minerals but may be high in some plant compounds. It contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundance of beneficial antioxidants. Mayoclinic.com says honey actually has slightly more carbohydrates and more calories per teaspoon than does granulated sugar, so any calories and carbohydrates you save will be minimal.

Date sugar:

Date sugar is made from dehydrated, ground dates. Healthline.com says dates contain several vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber and antioxidants. However, they are high in calories since they are a dried fruit. Date sugar is not processed much, so it retains the nutritional benefits. It is also simular to brown sugar, as the coconut sugar is, but it is sweeter. The GI of date sugar is 46-55. The consumption of dates does not result in blood sugar spikes. Date sugar does not dissolve, so it can not be used in recipe like drinks.

In conclusion, the American heart association recommend men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day.  For women, the number is lower: 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day. Consider that one 12-ounce can of soda contains 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar. So choose your sugars wisely!