Sugar is sugar! All sugar is a combination of fructose and glucose. The main difference between white sugar/sucrose/table sugar and some of the healthier sweeteners is that white sugar composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose with literally no nutrients.
Some healthier sweeteners on the other hand contain a different ratio of glucose and fructose, and also often also come with some additional vitamins, minerals or nutrients for extra health benefits. What else is great is that they are raw and unrefined, making them chemical free unlike white sugar.
However, sugar is not an essential nutrient to our body. In fact, there is also no recommendation daily intake (RDI) on how much sugar you should be eating everyday. And, there is simply nothing really “good” about sugar. Most of the time it is used more for taste, comfort and that once in a while indulgence.
There is a long list of reasons why you should be avoiding sugar. Too much sugar can interfere with your hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, it can get really addictive, it also harms your metabolism and is highly associated with insulin resistance, obesity, heart issues etc.
If you really want something to curb your sweet tooth, consider trying these 7 healthier sweetener alternatives below.
Glycemic Index (GI)
The glycemic index is the value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. The smaller the number, the less impact sugar has on your blood sugar. The GI value of table sugar is 100.
- 55 or less = Low (good)
- 56- 69 = Medium
- 70 or higher = High (bad)
My Top 7 Healthier Sweeteners:
Stevia is not a sugar, it is extracted from the leaves of plant called Stevia rebaudiana. It’s taste is 100-300 times sweeter than sugar, meaning you can use much lesser, and it has virtually no calories.
Main Components: stevioside, rebaudioside A
Glycemic Index: less than 1
Sweetness Index: 300
- Potentially helps to lower down blood pressure by 6-14%
- Can potentially lower blood sugar level
- May improve insulin sensitivity
- Reduces oxidised LDL cholesterol
- Safe for diabetics and anyone with yeast infection
- Has a strong aftertaste from the plant
- Doesn’t bake well
2. Unprocessed Honey
Sugary nectar made by bees, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood and also a traditional remedy that has been used since ancient times to treat common ailments. But like with many other sugars, it is high glycemic and harmful to teeth, so moderation is the key.
Main Components: 40% fructose, 30% glucose, pollen, minerals (magnesium, potassium), B vitamins, iron, enzymes
Glycemic Index: 15-30 (depends on the type of honey)
Sweetness Index: 1.1
- Excellent floral taste
- Antibacterial and antiseptic
- An effective immune system booster
- A natural cough suppressant
- Promotes wound healing
- Natural and unrefined with zero chemical involved during the process of production
- 1 tablespoon contains 64 calories, best used in small amounts
- Not suitable for infants younger than 12 months
- Once you cooked it, the heat will reduce its healing properties
- You need to be careful and make sure you only get pure unprocessed honey witth no added sugar, chemicals and preservatives
3. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is made from the flower blossom of the coconut tree. The nectar is collected and boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugar. Unlike other forms of sugar production, chemicals are not used to modify or extract the sugar. Coconut sugar is popular as it is mostly produced in a natural and eco-friendly way and is a sustainable form of agriculture. It also has lower glycemic index than honey and is high in a lot of nutrients.
Main Components: Mainly sucrose, with smaller quantities of glucose and fructose. It also has minerals and vitamins.
Glycemic Index: 35 (low GI)
- Lovely flavour, goes well with almost everything.
- Great for baking and cooking
- Very natural form of sugar — unrefined and with zero chemicals involved during the process of production
- Sustainable form of agriculture
- Same number of calories as table sugar, use in moderation
4. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is made from cane sugar, and is the goodness leftover after the refining process. Technically speaking, it is a byproduct of processing sugar cane, but blackstrap molasses is the syrup produced after the third boiling. It is very thick, dark in color and has a bitter taste.
Main Components: Contains roughly 38% sucrose, 9% glucose, 11% fructose, rich vitamin B, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and is alkalising to the body.
Glycemic Index: 55
Sweetness Index: 0.8
- Because of its high mineral profile, it is also used to support people who are anaemic or nutrient deficient
- Contains phenolic polysaccharides which are potentially beneficial to the immune system and may have an anti-tumour effect
- Great for gingerbread
- Very strong flavour so may not suitable for all recipes
- Can be harmful to teeth and calorie rich, so moderation is the key
5. Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is considered to be one of the healthiest sweeteners in the natural food industry. Barley malt is made by soaking and sprouting barley to make malt, then combining it with more barley and cooking the mixture until the starch is converted to sugar.
Main Components: 60% maltose, good source of fibre, mineral and vitamins.
Glycemic Index: 45
Sweetness Index: 0.5
- Natural product that does not contain any chemicals
- Contains fibre and is also useful to treat constipation and promote healthy bowel movement
- Pleasant taste, great to use in the food (can be used like honey)
- Too much may cause diarrhoea or loose stool, use in moderation
- It is expensive to use
6. Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo)
Luo Han Guo is one of the most exciting new sweeteners with health properties to have become popular in the last few years. The plant is native to the China's Guangxi province and is known as Monk Fruit in the West.
Known in China for about 800 years, Luo Han Guo has also been used for its medicinal purposes. It contains important antioxidants, has no calories, zero glycemic index and is suitable for diabetics. It is also heat stable and therefore great for cooking and baking.
Main Components: Mogrosides
Glycemic Index: 0
Sweetness Index: 300 times sweeter than sugar
- Long history, has been used in China for hundreds of years
- Good clean taste, without the bitter after taste like Stevia
- Blends well with many ingredients
- Great for baking and cooking
- Natural production process
- Sustainable form of agriculture
7. Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka)
Palm sugar is made from the flower blossom of the palm trees (date palm, Indian sago palm or palmyra palm, sugar palm). The nectar is collected and boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugar. The appearance is usually from light brown to a much darker colour, depending on the source. It also has a very pleasant caramel flavour and contains a lot more minerals and vitamins than ordinary sugar cane. It is also a natural product that doesn’t require any chemicals during its production process.
Main Components: Mainly sucrose and low in fructose
Glycemic Index: 50
Sweetness Index: 1
- Tastes very pleasant and is a natural, unrefined sweetener
- Good source of minerals and vitamins
- Suitable for making desserts and baking
- Like ordinary sugar, it can contribute to tooth decay and obesity
- Not suitable for diabetics as it has a slightly higher glycemic index, close to ordinary sugar
|Calories/gram||Sweetness index||Glycemic index||Calories/per teaspoon|
|Barley Malt Syrup||4||0.5||45||30|
|Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo)||0||300||0||0|
|Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka)||4||1||50||16|
Whether a sweetener (other than stevia) is organic or natural, it is still be sugar. So remember, the key is always moderation!