16 April 2013

Natural Healthy Substitutes for Sugar

Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet treat? Sugar is the one taste to which most of us take an instant liking. But how can you enjoy the benefits of sugar without the empty calories?

Sugar is a natural product. It is grown in nature and tastes good. The problem is that we eat too much of it. Sugar is added to everything. Our taste buds are dulling and we need more sugar to get the same effect that a little bit gave us in the beginning.

Sugar has no fat but it does contain a lot of calories. Adding sugar leads to empty calories being consumed. When that excess sugar is not needed by the body for fuel it is stored as fat. And, we all know what too much fat does to our bodies.

Instead of using pure cane sugar in your recipes and as a condiment, try a few sugar substitutes. Now, before you say anything, not all sugar substitutes are made for cooking and some have aftertaste. We will give you alternatives to those as well.

Stevia – This is a sugar substitute that grows from an herb. It is sweeter than table sugar so you don’t use as much. It also contains FOS, or fruit oligosaccharides. Using stevia helps aid in digestion by keeping the level of good bacteria in the intestine at an optimal level. Stevia is available in liquid, powder and tablet form.

Molasses – Blackstrap molasses is often used as a condiment and an ingredient in gingerbread and baked beans. But, its sweet taste makes it an excellent sugar substitute in porridge. Molasses contains many of the minerals that the body needs each day like iron and calcium. It is actually a byproduct of the sugar refining process.

Honey – This food is made by one of God’s creatures. Why shouldn’t we eat it? Honey comes from bees and gives us many health benefits: antibacterial, cleanser, and quiets coughs to name a couple. Honey is a natural sweetener that contains antioxidant substances. Try a little honey in your tea instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Agave nectar – This sweetener comes from plants in Mexico and Central America. The plants grow for many years and sap extracted to create the nectar or syrup. It has a low glycemic index meaning that using it won’t spike your blood sugar. It provides steady fuel and some say it tastes similar to honey. It's delicious on hot porridge. Found at your local health food shop.

Maple syrup – You put it on your pancakes, but how about in your hot cereal? It is made from the sap of the maple tree and tastes great. Even a teaspoon provides sufficient sweetness. Pure maple syrup can be used in baking too. Add it to biscuits, cakes and muffins to replace the sugar.

Sugar is not the only sweetener we can use when we want a taste of something good. Try these other natural substitutes to add that great taste to your tea, hot cereals and other food dishes.


  1. You forgot xylitol, which has the most sugar like sweetness on your list, and looks like it, to boot. I have yet to encounter a stevia that doesn't taste like saccharin (YUCK!) so it's not a product I would consider buying. I saw coconut palm sugar at the health food shop yesterday - at $20 a packet, it can stay there!

    Sugar substitutes are like milk substitutes. Sure, you can substitute them, but finding something with a similar flavour profile is nigh on impossible!!

    1. No, I didn't forget xylitol, I deliberately didn't include it as it has some quite horrible side effects and is toxic, even in the small amounts found in sugar free lollies and gum, to dogs.

      And it's not something I would consider buying and I don't buy products containing xylitol.

    2. What are the side affects you are aware of.

  2. My daughter and I have issues with fructose Malabsorption and are on a low fodmap diet. Finding alternatives to sugar is impossible. On your list the only option is maple syrup. The others are major problems. I have found it really difficult to come up with healthy snacks when you have to cut back fruit, wheat and range of veg! Sugar is a problem!

  3. Sugar is a problem.
    After eating sweet sugary food, I had a yukky taste in my mouth so I cut out sugar. Maple syrup on porridge is yummy, agave nectar in custards is OK but takes a little getting used to. I stew and freeze pots of Golden Delicious apples (I find them wonderfully sweet) and use in muffins, diabetic lemon butter, filo apple parcels and apple muffins when I need a sweet treat.
    I feel so much better and my blood sugar and BP are great. But when I do give into temptation and eat lollies, sugar based cakes and muffins that yukky taste returns.

  4. Dear Cath, can you tell me the downsides of Xylitol- I do tend to eat a lot of sugar free gum. Thankyou K

    1. Diarrhoea, headaches, it increases uric acid in the blood which in turn can cause kidney stones and to top it off according the manufacturer's own spiel it is considered toxic in doses larger than 15 grams. While it occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables and trees the xylitol used as a sugar substitute is manufactured and highly processed sugar.

      As I said above, it's not on my list of good things to eat.

  5. Diarrhoea is the most common and you'll find the warning of it listed on items containing Xylitol

  6. Stevia: the key is to use a just little, remembering that things we make do not need to be as sweet as commercial, processed food. Big supermarkets have a range of organic stevia in granulated form. Liquid and tablets in my opinion are indeed awful. Try no sweet things for a week then make your favourite recipe without sugar and with just a little stevia and see how you go.


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