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Natural Sweeteners to Replace Sugar

Recently, we have seen a lot of articles and posts on different types of sweeteners, but it can all get a little overwhelming…or at the very least, confusing.  I personally believe that the more natural (meaning less processed) the sweetener is, the better it is. The term ‘processed’ tends to create some controversy.  So let me explain: Some people believe that if the food isn’t found in nature, and isn’t untouched or derived by humans, it is processed.  Others believe if the product has been slightly cooked, it isn’t completely raw and as a result, it is processed.  Others believe that a small amount of processing to create the food is ‘okay.’  Personally, I believe the less processed the food is, the better, but I am also realistic that a lot of the foods we eat, to some degree, have been processed (E.g., frozen berries are picked, flash frozen and then packaged, ultimately, being lightly processed).

When it comes to sweeteners, I prefer to stay clear of anything that is chemically derived in a lab (E.g., aspartame, splenda, saccharin, etc.) . I avoid using table sugar when possible and avoid any foods containing high fructose corn syrup.  I get most of my ‘sugar’ from whole fruit and milk products.  Although I indulge in organic dark chocolate to curb my sweet tooth cravings, I tend not to have a lot of sugar in my diet.  That said, we are human, and sweet foods do make up part of our life.  As a result, I’ve put together a brief list of some natural sweeteners to consider as substitutes for plain old sugar.

Sweetener

What it Is

Considerations

Agave nectar The agave (uh-gah-vay) plant comes from Mexico. Its fleshy leaves cover the pineapple-shaped heart of the plant, which contains a sweet sticky juice called Agave Nectar. Benefits: It has a low glycemic level and is a safe alternative to table sugar. Unlike the crystalline form of fructose, which is refined primarily from corn, agave syrup is fructose in its natural form. This nectar does not contain processing chemicals. Even better, because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed in your recipes. It can be most useful for people who are diabetic, have insulin resistance (Syndrome X), or are simply watching their carbohydrate intake.
Fructose A natural low-glycemic sugar that’s found in fruit. You can also find it in granulated form at health-food stores. Fructose is sweeter than regular table sugar, so you need less. Concerns: Research indicates that ingesting lots of fructose, especially in processed form (sodas and beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup), can elevate the lipids that increase heart disease. As a result, consume fructose in moderation and in its most natural form (fruit) whenever possible.
Honey Sweet syrupy fluid made by bees from the nectar collected from flowers and stored in nests or hives as food. It is composed of fructose and glucos.  Good types include red clover honey, or orange blossom honey. Benefits: Honey tends to be low-glycemic. You can comfortably use this to sweeten your beverages.

Concerns: Both are high-caloric and high-carbohydrate, so use sparingly.

Stevia FOS Stevia is a very sweet herb from South America that’s available in powder and liquid form at health-food stores. Benefits: FOS are fruit ogiliosaccharides, which are beneficial for and support healthy intestinal bacteria, or flora. Stevia with FOS is a nonnutritive powder found at health-food stores or in the health-food section of your grocery store.

Concerns: Stevia is very potent, so use sparingly (A couple sprinkles can be equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar).

BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION Now!

Have you used any of the above?  Can you add any other natural sweeteners to the list?

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    Posted in Brett's Blog, Eco-Living, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , , ,
    • Bambiluv

      Xylitol is another sweetener that is supposed to be healthier and also good for the teeth and bones. I’ve heard that it is made from either the bark of birch trees or ground up corn cobs and that the ground up corn cobs require less chemical processing. Although is is somewhat expensive, if you try to limit your sugar intake a container can last awhile. As far as taste goes it is hard to tell whether you’ve used sugar or xylitol. There is also a note on the containers that I’ve bought that say using too much, until your body gets used to it, can cause diarrhea. I’ve never had any problems with it in that area, but I also just used a tablespoon here and there and eventually ended up using it for baking and did fine.

    • Judy Binder

      I buy Xylitol from a health food store. The package says “Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally present in small amounts in various fruits and vegetables. (NOW is the brand name) NOW Xylitol is derived from a corn source, has 1/3 fewer calories than sugar, great alternative for diabetics, may also inhibit cavities…”

      I use it in place of sugar in equal amounts. I read a book about it that said it was safe, was low-glycemic and a good alternative for diabetics. It is expensive, $14.00 for 3 lbs, but I do not bake often, and use honey for beverages. I do use it to sweeten fruit salads when needed.

      I like it because you can use it in place of sugar in equal amounts (I always put less than recipe calls for as most are overly sweet).

      IS XYLITOL A SAFE AND GOOD ALTERNATIVE FOR WHITE SUGAR? Please advise.

    • Diane Pinkers

      Please be very careful with xylitol around your pets. Dogs have been sent to the emergency room with extreme hypoglycemia from eating xylitol. Yes, Hypoglycemia. Humans absorb xylitol slowly, but in dogs it is processed much more rapidly, leading to high amounts of insulin being released. Xylitol has been known to cause liver failure, bleeding and death in dogs. As a veterinarian, I have seen cases of it with dogs being fed sugar-free candy. It is not a benign product for our 4-footed friends.

    • http://www.sheerbalance.com Brett Blumenthal

      Diane, Thank you so much for alerting us to this fact. As an animal lover, I wouldn’t imagine giving my dog candy, but, it is definitely good to know that xylitol is not their friend. THanks for sharing!

    • jennifer wallisch

      A molecular chemist friend of mine says that the fears associated with using SPLENDA are overblown because of the product’s chemical compound, which is derived from sugar, being processed. But I’ve also heard that people are gaining more weight using arificial sweeteners. Any thoughts anyone?

    • http://www.sheerbalance.com Brett Blumenthal
    • Andi Lepinski

      I use sucanet to replace white sugar and brown sugar. It is made from dehydrated sugar cane juice and is SO good!

    • Rena Katz

      How about maple syrup & brown rice syrup? Those are both delicious. I had HORRID diarrhea from too much xylitol. THAT was a learning expereince! And I tried Truvia-still has the bitter aftertaste of stevia, even though it says it doesn’t.

    • Rena Katz

      Forgot to say- Agave nectar is a yummy product, very costly, but worth it as a treat.

    • Evan Way

      It sounds like the Perfect Foods Bar is the solution to all these inquiries, hence the name. It is not everywhere in the country but it is a fast growing bar company right now. It is a raw whole food bar that is kept in the refrigerator and you can find them in whole foods, henry’s, and a lot of other places. But they use raw organic honey to sweeten their bar and are soy and gluten free, as well as have 18g of protein. So many other good things in it too, but the taste is amazing, I reccomend everyone should check it out,, http://www.perfectfoodsbar.com you’ll never go back to any of these other bars.

    • Kimmy3771

      I have tried several products containing xylitol, and have to avoid it as I experienced an allergic reaction similar to aspertame or MSG.
      My family loves Stevia in our tea and coffee, especially the strongly flavored blends.
      Be cautious about which brands of Agave Nectar you buy. Independant tests have shown that some companies will blend it with corn syrup to make it go further, and many do not tell you this.
      Personally, I stick to honey, organic sugars, molassis, and brown rice syrup.
      I like the Grandma rule of thumb. Mine would not have recognized a lot of what is on the market today.

    • L

      http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Sucralose-safety-scientifically-sound-Expert-panel

      The Duke study that you referenced about the negative effects of Splenda was refuted.

    • http://onFacebookandTwitter Christine M Nava

      Other than Central and South Americans, who’ve been using Stevia for centuries, the Japanese, among others, have been using Stevia as their main sweetener for over 70 years. Also, there are those who state that Stevia lowers blood pressure, which, of course, is good if your blood pressure is high, but requires concern if you’re taking blood pressure medications. So, if you’re on blood pressure medication, check with your doctor before using Stevia in excess as you don’t want your blood pressure to go too low, for we all know what that means!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been using Stevia for about 10 years, now, and have had wonderful blood pressure. However, one time, when I was on a diet, my blood pressure went too low, causing me to have a case of vertigo, preceded by cold chills. Vertigo is not just any kind of dizziness or blackout. It’s a forced dizziness that feels like you’re heads spinning at the rate that the EArth spins, and, like a tremendous force is pushing the back of your head to the floor. You are alert the whole time, and, you have no choice but to give in and fall to the ground. Luckily, my thinking ability allowed me to move away from the radiator! A couple seconds later, you’re fine, unless, of course, you hurt yourself. I blamed this vertigo attack on the diet I was on, but, the Stevia probably contributed to lowering my blood pressure, too. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way, but never had to go through this experience again!
      So, by all means, try the Stevia. Be careful as some Stevia companies have a poor product, while others are putting in Sucralose (Splenda), aspartame, or saccaharrin in it, all of which can cause major health problems. My favorite STevia is the powder form by NOW.

    • http://www.TheReturnOfTheReal.US DUANE THE GREAT WRITER

      Hello Miss Brett, good for you and what courage you are showing. I have been into a healthy diet all my life, along with many adventures. I always love seeing those who will go right to the heart of this important health issue that involves all of us. I am sure we will meet on the playing field someday…Have Fun!

      Duane Heppner
      Huntington Beach, Ca
      714-849-3822

    • Don Armstrong

      As a person that has severe troubles with High Fructose Corn Syrup I can add several things. I also have a problem with Nightshades / Beladonna. It turns out that many of the European foods use Fructalose which after research is in fact derived from Potato starch just like Vitamin A palmite and the cheap Vitamin D3. Both of those vitamins make me very sick but Vitamin A Beta Carotien and Vitamin D from Fish oil have no effect on me. For a lot of my sweetening needs I use “REAL” Maple sugar and “TRUE” Maple syrup. Living in New Hampshire I can get it easily but it turns out that one of the biggest wholesale processors in the world is here and on a weekly basis they ship truck loads via container ships to Japan where the Japanese are heavy users because it is all natural and appears to have little effect upon those with type II diabetes.

    • http://itshrunk.com/cd4340 patricia

      I was very pleased to find this article. I will post on my FB for my friends to see.

    • Tim414

      Be careful with Xylitol if you have dogs or cats. It can be deadly to pets. I will not have the stuff in my house.

    • Kathy

      I used truvia and thought it was great. Also, the SoBe lifewater drinks which say 0 calories have purvia in them. Well, being diabetic I was horrified as it raised my blood sugar as bad as white sugar. I don’t understand but a Sobe with 0 calories has 5 carbs in 8 ounces. I was drinking a couple bottles a day thinking I was doing good. It was a shock. I am gonna try the agave nectar.

    • athene

      Oh, I love this… as though just because something is natural, it’s good for you. Not so. Hemlock, anyone? A little nightshade? These are also natural. Deadly, but natural!

      You might want to look into why stevia cannot be used as a food additive in the US, Europe, and other places before recommending it. Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe.

    • nparrigin

      I am a new diabetic, I have tryed all the sweeteners, except truvia,which I have purchased but not used yet,I do have high blood pressure controled by meds.
      Unfortunatly, I love a good soda now and then, my favorite is Coke Zero,but I have done some research and found that it contains the sweeteners that are the very worst for a body, I too tryed the Life Water and found that it raised my glucose levels,I guess I will have to learn more about what works for me!
      Thanks for the info, very helpful!

    • carolyn

      I have an intolerance to cane sugar. My face turns red when I have honey. The stevia, truvia and all those things did not taste right to me. So I decided to replace the sugar in my coffee…with nothing. No sugar, no fake sweeteners, no “natural” sweeteners – nothing. It took some getting used to – but it tastes fine now. Also, having a wheat intolerance keeps me away from most baked goods. And having a lactose intolerance keeps me away from ice cream. If I want sweets – I have fruit. Berries with yogurt has become a huge treat. It also made me realize – when I go out – how many people think eating all that fat and sugar is a pleasure. It clogs up your arteries and makes you fat – someone please explain to me why that is a COMFORT!

    • James

      I use coconut sugar as well as coconut flour to replace the grain flour and unnatural sweetners. These are great alternatives for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

    • Laura Foster

      Please go easy on the Agave….In its natural form, it in NOT sweet. It needs to be hydrolyed with enzymes to break down the inulin, creating a sweet syrup. The end result is a syrup that is up to 95 % fructose….one of the highest of any man made fructose products. Reading the concerns for fructose, it’s clear that this is a product that needs to be avoided completely.

    • kevin

      Hi. I currently live in Fort Mitchell Alabama and we grow stevia in our garden. Dry it out and put it in a jar, then you can steep it in your tea or coffee (put it in a steeper of your choice). Takes a little getting used to. You can go 50-50 honey to build up getting used to it. It does taste better than other substitutes, but it does have a similar taste though.

    • Sarah

      I recently tried agave nectar when I was at UCSC visiting friends. I have to say that it is very good, but I think that I will stick to my honey. Since I bake a lot, I have figured out that to substitute honey for sugar, you need just 3/4 the amount of honey than the recipe calls for sugar. Although, sometimes I do use regular sugar and add just a touch of honey to make the food taste more natural and organic (in the way that you move is natural and organic and it seems that it needs to be there). Another thing that I learned about honey is that if you eat the local stuff it can help combat allergies to local allergens like pollens. I used to eat the local honey when I lived in Brentwood, Ca, but not that I live in San Mateo, there is no local honey, so I don’t eat any… the lack of local honey definitely doesn’t help my allergies AT ALL…

    • http://sheerbalance sharyn

      thanks for the info “james”about coconut sugar.according to Dr.OZ D-Ribose is good;don’t know yet about taste,but ordered some from health food store.

    • http://sheerbalance sharyn

      i’m back;forgot to mention that stevia can cause dna/genetic mutations!!! the people in south american countries use it in very modest amounts.usa people tend to overdue it when it comes to sweetners. so please use in moderation!!! I opted to not use stevia because of this,I’m one of those usa people.

    • Carol

      I like sugar. It is natural and if consumed in quantities that are not huge, you’ll live a long happy life! Same with butter. Totally natural ingredient! God blessed us with both, and I’m sure he knew what he was doing!

    • Eileen

      I just realized all the crap we all have been eating, drinking, or smearing all over our bodies,or into our stomach.

      G-d help us. I think we all need to boycott all of it!
      they will have to provide better food.

      better yet! eat from the ground. I am now 71 and farming, stivia.
      everything in moderation.
      love yourself, then prove it to yourself. GET OFF THE SHIT!

    • CommonSenseDavid

      Hi – Agave Nectar is not a man-made fructose, as Laura states. It is a FOS (fruit ogiliosaccharide) which is different from synthetic fructose. Many agave nectars are minimally processed in the authentic thermic process (meaning no enzymes or chemicals used). Agave Nectar is getting a bad rap from a few quack science doctors who don’t tell the truth – they have alterior motives to bash agave. Mostly, they gain more attention (web traffic), enabling them to sell more of their products. I know a great deal about agave nectar, because I have seen the process first-hand. It is really a minimal process to heat the agave, pretty much the same as maple syrup. Of course, agave nectar is a sweetener – and should be enjoyed in moderation – as I use it in my coffee and in baking. Use your common sense – agave nectar is really a fantastic sweetener, and natural fructose, as in raisins, prunes, and apples, is not bad for you in moderation.

    • http://applecorewandsciences.com Vincent Cordova

      I was blown away when I spent some time reading all the Ingredients list. I am going to change my eating skills and maybe I will have a few extra days to be added to my life span. Thanks so much for this material you have provided. You have changed my out look on foods dramatically!!!!

    • Des

      WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE??

      THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SUGAR AND
      SUGAR DOESN’T NEED REPLACING!!!

      (unless you have allergy, diabetest etc)

      We go round and round in circles drying to bend this world so we can satisfy our glutton mentality. But it’s our mentality that needs to change, SIMPLY EAT LESS!!
      In that case you can eat whatever you want OF THE NATURAL THINGS (yes, Butter, cheese FULL cheese, etc)(and I don’t mean unnatural triple fat milk wtf is that anyway?!? Cows don’t do that!)
      NATURAL PRODUCTS ARE MORE SATISFYING AND WILL KEEP YOU SATISFIED FOR LONGER than those fake foods or unripe vegetables they sell us.

      SUGAR ADDICTION doesn’t exist…..it’s a mentality, JUST STOP EATING IT!

      Eat when you are hungry, DONT eat when you are not.
      Eat only so much that 1/3 of the stomach is filled with food
      so that you can fill the other 1/3 with water (drink)
      and then have the last 1/3 left so you can breath easy.
      VOILA AND LIFE IS GOOD!

      • Brett

        Des, with all due respect, too much added sugar in our diet is bad. I agree, people should be eating less…that is the real answer, but unfortunately, people either need to ween themselves off or need to find something that replaces their craving. You may not be addicted to sugar, but there are people out there who are…it is just the basic truth.

    • suejkw

      Honey is a natural sugar & is much better then processed sugar.Margarine is one molecule away from being a plastic.Would you eat plastic? Butter is natural & is NOT artificial.Isn’t it better to eat natural things instead of artificial things?

    • Steve Ferree

      Taste changes by the volume you get used to (especially for sweet and salt). Lots of sweets in your diet will change your sense of taste, making most foods “need sugar.” If you reduce your sugar intake, over several months, natural foods will taste much better, and most processed foods begin to taste like the crap they really are.

      Sugar shortcuts your body’s energy production. If you want to better energy, cut out the sugars! I was training for a mini-marathon and could not run more than 8 miles (without a snack) until I dropped out sugar, after which my endurance doubled. I was applying advice from “Eat to Win” (Haas).

      But the human body is an ingenious mechanism, and has tuned itself for the various areas of Earth and the foods available. In the U.S. we’ve severely mixed this all up — everyone has different macronutrient requirements. The complexity of carbs, types of fats, and forms of protein that can be tolerated by one person is not the same as that of another. And sugar has never been consumed at the levels being eaten today.
      Check out “The Metabolic Typing Diet” (Wollcot/Fahey) and “The Ultramind Solution” (Dr. Mark Hyman).

    • Stacy

      Xylitol is widely used in Finland, its “home country.” Many Finnish confectioneries employ xylitol, or have a xylitol version available. Virtually all chewing gum sold in Finland is sweetened with xylitol. Specific brands of sugarfree gum containing xylitol include Zapp, Stride, Orbit, and Trident.

      Possessing approximately 40% less food energy, xylitol is a low-calorie alternative to table sugar. Absorbed more slowly than sugar, it does not contribute to high blood sugar levels or the resulting hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin response.

      Studies have shown that xylitol chewing gum can help prevent ear infections; the act of chewing and swallowing assists with the disposal of earwax and clearing the middle ear, whilst the presence of xylitol prevents the growth of bacteria in the eustachian tubes which connect the nose and ear.

      Xylitol also has potential as a treatment for osteoporosis. A group of Finnish researchers has found that dietary xylitol prevents weakening of bones in laboratory rats, and actually improves bone density.

      Xylitol is a “tooth-friendly,” non-fermentable sugar alcohol. A systematic review study on the efficacy of xylitol has indicated dental health benefits in caries prevention, showing superior performance to other polyols (poly-alcohols). Early studies from Finland in the 1970s found that a group chewing sucrose gum had 2.92 decayed, missing, or filled (dmf) teeth compared to 1.04 in the group chewing xylitol gums. In another study, researchers had mothers chew xylitol gum when their children were 3 months old until they were 2 years old. The researchers found that the mothers in the xylitol group had “a 70% reduction in cavities.” Recent research confirms a plaque-reducing effect and suggests that the compound, having some chemical properties similar to sucrose, attracts and then “starves” harmful micro-organisms, allowing the mouth to remineralize damaged teeth with less interruption.

      Xylitol is not only safe for pregnant and nursing women, but studies show that regular use significantly reduces the probability of transmitting the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is responsible for tooth decay, from mother to child during the first two years of life by as much as 80%.

      Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans.

    • joe the electrician

      When the British found cane sugar in Cuba, they thought it was the miracle cheap food to feed their livestock. Plantations harvested, and refined the Cane into the white sugar as we know it today. What they found out was that the livestock all developed malnutrcian and died!
      Of course the sail boats bringing the sugar cargo had to cross the ocean, and we all know how dangerous it was back then. eventually one ship had foundered in a storm. the crew had nothing to eat but refined sugar. By the time they were rescued most had died from malnutrcian, and the survivors were skin and bones.
      Nature always has a way of supplying the correct enzymes, proteins etc. that the body requires to properly break down the foods we require. Refining Sugar from it’s normal plant strips all of the active ingredients. Now the body, without the normally supplied whole food ingredients, taken out of the Cane, still tries to process the refined sugar and uses the body’s resources. Thereby depleting our body’s Minerals causing Dis-ease. It’s bad enough that processed foods for our western diet causes the same effect, shortening our lifespans and degrading the quality of life we look so forward too.
      I have been a sugar eater all my life. Recently i have stopped all spooning all refined sugar. I now use Maple syrup in my beverages.
      Coffee lost it’s bite and actually tastes better. I’ve never been close to being diabetic, but i know about hypoglycemia very well.
      enough said here except to say, i agree if it’s been processed don’t waste the effort to bring it home.

    • Mo Boggan

      To see if it’s healthier than sugar read more.
      As you can see from the chart below, they’re pretty similar nutrition-wise. What you can’t tell from the comparison is how the body processes and reacts to each. Agave is praised for being low on the glycemic index (GI) rating, which means it won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels the way sugar does. High-GI foods like white sugar tend to make us feel hungry sooner since they are digested quickly. So foods made with agave nectar may keep you feeling fuller longer than foods made with the white stuff, which translates to eating less.

      1 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp. agave nectar
      Calories 46 60
      Total Fat 0 0
      Carbs 12 16
      Fiber 0 1
      Sugar 12 15
      Protein 0 0
      But many brands of agave nectar are highly refined, containing almost 100 percent fructose, which is a higher percentage than that found in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose is a sweetener known to raise triglycerides, promote belly fat, and contribute to fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Another thing to note is that some distributors of agave nectar have been labeling HFCS as agave nectar, so the FDA recommends looking for labels that say “hydrolyzed inulin syrup,” which means it’s real agave.
      Although both sugar and agave nectar come from plants, both are sweeteners and provide little to no nutrition value. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but sweeteners like these should be used sparingly in your diet. If you’re having a sugar craving, you’re better off reaching for a piece of fruit since the fiber will help with digestion and satiate your hunger.

      -From FitSugar

      • Brett

        Hi Mo. I agree, sugar in any format should be used sparingly. Is a matter of fact, I advocate for having no more than 20 – 25 grams a day of added sugar in one’s diet. If at all. The reality is, that processed sugars are just plain bad for us.

    • http://www.bakingwithagavenectar.com/index.html Kerry Poat

      You can use agave nectar as the other choice to maple syrup or honey. Baking with agave nectar is no difference with when using traditional ingredients, but there are some rules you must observe in order to achieve good results. What is your favorite recipe for baking with agave nectar?

    • http://IE Jerry

      Des, get your head out,watch Dr. Oz

    • BlueRed

      I already replace my sugar consumption with natural sweeteners. To be honest, I love it. It taste really the same with sugar. It has low calorie and carbohydrate content. Plus, it is good for baking too.

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    • Stevia sweetener

      Very good post, informative and thorough.

      Natural sweetener