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Sugar Substitutes: The 7 Healthiest Sweeteners

A healthy sugar substitute is the dream of many people. Healthy means that the sweeteners in moderate amounts do not cause any health disadvantages. Some of the healthiest sweeteners we have presented not only sweeten but also give you one or the other health benefit.

Healthy Sugar Substitutes – Healthy Sweeteners

Life is only half as nice without sugar – at least for those with a sweet tooth. Unfortunately, from a health point of view, ordinary white sugar has nothing but disadvantages. And a conventional sugar substitute such as sweeteners (aspartame, etc.) is not much better either. Therefore, we present healthy alternatives to you below. For people with little time to read, we refer to the conclusion at the end of the text.

The 7 healthiest sweeteners – naturally vegetable

Sugar alternatives are actually always plant-based. Only honey, lactose and lactitol, a sugar substitute made from lactose, are non-vegan sweeteners. Otherwise, we are not aware of any sweetener that is not of plant origin. Nevertheless, many readers ask about plant-based sweeteners, which is why we are discussing this here at all.

It is important with a healthy sweetener that it throws the blood sugar level and also the insulin level off course as little as possible. Because high blood sugar and high insulin levels as well as recurring strong blood sugar fluctuations promote chronic inflammatory processes and these in turn are at the beginning of almost every chronic disease – whether it is called diabetes, rheumatism, high blood pressure, periodontitis, cancer or arteriosclerosis.

Yes, even problems like tinnitus, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, asthma, acne, and allergies are always associated with chronic inflammation, worsening with a pro-inflammatory lifestyle and improving with anti-inflammatory measures—which includes, in any case Proper plant-based sugar substitute is one.

Which healthy sugar substitute you choose depends in particular on the desired area of ​​application. Because not every sweetener dissolves in tea, not every one is suitable for baking cakes and not every sugar substitute tastes right in (lupine) coffee.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Stevia

Stevia is one of the sweeteners – which means that you can achieve the sweetening power of table sugar with tiny amounts. Stevia is said to be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and is therefore a wonderful and plant-based sugar substitute. At the same time, Stevia does not change the blood sugar level and the pancreas remains relaxed (it does not have to release insulin). Stevia is ideal for diabetics and counteracts tooth decay so well that stevia has long been added to many toothpastes.

Stevia sweetens drinks and desserts

Stevia is an excellent and healthy sugar substitute for sweetening tea, coffee, mate, shakes and smoothies or desserts. For tea you can choose the most natural stevia variant, namely the green stevia leaf powder, the dried leaves or – if you have a stevia plant – also the fresh leaves. Powder and leaves are added to the tea, everything is scalded with hot water and everything is strained together again. You can also simply drink stevia powder.

For coffee there are small stevia tabs in the dispenser that dissolve completely. However, we are no longer dealing with the natural stevia, but with the highly concentrated sweeteners isolated from stevia (steviol glycosides – the best known is stevioside). Such stevia extracts are not only available in tab form, but also as white powder or in liquid form.

Govioside: the perfect sweetness

With other recipes such as cakes, tarts and pastries, however, it is more difficult to use pure stevia correctly and to dose it in such a way that the taste and, above all, the consistency are satisfactory. If the stevia dosage is too high, an unpleasant metallic aftertaste occurs. Also, stevia is only taken in tiny amounts, so most cake and pastry recipes are now lacking in bulk.

The solution is called govioside. This is a mixture of stevia with erythritol (see below) in a ratio of 2:98. Govioside comes very close to being the perfect sugar substitute. Then:

  • Govioside is calorie-free, meaning it has zero calories per 100g.
  • Govioside is zero carb, although it consists of 98 percent carbohydrates from erythritol, these are not metabolized.
  • Govioside has a neutral taste, but has twice the sweetening power of normal household sugar. This means that if the recipe says 100 g of sugar, you take 50 g of govioside.
  • Govioside is good for the teeth because stevia and erythritol help against tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Govioside sweetens so reliably and with a neutral taste that nobody notices that the dessert or pastry in question is sugar-free.
  • Govioside is suitable for diabetics and does not cause blood sugar fluctuations.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Erythritol

Like xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, i.e. a sugar substitute (and not a sweetener). However, unlike xylitol, erythritol has zero calories and still has a sweetening power of 0.75, which means that it is only a quarter less sweet than table sugar. Is it in a recipe e.g. B. 20 g sugar, calculate the required amount of erythritol by multiplying the amount of sugar by 1.25 or 1.3.

Erythritol tastes like sugar, i.e. neutrally sweet. Since it can mask the somewhat bitter taste of stevia, erythritol is often mixed with stevia. Because stevia in turn compensates for the lack of sweetness of the erythritol. Govioside – the mixture of stevia and erythritol – is presented above.

Erythritol is very suitable for diabetics because it does not affect insulin levels in any way. In addition, erythritol is even more tooth-friendly than xylitol. The sugar substitute reduces plaque, neutralizes acids in the mouth and reduces caries bacteria.

Erythritol is obtained by fermentation from glucose, which in turn came from corn or wheat. Then all unwanted substances are removed with the help of heat, so that only erythritol remains. The sugar substitute is better tolerated by the digestive system than xylitol. But even here it can come from a certain amount to flatulence, diarrhea and stomach ache.

In this context, amounts of up to 0.78 g erythritol per kilogram body weight are considered safe (in children around 0.6 g/kg body weight). However, start with smaller doses and test your individual tolerance. Here you can read all the details about erythritol.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Xylitol

Xylitol (also called birch sugar) is another fairly healthy sweetener. Xylitol is one of the sugar substitutes/sugar alcohols – and thus in the same family as sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol etc. Xylitol is normally made from the leftovers of corn cobs; However, some xylitol dealers still offer xylitol, which is said to still traditionally come from birch wood. However, the result – whether from corn or birch – is identical. Xylitol is therefore not a synthetic sugar substitute, but one made from plant-based raw materials.

Xylitol is also produced in quantities of up to 15 grams in the course of the energy metabolism in the human body, so that it is not an exogenous substance. However, as with all sugar substitutes, large amounts of xylitol can have a laxative effect. However, the appropriate dose is very individual. It is assumed that 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight are well tolerated. We also know that the body can slowly get used to larger amounts of xylitol. This is not the case with other sugar substitutes such as sorbitol.

Xylitol does not noticeably increase blood sugar levels or insulin levels and therefore has anti-inflammatory effects. However, the positive influence of xylitol on dental health is particularly well known. Various studies have shown that xylitol can inhibit tooth decay, plaque and gum problems very well. Details can be found here: Xylitol for perfect dental care, which also describes how to rinse your mouth with xylitol every day.

In terms of quantity, xylitol is used in exactly the same way as sugar, which is why it is a particularly popular sugar substitute. So you simply exchange the sugar for xylitol – but (as mentioned above) always in the amount that you can tolerate well or that you are used to.

With yeast dough, however, some additional sugar must be added (1 to 2 teaspoons), since the yeast needs “feed”.

Also make sure that no dog can steal any of the food sweetened with xylitol, since xylitol has a different effect on the canine organism than on the human body and can even be fatal for dogs (at levels of 3 to 4 grams of xylitol per kilogram of body weight, which is quickly reached in small dogs). Xylitol causes a very strong increase in insulin in dogs and then of course a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Yacon

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a plant native to South America. It has been used there as a nutritive and medicinal plant for centuries. It is believed that Yacon can help with diabetes, kidney disease and digestive problems, which for the most part has actually been true.

The bulbous yacon root is visually reminiscent of the sweet potato. A delicious and extremely healthy sugar substitute can be made from yacon: yacon syrup and yacon powder. Both are still very little known sweeteners – not least because their sale in the EU was banned for a long time.

When making the yacon powder, the yacon root is cut into pieces, juiced and dehydrated until only the powder remains. If you want to make yacon syrup, you first press the juice out of the root, filter it and thicken it to a syrup consistency. Syrup and powder have a gentle sweetness and are the two best sources of fructooligosaccharides, which brings us to the first of Yacon’s many health benefits:

  • Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic and sweet tasting soluble fibers. The yacon syrup consists of 40 – 50 percent fructooligosaccharides, which serve as food for the beneficial intestinal flora, are very beneficial to intestinal health and regulate digestion. This is why yacon syrup and yacon powder work so well for chronic constipation.
  • The fructo-oligosaccharides belong to the group of carbohydrates, but as roughage they are indigestible, so they do not get into the blood – like sugar – and therefore neither increase body weight nor blood sugar levels. As a result, Yacon is said to have a very low glycemic index.
  • Yacon also helps meet mineral needs, which cannot be said for sugar. While sugar provides very few minerals, yacon powder contains 130 mg of calcium, 860 mg of potassium, and 2.9 mg of iron per 100 grams.
  • Yacon products provide significantly fewer calories than table sugar and honey, which means that yacon sweets are one of the lower-calorie sugar alternatives.
  • Yacon syrup and yacaon powder are very suitable for diabetics because they help to lose weight and reduce insulin resistance (diabetes precursor).

Yacon syrup and yacon powder taste gently sweet and, as a delicious and plant-based sugar substitute, go particularly well in desserts, dressings, dips, muesli, shakes and smoothies. Because yacon powder is even less sweet than syrup, the powder is rarely used.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Dates

Dried fruits are a very natural and healthy substitute for sugar. However, most dried fruits have a specific taste of their own and therefore do not go well with all dishes – because raisins taste like raisins, prunes like plums, figs like figs and pears like pears.

Dates, however, have a comparatively neutral sweetness, which is why they can be used very well as a sweetener. If you are making soups, sauces, fruit purees, smoothies, shakes, etc. with the blender and need a little sweetness, you can simply add a date or two to the blender.

However, you can also easily make your own “date syrup” from dates. However, this homemade syrup has nothing to do with commercially available date syrup. The latter consists of the boiled juice of dates. However, the homemade date syrup is not boiled and does not consist of date juice.

Simply take some dried dates, remove the pits and put the dates in the high speed blender. Add some water or freshly squeezed orange juice and blend until you get a uniform consistency. You can fill the “syrup” into bottles or other sealable containers and store them in the refrigerator (up to 10 days).

The date syrup goes very well in shakes, smoothies, protein drinks, superfood drinks, but also in (raw food) cakes, pastries, muesli bars and energy balls. However, this sugar substitute is not suitable for tea and coffee.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Lucuma

Lucuma is a fruit from the South American Andes. In our climes it is available in powder form. Lucuma powder tastes aromatic and mildly sweet. However, its sweetening power is low and cannot be compared to sugar, but it is very well suited as a healthy sweetener for desserts, shakes, smoothies, muesli, quark and yoghurt, i.e. for everything that can tolerate a fruity aroma. For one serving, take 1 tablespoon of lucuma powder. This not only sweetens and flavors, but also provides a number of vital substances typical of fruit.

Healthy Sugar Substitute – Luo Han Guo, the Monk Fruit

An interesting natural sweetener is Luo Han Guo, for which you can find detailed information in the previous link. Luo Han Guo is a fruit from China. Also known as monk fruit, it contains natural sweeteners that are up to 500 times sweeter than sugar, have no calories and have no harmful side effects. At the same time, Luo Han Guo is an ancient remedy for diabetes, indigestion, respiratory infections and lung diseases in his homeland. Unfortunately, retailers don’t really offer a good selection of Luo Han Guo products yet.

A little salt instead of sugar?

Believe it or not, salt can be a type of sugar substitute. Just a pinch of unrefined sea salt (or Himalayan salt, rock salt, etc.) in your morning smoothie, fruit salad, or sweetened beverages and foods can greatly enhance their natural sweetness without adding any additional sugar.

Salt not only enhances the savory taste of many foods, but also increases the natural sweetness of slightly sweet-tasting foods. That means you need less sweetener to give your food the sweetness you want when you sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on top.

For this reason, many people also like to put a little salt on the watermelon, lemon or other fruit. The salt ensures that the brain’s ability to process the taste sensation “sweet” is improved.

Whole cane sugar/Muscovado

Whole cane sugar – also Muscovado – is not one of the healthy sweeteners. It is true that it is the untreated version of table sugar, i.e. unrefined and still contains the mineral-rich molasses. However, whole cane sugar also consists largely of sucrose and therefore also has its disadvantages for teeth and blood sugar levels to a large extent. The taste of whole cane sugar is strong caramel, so it is not suitable for every purpose. However, if you cannot tolerate the sugar alcohols erythritol and xylitol at all and are looking for a relatively inexpensive but natural sweetener, you should better use whole cane sugar or coconut blossom sugar instead of normal table sugar.

Сoconut blossom sugar and palm sugar

Coconut blossom sugar is palm sugar, but not all palm sugar is coconut blossom sugar. The name of the sugar depends on the type of palm. Coconut blossom sugar comes from the coconut palm, the sugar declared as palm sugar from the sugar palm.

Coconut blossom sugar is obtained from the nectar of the coconut palm blossoms. The flower juice is thickened, dried and ground in the traditional way. So it is less a sugar substitute than (like whole cane sugar) a natural sugar – neither refined nor bleached or processed in any other way.

Coconut blossom sugar is said to have a low glycemic index (GI) of 35, but there is no clear evidence for this, so one should not rely on it, especially since coconut blossom sugar – like other palm sugar and whole cane sugar – consists largely of sucrose .

Coconut blossom sugar is not as sweet as table sugar. Nevertheless, it is generally recommended to use it 1:1 like table sugar. The coconut blossom sugar hardly tastes like coconut, but more like caramel.

Sugar beet syrup

Sugar beet syrup is the boiled down juice of the sugar beet. The juice therefore contains only part of the water-soluble substances from the sugar beet. Then the juice is boiled down, which leads to a reduction in vitamins.

Ultimately, it contains some minerals (e.g. 90 mg magnesium and 13 mg iron per 100 g), which is not much, since the syrup will not be consumed in large quantities. Do you eat e.g. B. 20 g of it, then that is only 18 mg magnesium, which is not so relevant with a requirement of 350 mg, and 2.6 mg iron, which can definitely help to cover the iron requirement (12 – 15 mg).

Household sugar contains very few minerals (2 mg potassium, 1 mg calcium, 0 mg magnesium, 0.3 mg iron). It is therefore not difficult for sugar alternatives to provide more vital substances than sugar, but this does not mean that they are a good source of vital substances or even healthy.

In small quantities, the sugar beet syrup is a little better than sugar, because while sugar consists of 99.8 percent sugar, sugar beet syrup is only around 65 percent, but this is due to the fact that the liquid syrup contains a lot of water, which is not the case with granulated sugar.

Molasses

Molasses (also treacle) is the waste product of the sugar industry, i.e. what is left over when white table sugar is produced. Nevertheless, molasses consists of 65 percent sugar (50 percent sucrose, 8 percent each glucose and fructose) and is therefore certainly not a problem in small quantities, but molasses is not a specifically healthy sugar substitute.

Molasses is often referred to as being rich in minerals. But you always have to keep an eye on the high sugar content. After all, you wouldn’t take a mineral capsule with a spoonful of sugar. Then there is the very low mineral content per spoonful of molasses. Because you don’t eat the syrup by 100 grams.

The mineral content of molasses per tablespoon/10 g is (in brackets the daily requirement for an adult):

  • Potassium: 147 mg (daily requirement 4000 mg)
  • Calcium: 50 mg (1000 mg)
  • Magnesium: 14mg (350mg)
  • Iron: 0.9 mg (12.5 mg)
  • Zinc: 0.09mg (8.5mg)

Conclusion: the best sugar substitute – healthy and natural

Overall, there are many ways to sweeten food and drinks with healthy sugar substitutes. But be cautious here, too, because most of the sugar alternatives presented also have a high carbohydrate content. Nevertheless, they are far better than e.g. B. some fully synthetic sweeteners from the laboratories of the food industry.

  • The best and most natural substitute for sugar is dried fruit, such as dates, mixed with water or juice to make a sweet syrup. This is suitable for energy balls, shakes, pastries, smoothies, desserts, raw food cakes, yoghurt, quark, muesli and much more. However, in many recipes (cakes, tarts) it cannot simply replace sugar due to its own taste and different consistency. Dried fruit can attack teeth.
  • The best and most natural sugar substitute for tea is stevia or the green stevia leaves, which are infused with the tea. Stevia counteracts tooth decay.
  • The perfect sugar alternative is govioside – a mixture of steviosides from stevia and erythritol in a ratio of 2:98. The taste is neutral and the sweetening power is twice as high as that of table sugar. Govioside protects the teeth and can be used in all recipes in which sugar is used. Just be careful not to eat too much govioside (only 20 to 30 g per day at first), as this could lead to the erythritol-related digestive problems.
  • The two best sweeteners most similar to sugar are xylitol and erythritol. They are industrially produced, so they are no longer very natural. Both are healthy for the teeth and have a sweetening level similar to that of sugar, so they can easily replace sugar in normal recipes. They can only lead to digestive problems from a certain amount – especially if you are not used to them.
  • The best sweetener that is also good for the intestines is yacon syrup or yacon powder. However, both are only mildly sweet and are therefore ideal for muesli, porridge, shakes, smoothies and desserts. Yacon is not as harmful to the teeth as sugar, but it is also not as healthy as stevia, xylitol and erythritol.
  • Lucuma is the best exotic (and only mild) sweetener, which also gives a fruity aroma and wonderfully refines homemade ice cream, as it also emulsifies, i.e. makes fatty and watery foods nice and creamy. Lucuma is also very suitable for muesli, porridge, smoothies, shakes, desserts, yoghurt and quark.

With our list of the healthiest sweeteners, we wish you a lot of fun cooking, baking, mixing and experimenting – and of course with the subsequent sweet enjoyment.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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