Healthy Sugar Alternatives


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The Best Sugars

When baking, or for coffee and teas, honey would not be used since the heat destroys the natural benefits. Stevia does not bake well and it has a funny aftertaste to most people, but we love it in lemonade and cranberry juice, as well as many teas. If forced to a favorite, sugar cane juice, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar are  our  top choices when used sparingly. While we are not a fan of agave, sugar alcohols, or using very much of any refined sugars, a mix of  them can be a healthier choice for baking and other recipes that call for sweeteners. Using a little bit of agave, some lactitol, some stevia, and sugar cane juice or coconut palm sugar can be a great way to lesson the adverse effects of any one type of surer while still getting a very nice, well rounded sweet taste. 

Sugars & Substitutes with their Glycemic Index & Load

Glycemic indexes and loads are an average based on a wide variety of sources that base their findings on a glucose scale. These figures are estimates. The accurate glycemic index and the glycemic load for each individual person varies depending on many factors including body composition and other foods that are being digested at the same time.

If you know of some good glycemic load resources for sweeteners please leave us a comment, as they are lacking on the internet.

Artificial Sweeteners
Never a Healthy Sugar Alternative
All artificial chemical sweeteners are toxic and can indirectly lead to weight gain, the very reason many people consume them. They should be avoided. In fact, given a choice between high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, we recommend high fructose corn syrup by far (though it’s essentially asking if you should consume poison or worse poison).
Best Healthy Sugar Alternative
Though it is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia is not a sugar. Unlike other popular sweeteners, it has a glycemic index rating of less than 1 and therefore does not feed candida (yeast) or cause any of the numerous other problems associated with sugar consumption. Read more about stevia here on OLM. Please note that Stevia and Truvia are not the same thing. Truvia is an artificial sweetener.
Date Sugar and Dried Dates
Many health advocates use dates as there sweetener but others point to the very high glycemic index and load at reason to stay away from dates. Buy here.
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol sweetener found in the fibers of fruits and vegetables which can cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption. It’s said to be safe for pregnant women, and is said to possibly treat ear infections, osteoporosis, respiratory infections, candida, and is it even helps fight cavities. In fact, in Finland, virtually all chewing gum is sweetened with xylitol.
Agave Nectar
A sweet syrup made from the Blue Agave plant, Agave Nectar is obtained by the extraction and purification of “sap” from the agave plant, which is broken down by natural enzymes into the monosaccharides (simple sugars): mainly fructose (70-75%) and dextrose (20-26%). Read more about agave nectar at OLM. Buy here.
Though fructose has a low glycemic index rating, fructose consumption should be limited. Fructose is linked to heart disease as it raises triglycerides and cholesterol. It is devoid of nutrition.
Brown Rice Syrup
25 -65?/
It is not recommended for diabetics, since its sweetness comes from maltose which is known to cause spikes in blood sugar. The range on the glycemic index for this sweetener is not due to a range found within different brands or sources. There is considerable debate as to what the glycemic index is on this sweetener, and a GI rating of 25 while most often reported by manufactures of the syrup seems far fetched and unlikely. Little research has been done and a wide range of GIs have been reported. We could not find the glycemic load anywhere. Buy here.
Raw Honey
A Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation, but…
With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, raw, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many alternative health care practitioners and a remedy for many health ailments. Choose your honey wisely. Different honeys have different glycemic indexes. There is nothing beneficial about processed honey. Honey does not retain its healthy properties when cooked, this includes being used in hot coffee or tea. Buy here.
Coconut Palm Sugar
Originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm , the date palm or sugar date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). It’s also made from the sap of coconut palms. With a relatively low glycemic index, Coconut palm sugar is the new rage among health nuts. It’s often called “coconut nectar sugar” or “coconut sugar”. Note that some coconut palm sugar is mixed with cane sugar, and the brands that do this should be avoided. Buy here.
Apple Juice
Fresh has its health benefits but it still a concentrated and refined sugar. We recommend eating fresh raw whole apples and if you want to juice apples we recommend granny smiths. Concentrated apple juice (sometimes used as a sweetener) is a very concentrated refined sugar like white table sugar and should be avoided.
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 this mixture until the starch is converted to sugar. The mash is then strained and cooked down to syrup or dried into powder.
This is an ancient, Oriental whole grain sweetener made from cultured brown rice. It has a thick, pudding-like consistency. It’s not easy to find in the U.S., but it is a great alternative to refined table sugar.
Sugar Cane Juice
Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation
Sugar cane juice has many nutrients and other beneficial properties and is said by some health practitioners to be almost as medicinal as raw honey.
Organic Sugar
Organic sugar comes from sugar cane grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. It is usually darker than traditional white sugar because it contains some molasses. (It has usually been processed to the degree, or close to it, as regular white sugar is processed).
Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made by boiling sap collected from natural growth maple trees during March & April. It is refined sap and is therefore processed.  It has a high glycemic index, and though it is much more nutritious then refined table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, there are better choices. Buy here.
Evaporated Cane Juice
Evaporated cane juice is often considered unrefined sugar, but juicing is a refining process, and evaporating refines further. Though better than turbinado, cane juice (unevaporated) is a better choice as a sweetener.
Black Strap Molasses
White refined table sugar is sugar cane with all the nutrition taken out. Black strap molasses is all of that nutrition that was taken away. A quality organic (must be organic!) molasses provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and is alkalizing to the body.
Turbinado sugar is partially processed sugar, also called raw sugar.
Raw Sugar
Raw sugar
Raw sugar is not actually raw sugar. It is processed, though not as refined as common white table sugar. Therefore, given a choice between raw and white, choose raw. There are many different variations of raw sugar with many different names depending on how refined it is.
Cola (and most other sodas)
Though cola has a lower GI ranking then some might expect, there are many other reasons to avoid cola, or any type of soda. There is nothing beneficial to the human body inside a can of soda (not to mention we should avoid drinking out of aluminum cans!).
Corn Syrup
Corn syrup has very little nutrition and should be avoided.
Refined, Pasteurized Honey
The nutrition is gone, and there is often high fructose corn syrup added to processed honey. Refined pasteurized honey is no better than white table sugar.
Refined Table Sugar
Conventionally grown, chemically processed, and striped of all beneficial properties, many health advocates believe that refined sugar is one of the two leading causes (high fructose corn syrup is the other) of nearly every health ailment known to man (or woman or child). Not only does it have a high GI ranking, but it also is extremely acidic to the body causing calcium and other mineral depletion from bones and organs (sugar is alkaline but has a very acidic effect on the body).
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Many health advocates believe that high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar are the two biggest contributors to health ailments in our society. High fructose corn syrup is a combination of sucrose and fructose.
Glucose (AKA Dextrose)
White bread was the benchmark, but for consistency glucose now holds the rating at 100.
Foods that have maltodextrin often say “Low Sugar” or “Complex Carbohydrate”, but this sweetener should be avoided!

Please note that the glycemic index numbers here are estimates. There are many variables that help determine how quickly a sugar is absorbed. These numbers represent an average of many different respected studies. In addition, it is very important to note that the glycemic index and the glycemic load do not define what is a healthy sugar and what is an unhealthy sugar. There are many other variables.

Source: Organic Lifestyle Magazine

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