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Natural Sweeteners: Healthy Sugar Alternatives

By Latham Thomas
September 17, 2009
File under: Health Concerns, Natural Alternatives


Our diets are loaded with sugar. We may think we are only consuming the slightest bit, even on our best days, but our coffee, breads, fast foods, snacks, and even certain fruits are laden with sugars.

The worst of it is most of the synthetic sugars are difficult for the body to process and eliminate, so they often get stored as fat.

There are also some serious side effects related to high sugar intake including: obesity, blood sugar imbalances, heart disease, arthritis, immuno-suppression, and vitamin and mineral depletion. The best thing to do if you aren’t ready to curb your sugar intake is to at least choose the best quality sweeteners to enhance your diet.

Let’s take a look at a few of the healthier sweeteners that are on the market. These sugar substitutes are also better for the planet: they don’t require the pollution-intensive processing needed to make white sugar. You can find them in your local health food store.

Agave Nectar – From the Blue Agave plant found in Southern Mexico, the same plant that Tequila comes from. Agave nectar is 90% fructose and is sweeter than table sugar so you can use less of it. Agave’s viscosity is somewhere between that of honey and maple syrup, so it’s easily substitutable for some of your favorite treats.

Brown Rice Syrup – Rice syrup is a sweetener prepared by culturing rice with enzymes to break down the starches, straining off the liquid, and cooking it to the desired consistency. Brown rice syrup contains 50% soluble complex carbohydrates, which take from two to three hours to be digested, resulting in a steady supply of energy. This syrup can be evaporated to form a rice syrup powder.

Local HoneyHoney has more calories and carbs than refined sugar. Raw honey reportedly has medicinal benefits and contains enzymes and small amounts of minerals and B-complex vitamins. Because it’s sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it. Choose organic local honeys to reap the health benefits. Doctors suggest that honey should not be given to children under 18 months of age because their digestive tracts and immune systems are not developed enough for spores that may be present in honey.

(powder, crystals) – Made from an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, stevia boasts zero net carbs, zero calories, and a rating of zero on the glycemic index. It’s also about 300 times sweeter than sugar, so only a tiny amount is needed. It does have a reported slight aftertaste.


Maple Syrup
– Make sure it’s maple syrup and not caramel colored “high fructose corn syrup”. Grade B maple syrup, which is darker than the more popular Grade A, contains more minerals. Research shows that maple syrup is also a good source of antioxidants.

Xylitol - A sugar alcohol, xylitol is a good low-calorie alternative to refined sugar. Because it is absorbed more slowly than sugar, it doesn’t contribute to spiking blood sugar levels in the body, which can lead to both hypoglycemia and diabetes.

Click here for tips to avoid processed sugar and a step-by-step guide to reducing your sugar intake.

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An alternative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Marie Oser and her team of bloggers bring you creative natural solutions to issues affecting our health and wellbeing.

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