What are Some Natural Alternatives to Sugar?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Dates, which can be used to make date sugar.
Dates, which can be used to make date sugar.

Some consumers try to avoid sugar, because they believe that it has a negative impact on human health. However, life without sweeteners seems rather dull to many, since humans have a sweet tooth. While artificial alternatives to sugar such as aspartame do exist, some consumers prefer to avoid these as well, since they may be linked to health problems. Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives that are extracted from plants or gathered in other ways. Some of these sugar alternatives are also healthy dietary choices.

Clover honey in squeeze bottle.
Clover honey in squeeze bottle.

One of the most commonly used alternatives to sugar is honey, a product made by bees from the nectar of plants. When bees make honey, they convert the sugars in plant nectar into a usable form, a thick, golden to amber colored liquid which is very sweet and rich. Honey also, however, is relatively high in calories, which is sometimes a concern for people who are avoiding sugar because of its high calorie content.

Xylitol.
Xylitol.

For people who are concerned about calories, agave nectar is a good choice. Like many other alternatives to sugar, it is actually sweeter than sugar, and should be used in lesser amounts; around one third of a cup agave nectar will substitute for one cup of sugar. The flavor is similar to honey, and it can be used in a range of cooking processes. Consumers who are concerned about environmental depredation should seek out sustainably harvested agave, since the plant is in high demand.

Sugar is a very common food additive.
Sugar is a very common food additive.

Another liquid alternative to sugar is rice syrup, which is made from cooked and fermented rice. Often, brown rice is used, creating a rich, nutty sweetener with a mild, creamy flavor. Rice syrup can be used in a range of dishes, although the flavor does not always mesh well with baked goods, so cooks should taste it and experiment before using it in abundance. Maple syrup is also a usable alternative, although the strong flavor can make it unsuitable for some cooking.

Nectar from the agave plant is a possible alternative to sugar.
Nectar from the agave plant is a possible alternative to sugar.

There are also several dry sugar alternatives, including date sugar, a sugar made by grinding dates. Date sugar can be used for baking exactly like ordinary sugar. In some regions, birch sugar, also called xylitol, is also available. Xylitol is a compound which is present in many other plants and fruits as well. Finally, stevia, an extract of a sweet leaved plant which is extremely sweet, is available in both powder and liquid form. Approximately one teaspoon of the calorie free stevia will substitute for a cup of sugar.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon112645

I have read recently agave may actually be more harmful than refined white sugar. I will try Stevia.

anon108911

I was just wondering what the calorie count in honey is. I bought a container of honey and there was no calorie count on it. thank you.

Bhutan

Moldova- I just want to say that I also love honey in my tea.

I wanted to add that my friend is diabetic and she uses Xylitol which is a plant-based sweetener that she usually puts in her coffee.

She also uses Stevia, which is another plant-based sweetener that encourages the production of insulin.

Moldova

BrickBack- I don’t use those sugar substitutes, instead I use a bit of honey. Honey tastes great with tea and it is also the ingredient that they use in smoothies to make them sweeter.

BrickBack

I use Splenda because it tastes just like sugar and leaves no aftertaste. If Splenda is not available then I will use Equal.

The one sugar substitute that I don’t like is Sweet and Low. It leaves me with a bit of an aftertaste. All of these options are excellent for diabetics.

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    • Dates, which can be used to make date sugar.
      Dates, which can be used to make date sugar.
    • Clover honey in squeeze bottle.
      By: Jaimie Duplass
      Clover honey in squeeze bottle.
    • Xylitol.
      By: fet
      Xylitol.
    • Sugar is a very common food additive.
      By: sumire8
      Sugar is a very common food additive.
    • Nectar from the agave plant is a possible alternative to sugar.
      By: lunamarina
      Nectar from the agave plant is a possible alternative to sugar.
    • Stevia may be used to sweeten beverages.
      By: absolutimages
      Stevia may be used to sweeten beverages.
    • Honey is a healthier substitute for sugar.
      By: monticellllo
      Honey is a healthier substitute for sugar.