Below, are the major sweeteners that we have available to us:
Dates are the dried fruits of the date palm tree. Sweet and chewy, dates are an excellent alternative to refined sugar and offer several health benefits.
Unlike refined sugar and other sweeteners, dates contain nutrients like fiber, magnesium, manganese, potassium and vitamin B6, along with carotenoid and polyphenol antioxidants.
Dates can be used instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners when making cakes, cookies or energy bars. You can also blend dates to give homemade nut milks and smoothies a natural and delicious flavor boost.
Alternatively, you can use dates to make a thick paste that can be used as a 1-to-1 replacement for refined sugar.
While dates are high in calories and natural sugars, studies show that they don’t significantly affect blood sugar levels. But like all other sweeteners, it’s best to consume dates moderately to avoid any potential adverse effects.
Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as many beneficial plant compounds that provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Honey compounds, like honey polyphenols, help modulate inflammation in the body. Honey also has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) compared to table sugar.
These qualities make honey a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners and refined sugar. Use honey in moderation because it is still full of sugar and calories.
Monk fruit extract comes from the Siraitia grosvenorii plant.
While monk fruit is at least 300 times sweeter than table sugar, it doesn’t contain any calories. Its sweetness comes from compounds called mogrosides, mainly mogroside V.
Since monk fruit doesn’t have any calories, it can help promote weight loss and improve blood sugar levels when used instead of regular sugar. Note that monk fruit extract is often mixed with other sweeteners, so always check the label before buying monk fruit products.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from Stevia rebaudiana leaves. Two glycoside compounds can be extracted from this plant: stevioside and rebaudioside A. These compounds don’t contain any calories and are at least 450 times sweeter than sugar. However, they may taste slightly different from table sugar.
According to human and animal studies, replacing sugar with stevia can help prevent weight gain and reduce blood sugar levels. However, some studies suggest that stevia may harm the gut microbiome.
Sugar alcohols, or polyols, are a type of carbohydrate naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Popular sugar alcohols used as sugar alternatives include erythritol, maltitol and xylitol.
The bacteria in your mouth don’t ferment sugar alcohols, so they don’t damage your teeth like regular sugar does. Polyols also contain substantially fewer calories and don’t significantly affect blood sugar levels, making them a healthier alternative if you have diabetes.
Erythritol contains only 0.2 calories per gram and xylitol provides 2.4 calories per gram. Meanwhile, sucrose or table sugar contains as much as four calories per gram.
While sugar alcohols are considered generally safe, some may cause digestive problems when consumed in large amounts.
For example, sorbitol may trigger laxative effects in doses of 20 to 50 grams. If you eat over 455 mg per pound of body weight of erythritol, you may experience an upset stomach.
Xylitol, meanwhile, is highly toxic to dogs. If you have a pet dog at home, you may want to store xylitol in a safe place or opt for another sugar substitute.