Alternatives to Sugar

Increased consumption of sugar per person over the last century is huge.  In 1900 it was seven pounds per person per year and today the average is around 220 pounds. Directly related to the consumption of sugar and simple carbohydrates (which change to sugar in the body) are diseases such as obesity, hypoglycemia, and diabetes. Indirectly related are many forms of under-nutrition, since sugars too often replace nutritious food in the diet, and a reduction in bone density, since the body releases minerals from the bones when sugar is in the blood, in order to correct the acid/alkaline balance. Sugar also has a very bad effect on the immune system, so it’s especially important to avoid it when ill.

Typical sweeteners, included in processed food as well as added to food by consumers or used in cooking and baking, may be divided into four basic types:

  • Sugars that have been refined from a natural plant to the point where they contain few or no nutrients. These include commercial white and brown sugars and refined, pasteurized honey, fructose, and corn syrup. These are all stripped of most nutrients. Brown sugar used to be less refined than white sugar (less of the molasses removed). In the U.K., this may still be the case, but in the U.S. most brown sugar is made by spraying completely refined white beet sugar with molasses. The one exception I know of is C&H brand brown sugar, which is still made the old way, of cane sugar with some of the molasses left in.
  • Sugars that are less refined, including raw sugars (turbinado, demrarra, etc.), organic raw sugar, and evaporated cane juice.
  • Natural sugars and sweeteners, close to their natural state, with minimal processing. These include:  date sugar, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, granulated maple sugar, sugar cane juice (not evaporated), amasake (rice sugar), barley malt syrup, concentrated apple juice, apple juice, grape juice, raw honey, brown rice syrup.  Stevia is actually not a sugar but a sweet herb and has a glycemic index rating of zero.  Xylitol is a sugar alcohol usually made from birch, with health benefits including the reduction of dental caries.
  • Artificial or man-made sweeteners and sugar substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, neotame, agave nectar, and acesulfame potassium. Other sugar substitutes have been banned in past years by the FDA, or are pending approval now.

There is a lot of controversy about whether artificial sweeteners (which are classed as food additives by the FDA) are safe or not. You can get tangled up in the claims, research, and reasoning on both sides of this argument. One thing to consider is this question, “Is it food?” Obviously, bodies were not designed to eat tar or plastic or wood, because those are not food for humans. Bodies require nutrients – ALL the nutrients – to be healthy. However, bodies are also designed with a liver and with systems and procedures for handling toxins, so the question becomes, “how many toxins in what amounts can bodies handle?”  If your body could handle an unlimited number and amount of poisonous substances, then we all could eat arsenic straight out of a bowl, lie down for a while and get up feeling fine. Most natural health practitioners urge their patients to consume as few toxins as possible, and to get as many nutrients as possible. Makes sense, right?

There definitely are safe alternatives to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.  Probably one of the safest sweeteners is raw honey, which contains vitamins and enzymes that contribute to wellness. It can be used as substitute for sugar, but is about twice as sweet. When substituting honey in recipes, the overall amount of liquid will need to be reduced to make up for the extra liquid in the honey.

Organic maple syrup is delicious on waffles, pancakes, and French toast.  Unlike the organic variety, most maple syrups available commercially contain artificial ingredients. There are also organic syrups made from fruit or the agave plant.

Fresh fruits and sweet vegetables may satisfy a sweet tooth, especially after one has cut down on concentrated carbohydrates. People who have reduced their sugar use have found their craving for sweetness decreasing.  I had a friend who went on a no-sugar diet, including cutting out sweet vegetables and fruits. At the end of the diet, she ate a carrot and found it to be almost unbearably sweet!   Blueberries or strawberries may be used as a topping for cereal. Fruit juices such as apple, pineapple or grape are often used as sweeteners in natural products.

There is also stevia, a natural herb sweetener that has been used in South America for 1,500 years. Recently, the United States FDA approved two new stevia-based sweeteners. It is diabetic-safe, calorie-free, non-toxic, and 50 to 400 times sweeter than white sugar. It does not adversely effect blood sugar levels, inhibits the formation of cavities and plaque, contains no artificial ingredients, and can be used in baking and cooking.

Unfortunately, sugar and white flour are cheap to buy. However, they cost us our health, which is priceless.

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21 Responses to “Alternatives to Sugar”

  1. Diet Magazine July 19, 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    I’m not a pro when it comes to evaluating blogs – and most of what I’ve seen over the years leaves a lot to be desired. But you can take my word for it that your blog is everything they say it is and more! Seriously – nice information. I am so happy to read your blog!

  2. john@Buggies Strollers November 12, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Increased sugar consumption makes you prone to diabetes and obesity. So, better to avoid larger amounts or frequent intake. I myself use artificial sweetener and saccharine.

    • Cheryl November 14, 2009 at 11:49 am #

      Welcome, John.
      I can understand your desire to avoid sugar. From the point of view of non-toxic, I also avoid artificial sweeteners. Two alternatives that avoid both problems are (1) the herb stevia and (2) concentrated fruit juices, which are used to sweeten some jams and juices.

  3. Julie November 16, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    Too much sugar is bad, but what about the alternatives? What is in Sweet & Low? Could be worse. It is tough to eat healthy today.

    • Cheryl November 19, 2009 at 9:39 am #

      Welcome, Julie.
      Sweet and Low contains granulated Saccharin, dextrose and cream of tartar. It is used as an artificial sweetener and contains no food value but a man-made chemical that tastes sweet. To your body, it is not food, and anything that you swallow that is not food can do your body no good, but may do it harm. This is a simple way to look at what you eat. The human body is made to take in food and transform it to nutrients, which is distributes to the various parts of your body. Sugars are found in most foods, even meat. They are essential to the working of your body. What is not good about sugar is just that some people eat too much of it AS simple sugar, taken out of the food. If you were to simply eat sweet FOODS, you’d be much better off, but we like our sweet drinks and bakery goods, so there are some good alternatives to sugar in this post.

  4. Kevin@Metal Buildings For Sale December 6, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I stopped using the Sweet and Low a while back. I now use Spenda, and I’m now reading that it is not good for you either. I think I will go back to regular sugar.
    .-= Kevin@Metal Buildings For Sale´s last blog ..All Types Of Metal Buildings For Sale =-.

    • Cheryl December 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

      Yay, Kevin! I’m happy to hear it. Have you already tried some of the more natural forms of sugar in this article?

  5. heather@dental assistant training December 24, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    I have never heard of “stevia” before, but that is something that I will look into. I always knew honey was good for you; I never knew that it did not effect your blood sugar though. I try and stay away from sugar as much as I can, I am still a sucker for Coca Cola though, even though I try to drink diet as much as possible 🙂
    .-= heather@dental assistant training´s last blog ..Begin A Career With Dental Assistant Training =-.

    • Cheryl December 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi, Heather.
      There is quite a bit of data about the link between aspartame (artificial sweetener called NutraSweet) and obesity. If you drink a lot of soda, it might be well worth your time to do some checking on this. Just because something is labeled as a “diet” drink does NOT mean that it helps you lose weight. It just means it does not contain sugar. What these diet drinks contain is (in my opinion) far, far worse than sugar. Here is a quote from sweetpoison.com

      “Twenty years ago, Dr. Russell Blaylock predicted that excess phenylalanine in the brain from using aspartame blocks the normal production of serotonin to the point of weight gain due to an increase craving for carbohydrates and sugar. The result: epidemic weight gain.”

  6. GinnyD@heated glove January 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Great article! We have been using the Agave Nectar this year and have been very pleased with it. It ranks a low in the GI and GL scale as well.
    .-= GinnyD@heated glove´s last blog ..Volcom Century Heated Jacket – Women’s =-.

    • Cheryl January 18, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

      Thanks, Ginny.
      For those who need them, here are definitions of the terms GI and GL.

  7. eddie January 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    My favorite is Agave nectar. I use that stuff in my coffee and tea on a daily basis. I haven’t figured out a good way to replace it while baking yet. I also will use raw honey as an alternative as well.
    .-= eddie´s last blog ..Betaine Hydrochloride: How it Helps with Digestion & Detoxification =-.

  8. anna@sleeping bags May 27, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I think I will go back to regular sugar.

  9. Ian December 28, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    I’ve heard some good things about stevia, but where I live it is still a little hard to come by. Perhaps I’ll order some online. For the time being, I use raw honey in my green tea, my oatmeal and anything else I can.

    I stopped using normal sugar over 10 years ago and felt 10x better just from making that one change alone.

    Now if only I could get my wife to do the same…. 😀

    • Cheryl December 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

      Ian, it is so admirable that you gave up sugar! Well done.

  10. Jason@African Mango Scam April 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I quit drinking soda for one week when I was in high school so I could make weight for a competition. I ended up losing 5lbs and my addiction to soda! I haven’t had a soda yet.

    • Cheryl April 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

      Jason – Good work!

  11. Sam April 26, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    I agree with Julie it is tough too eat healthy this day and age. Everything seems to be bad for you. I cannot wait to get a farm to grow everything myself.

  12. Bob @ Charlotte Dentist May 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Super article. As a dentist, I see, first hand, the damage sugar causes, let alone the huge health and obesity problem it’s causing . Thanks for sharing…

    • Cheryl June 12, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      Hi, Bob.
      I have read that the problem with sugar is not just the fact that it lies on the teeth and feeds bacteria, but also that it has systemic effects that can lead to tooth decay. So, even if you brush your teeth every single time you eat sugar, it can still cause problems.

  13. apidexin scam@apidexin scam June 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    I don’t really know much about the chemical ingredients of sugar, but one thing for sure, we cannot spend days without any sugar in our daily meals. One thing I do know – honey is better than sugar, and it brings some benefit to our health. Maybe we can replace sugar with honey one day.

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