Sugar Substitutions

Sugar Substitutions

Photo of the word SUGAR spelled out in a pile of sugar on a table. Turquoise hue. 5 photos of women with sugar and candy on their lips.

Humans love sugar.

Well, most humans. I know there are some unicorns out there that don’t eat it, but this information isn’t for those precious, one-horned miracles. Sugar isn’t bad for us as long as we are consuming it in balance with other nutrients. What can be unhealthy for some of us are the sugar substitutes that were created with good intention and for those people who have a medical need for a sugar-free diet, but some of these substitutes have turned out to have some nasty side affects.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to preach from my pulpit about how much sugar we should eat and I’m not going to bombard you with the science behind some of the synthetic sugar substitutes’ side affects. My purpose in sharing this information is to give you options in a quick and accesible package.

When I started to look for substitutes, it was overwhelming to find something I liked, fit my eating habits, and worked with my health requirements. Please keep in mind that some of the options are great for some people and not so great for others. If you have a medical condition requiring a sugar-free diet, please consult your physician before trying any of the suggested substitutions.

The following sugar substitutions vary in calories, carbohydrates, glycemic index, and accessibility. Most items can be purchased from a health food grocer or online. Some chain grocers have finally started to carry a few of the substitutes. I will post links to my favorites to help reduce the guess work of choosing if you’re simply experimenting. I’ve also included a downloadable PDF infographic of each substitute’s basics. Click HERE to download this FREE infographic!

Sugar Substitute Infographic. Pictures of each sugar substitute with description of serving size, calories, glycemic index, and where it comes from. Light desert color palette.

Stevia

Granulated or liquid stevia is derived from the extract of the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar!

Per serving (just 8 drops!), it has zero calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 0. My favorite brand is Now Foods Organic Stevia Liquid. This is one of my go to sugar substitutes because it is so natural. It does have a slight aftertaste, but it is nothing that deters me from using it.

Photo of a wooden table with a wooden spoon filled with granulated stevia and a sprig of the stevia plant next to the spoon.
Photo of a wooden bowl of granulated monk fruit with a sprig of the plant on the edge of the bowl. The bowl is next to pieces of dried monk fruit and behind that is a piece of the whole monk fruit. They are all on a brown flat surface.

Monk Fruit

Granulated or liquid monk fruit or luohan guo is derived from the herbaceous perrenial vine Siraitia grosvenorii. The extract comes from the dried fruit. It is 250 times sweeter than sugar!

Per serving (just 8 drops!), it has 0 calories per serving and has a glycemic index (GI) of 0. My favorite brand is Now Foods Organic Monk Fruit Liquid. This is also one of my go to sugar substitutes because it is naturally derived. I use it almost daily in my tea or coffee. It does have a very slight aftertaste, but less than stevia.

Coconut Sugar

Granulated coconut sugar is derived from the sap of the flower bud stem of the coconut palm. It is about 25% less sweet than sugar, but is a great one-to-one substitute for table sugar.

Per serving (1 tsp), coconut sugar has 18 calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 50-54, so it is neck and neck with table sugar, but some say it is healthier because of the way they process it and from where it comes. I have used it in baking and found it to be a great substitute. I’ve used both Wholesome Organic Coconut Palm Sugar and Big Tree Farms Organic Brown Coconut Sugar and like them equally.

Dark gray granite counter top with wooden spoon containing granules of coconut sugar. Next to the spoon is a coconut that has been broken open.
A light blue washed wooden table with the leaves and stem of a birch tree. Next to that is a cream colored bowl with granulated xylitol and a wooden scoop inside the bowl.

Xylitol

Granulated xylitol is derived from the alcohol found in corn cobs or woody fiberous plants like trees. Most commercial forms of xylitol come from corn cobs because it is more sustainable. It is approximately the same sweetness as sugar and can be used for baking.

Per serving (1/4 tsp), it has 2.4 calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 7. I do not use this very often, however, I use it as a sweetener for my homemade toothpaste. It has a sweet and cool taste to it…not minty, but simply feels cool on the tongue. There is weak, but growing evidence that xylitol helps prevent cavities (1). I use the Now Foods Xylitol.

Molasses

Molasses is a dark brown, viscous liquid derived from boiling raw sugar cane juice three times. It is 65% as sweet as sugar and used in baking (think gingerbread cookies), as well as sauces and glazes (like bbq sauce and baked beans). It is a significant source of vitamin B6 and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese and is also a good source of potassium.

Per serving (1 tbsp), it has 290 calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 44. I have used molasses in sauces with good results. Blackstrap molasses is the most robust out of all the molasses syrups and tastes sweet with a subtle smoky and bitter flavor. I use the Wholesome Organic Unsulphured Black Strap Molasses. It is totally worth your experimentation!

On a gray and white striped tablecloth sits a small glass bowl full of black strap molasses with a spoon that has just been dipped in the syrup and raised out of the bowl.
Photo of three small glass jugs of maple syrup in a row on a wooden surface.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is derived from the sap of the maple tree. It is three times as sweet as sugar. Famous for its distinct flavor and as a pancake topper, maple syrup also has many other uses as a sweetener. I’ve used it in yogurt, cocktails, and baking.

A serving size of maple syrup is 1/4 cup so you are getting more bang for your buck with 200 calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 54. If you are using this to sweeten tea or coffee, your calorie count will be much less if you are only using a teaspoon or two. I always go for the 100% pure organic dark maple syrup. There are many brands, but a reasonably priced option is the Whole Foods 365 Organic Dark Maple Syrup.

Raw Honey

Ohhhh, honey! We’ve harvested this gorgeously wonderful product from our tiny striped friends’ hives for at least 9,000 years! There are so many varieties of honey and the flavor combinations are endless! I use raw honey exclusively and try to purchase it from local or regional beekeepers. Anytime I travel, I sample the local honey. It is divine!

Honey is about 30% sweeter than sugar. It has micro nutrients which makes it a better choice than sugar and even though there are more calories (64) per serving (1 tbsp) than sugar, it is sweeter because of sciencey stuff, so you’ll likely use less. The glycemic index (GI) is also less than table sugar at 58. The benefit of using honey is that it is as close to nature as you can get for a sugar substitute and the many different flavors you can experience make it worth the experimentation!

Photo of a chunk of honey comb with honey pooled on a wooden surface with a honey dipper laying in the pool of honey.
Photo  of an agave plant in the wild and next to that photo is a photo of a glass bottle with a cork of agave nectar and next to the bottle is a small glass bowl of nectar with a wooden spoon in the bowl.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar or syrup is derived from the juice of the core (piña) of the blue agave plant native to Mexico. It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and is used to sweeten beverages, in baking, and other cooking. Dark brown agave can be used as a pancake or french toast topping. It tastes similarly to honey, but less so. I use it to sweeten salad dressings and iced tea. I prefer to use raw organic agave nectar and my favorites are Wholesome Organic Raw Blue Agave Syrup and Madhava Organic Amber Agave.

Per serving (1 tbsp), raw agave syrup provides 63 calories and has a glycemic index (GI) of 30, so it is a better choice than table sugar.

Date Paste

Date paste is produced from the dried fruits of the date palm. Date syrup is also made from the date palm. Date paste is a little less sweet than sugar because it contains some of the whole fruit, but date syrup is a bit sweeter than sugar. Date paste and syrup are more nutritionally dense than most other sweeteners, so they are a better choice than table sugar. It has a dark, complex caramel flavor. I have used both homemade date paste (great on toast) and Date Lady Pure Organic Date Syrup

Per serving (1/4 cup), date paste has 190 calories and a glycemic index (GI) of 42.

Photo of a white ceramic bowl over filled with dates spilling onto a white washed wooden surface.
IMMUNE RESPONSE ACTIVATED!

IMMUNE RESPONSE ACTIVATED!

IN THE FORM OF…A HEALTHY BODY!
HEALTHY BODY TO THE RESCUE!

Foods to support your immune response around the house.

VITAMIN C

Although vitamin C won’t save you from getting COVID-19, nor will it kill COVID-19 if you have contracted it, but it will help with your body’s immunity RESPONSE if you make contact with the virus. This is likely the reason store shelves are bare of vitamin C. The same goes for zinc, elderberry, and other immunosupportive supplements that are flying off the shelves.

Vitamin C will not keep you from contracting COVID-19, but will help your body fight it if you are exposed to it.

The recipe below will not have as much vitamin C as the top brand vitamin C powders, but it will do in a pinch.

The peel of an orange has nearly double the amount of vitamin C as the fruit; 100 grams of raw orange peel has approximately 136 mg of vitamin C whereas 100 grams of the fruit has approximately 71 mg of vitamin C.

Homemade Vitamin C Powder

2 cups                          freeze-dried tangerine
1-2 ea.                          dried organic lemon or orange zest
(Do not dry with heat.  Heat breaks down vitamin C.)
1 vit C cap or tab          (optional) If available, you can add 1 vitamin C capsule or tablet to this mix. If you use a
tablet, crush it with a spoon and add to grinder
with other ingredients.

  1. Wash citrus fruits with soap and water and dry.
  2. Tear or grate citrus peel and pith into small pieces and let them air dry on a counter for 3 – 4 days. They are done when you can snap them when attempting to bend.
  3. Place dried peel and freeze-dried tangerine in coffee grinder.
  4. Add contents from vitamin C capsule or tablet and powdered/granulated sweetener of your choice to taste to coffee grinder and pulverize all ingredients. I recommend raw cane sugar or maple sugar (powdered maple syrup).

Add only dry sweeteners to this mix. If you want to use liquid sweetener, add it to the mix AFTER you dissolve it in water.

And, no. Sweet orange essential oil DOES NOT contain vitamin C. Steam distillation kills it. Cold-pressed only contains minute traces of vitamin C and it degrades over time.

 

SAUERKRAUT (CULTURED VEGGIES)

Along with incredible taste, digestive and immune support, ½ cup of sauerkraut provides: 

Calories: 14

Fat: 0 grams

Carbs: 3.5 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Protein: .5 grams

Sodium: 19% of the RDI

Vitamin C: 17% of the RDI

Vitamin K: 11% of the RDI

Iron: 6% of the RDI

Manganese: 6% of the RDI

Vitamin B6: 4% of the RDI

Folate: 4% of the RDI

Copper: 3% of the RDI

Potassium: 3% of the RDI

 

That’s power-packed action for such a small amount of food!

Some other great brands: Wild Brine, Bubbies, Farmhouse Culture.

They all have different recipes except Bubbies…they stick with traditional cabbage and salt recipe. 

Yummmmm!!!

WILD BRIND

You can find Wild Brine at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Costco (original only, but a larger size than the other stores).

FARMHOUSE CULTURE

You can find Farmhouse Culture at Whole Foods and Sprouts.

BUBBIES

You can find Bubbies at local grocery stores in the deli section, and at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and on occasion, I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s.

Each day, I eat ¼ cup of sauerkraut, and on top I add ½ chopped avocado with a teaspoon of caraway seeds. Try it! Mmm…mmmmm…good!

PARSLEY

This herb is highly ignored and always the last to be invited to the veggie crudité. It has an amazing amount of nutrients and one of it’s top benefits is the quantity of vitamin C that’s packed into it’s tiny little leaves! Along with the vitamin K content, antioxidative and digestive power of this herb, ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley provides you with:

Calories: 5 calories

Carbs: 1 grams

Protein: .5 grams

Fat: less than 1 gram

Fiber: .5 grams

Vitamin A: 56% of the RDI

Vitamin C: 26% of the RDI

Vitamin K: 272% of the RDI

Folate: 5% of the RDI

Potassium: 2% of the RDI

 

Dried parsley has the same nutrient quality as fresh and research shows that many nutrients are considerably more concentrated in the dried herb. Since parsley is usually dried shortly after harvesting, the polyphenols and carotenoids have less time to degrade.

 The tricky part is the taste. If a recipe calls for fresh parsley, you may want to stick with fresh because it has a stronger taste. I like to use dried because it’s flavor is more versatile and I can use more than I normally would with fresh parsley. Dried lasts longer, too.

Add it to any egg dish, sprinkle on top of salads, add it to soups, or chew on a fresh sprig of parsley after a meal to aid digestion.

NOTE: As with everything, moderation is key. If you intake too much parsley you can get “tired” blood (anemia). The amount you add to foods is safe even if you use more than the recipe calls for. I note this caution for those of you who may attempt to use it medicinally by supplementation or as an essential oil. This really isn’t necessary, but if you really want to try it, please consult a healthcare professional first before adding supplements to your diet.

CITRUS

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s VITAMIN C! Any citrus fruit will give you a punch o’ vitamin C power!

When it comes to citrus, you can use the whole fruit! Instead of only eating the juicy bits, keep the peels and dry them for 3-4 days (not grapefruit, see above). Pulverize them into a powder with a coffee grinder and add them to smoothies or stir fry recipes or make your own vitamin C powder. The peels are somewhat bitter so remember this in your kitchen creations!

1 ORANGE

51 mg of vitamin C

68% RDI for adult women

1 LEMON

45 mg of vitamin C

60% RDI for adult women

1 CLEMENTINE

48 mg of vitamin C

64% RDI for adult women

 

1 GRAPEFRUIT

It’s probably great, but I’m not a big grapefruit fan and I don’t feel like doing the research (it’s my prerogative, Bobby). I know the juice has a lot of sugar and I don’t know many who eat the fruit like an orange because the pith is so bitter, so I’ll leave it out. It probably has loads of vitamin C, though.
Just saying.

Eat freeze-dried tangerines instead of gummy bears or fruit snacks.

BLUEBERRIES

One of my favorite fruits! They are so tasty that Robert Frost wrote a poem about them. (Lucky fruit.)

Like to hear it? Here it goes!

Blueberries have:

24% RDI            vitamin C

  5% RDI            vitamin B6

36% RDI            vitamin K

 

WHAT!?!  Amaaazing!

BLUEBERRIES

“You ought to have seen what I

     saw on my way

To the village, through

     Mortenson’s pasture to-day:

Blueberries as big as the end of

     your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and

     ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first

     one to come!

And all ripe together, not some

     of them green

And some of them ripe! You

     ought to have seen!”

                                  — Robert Frost

PEPPERS

I can’t eat these precious foods, but I wish I could because they have tons of valuable nutrients and they taste like Harvesting Day in the Garden of Eaten (it’s EJ’s version of the Garden of Eden, ok? Yes. I just referred to myself in the third person).

1/2 CUP CHOPPED RED PEPPER

85 mg of vitamin C

113% RDI for adult women

 

Slice raw yellow and orange peppers, remove seeds, and dip in hummus or ranch dressing instead of eating chips (crisps for my Brit friends)! 

1/2 CUP CHOPPED YELLOW PEPPER

138 mg vitamin C

184% RDI for adult women

 

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