Healthy Sugar Alternatives Ranked - According To A Nutritionist

Calling out all popular sugar alternatives, we’re putting you under the spotlight! We’ve started to see a big decrease in the use of sugar (something we are definitely for!) and a massive shift toward sugar alternatives - and lots of them in fact! It's no secret sugar can affect things from your mood through to your skin so when we hear people start to focus on their sugar consumption we do a little happy dance. Next time you go out to your local café, take a look at their sugar choices; you’ll see all kinds of sugar as opposed to your usual table sugar. Take a look below to find out more on some of the most common sugar alternatives out there. Did you see number one coming?

 coconut

8. COCONUT SUGAR
100g sugar per 100g
Made from the sap found in coconuts, coconut sugar can be in the form of either liquid or granules. You may find coconut sugar popping up more in cafes or used in baked good as a ‘healthier alternative’. The reality is, coconut sugar still contains the same amount of sugar per 100g as you would find in regular table sugar. Its sugar component is predominantly sucrose as well as glucose and fructose, whereas table sugar consists of glucose and fructose.  Research has shown, however, that coconut sugar provides a low GI compared to sugarcane. Low GI foods play an important role in the dietary management of diabetes, weight reduction, peak sport performance and the reduction of risks associated with heart disease and hypertension[1]. Our advice? Don’t go eating coconut sugar by the spoonful, as it is still a sugar and there are  healthier sugar alternatives, but if you had to choose between table sugar or coconut sugar- choose the coconut sugar.

7. MAPLE SYRUP
53g sugar per 100g
Maple syrup is made by cooking down the sap from maple trees, the sap itself contains 5% sucrose, with the remainder being comprised of other sugars. When the sap is condensed into the syrup form however, it is made up of 88-99% sucrose. Nutritionally, maple syrup offers various vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium and trace amounts of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium and zinc2. However it’s important to note that there are many ‘maple flavoured syrups’ readily available which are imitations of the real maple syrup. If you are opting to use maple syrup, always check the ingredients, true maple syrup will only contain 100% ‘maple syrup’, whereas its imitation products compose of corn syrup, sugar and/or artificial sweeteners[2].

honey

6. HONEY
80g sugar per 100g
Produced by bees, honey is formed from the nectar from flowers and primarily composes of sucrose. Honey is sweeter than regular table sugar which has its pros, as only a little is required to get the desired sweetness. From a nutritional point of view, honey has many benefits; it is composed primarily of fructose and glucose but also contains 4 to 5% fructooligosaccarides which serve as prebiotic agents. It also contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Honey is also well known for its antimicrobial properties[3].  If you are looking for a sweetener with nutritional benefits, honey would be your option, but again we believe in everything in moderation, and honey is no different.

5. RICE MALT SYRUP
55g sugar per 100g
This sugar alternative consists of brown rice which has been ground and cooked, during this process, the starches are converted to maltose. Structurally, it’s made of 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose and 3% glucose. Due to the complex carbohydrates, rice malt syrup will break down more slowly in the blood stream than simple carbohydrates, resulting in a less dramatic spike in the blood glucose levels. Rice Malt Syrup is often used in baking as a sugar alternative, and tends to be viewed in a positive light due the fact there is no fructose or sucrose present. We recommend using rice malt syrup in moderation.  

4. STEVIA
0.00g sugar per 100g
One of the most well known sugar substitutes, Stevia (Stevia Rebaudiana) is processed from a compound which is found in the leaf of the stevia plant. Unlike many other sugar substitutes, stevia contains no sugar and contributes effectively zero calories making it the perfect sugar substitute for weight management. Stevia is also approximately 250 times sweeter than sucrose; meaning only a little is needed for the desired sweetness. Stevia tends to have mixed views amongst the public as it is questionable whether it is natural or not as it is so processed. Also when consumed in high amounts it can have a bitter after taste. As mentioned, stevia is a great option for weight management; it is also known to be beneficial for diabetics as it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels2.

3. YACON
40g sugar per 100g
Available in either powder or liquid form, Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a tubular root which is found in the Andean regions of South America. It’s composed mostly of water and fructooligosaccarides, a prebiotic fibre which is beneficial in feeding gut bacteria[4]. In just 10g, Yacon provides a good source of fibre. Although the sweetness may not be as intense as other sugar alternatives, Yacon has a naturally, delicate sweet taste with hints of caramel and maple making it an ideal prebiotic fibre to naturally sweeten smoothies, juices and baked goods.

2. LUCUMA
13.3 sugar per 100g
Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma) is usually available as a powder, it is the dried and pulverized flesh of the lucuma fruit. Only containing 13.3% sugar, Lucuma is a fantastic sugar alternative which also contains a source of fibre in just 15g. Although Lucuma is not as sweet as sugar, it can be used to lightly sweeten baked products as well as sweetening smoothies, yoghurt and ice cream. Fun Fact: Lucuma is one of the most popular ice cream flavours in Peru!

monk fruit

1. MONK FRUIT
8.1g sugar per 100g:
Monk Fruit Juice powder (Siraitia grosvenorii) is one of the best sugar alternatives available, many describe it as ‘sweetness without the bitterness’. It is a fruit native to China and is simply dried monk fruit juice. The sweetness actually comes from naturally occurring antioxidants which are called ‘mogrosides’ and it is renowned for its intense sweetness. Monk Fruit is roughly 10 times sweeter than sugar so a little will go a long way. It is an excellent low calorie sugar alternative to sweeten tea, coffee, smoothies, juices plus baked goods. This one ranks highly given it's sweetness, low sugar, and antioxidant-giving capability!

Sahar Signoriello
Research Nutritionist
B.NutrFoodSc                                        

[1] Srikaeo, K & Thongta R, ‘Effects of sugarcane, palm sugar, coconut sugar and sorbitol on starch digestibility and physicochemical properties of wheat based foods’, 2015, International Food Research Journal, 22(3):923-929

[2] Neacsu, N. A, Madar, A, 2014  ‘Artificial sweeteners versus natural sweeteners’, Dept. of Economic Sciences and Business Administration,Vol. 7 (56) No. 1-

[3] Ezz El-Arab A.M, et al, ‘Effect of dietary honey on intestinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice’, 2006, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine  

[4] Noura Rolim, P, et al, ‘Glycemic profile and prebiotic potential ‘in vitro’ of bread with Yacon ((Smallanthus sonchifolius) Flour’, 2011.


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