Good sugar alternatives are popular because they add sweetness and flavor to food without calories and the risk of causing tooth decay. Unlike regular processed white sugar, many sugar substitutes keep blood sugar levels steady, which is essential for people with diabetes or other conditions.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that there are heaps of products on the market claiming to be the next best thing. But, before purchasing a good sugar substitute, there are a couple of things to consider.
What are the benefits of swapping processed sugar with a sweetener without aspartame? What are the four main types of healthy substitutes for sugar? Most importantly, how to choose the best sugar substitute for you?
If you are interested in the answers to these questions, keep on reading.
Benefits of the Best Sugar Substitutes
The benefits of looking into reputable sugar substitute brands and starting to use their products include:
- Weight management (fewer calories than sugar; except honey or agave, sugar substitutes typically have 0 calories)
- Suitable for people with diabetes (because they typically do not spike blood sugar levels)
- Reduced risk of cavities
- Stevia may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%
- Reduces risk of obesity in children
- Honey has added nutrients
- Xylitol relieves constipation
- Yacon syrup is high in antioxidants and potassium
- Monk fruit is anti-inflammatory
On the flip side, refined sugar can cause:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Heart disease
- Energy crashes
- Fatty liver
- Type 2 diabetes
- Premature aging
The Four Types of Best Sweeteners
There are four types of sugar substitutes, with some overlap between the groups: natural sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, novel sweeteners, and sugar alcohols. Each of these sugar substitutes has possible benefits and downsides depending on what you are looking for.
- Natural sweeteners (honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, dates, etc.)
These natural sweeteners are not sugar-free and calorie-free. Although they contain traces of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they should be consumed in moderation if the goal is to lose weight.
- Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, xylitol, etc.)
Many people claim sucralose is the best artificial sweetener, but saccharin, aspartame, and xylitol are also suitable calorie-free options for individuals trying to lose weight. Although some artificial sweeteners are not good for you, studies have shown that xylitol is completely safe and has potential health benefits.
- Sugar alcohols (xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol)
On the flip side, like other sugar alcohols, xylitol can slightly raise blood sugar levels (though not as much as processed white sugar). Hence, if you have diabetes, you will need to count calories and carbohydrates from sugar alcohols in your diet.
- Novel sweeteners (tagatose, trehalose, stevia)
These alternatives are derived from natural sources, while being low on calories (or calorie-free). For instance, stevia is a plant that has been used to sweeten beverages for centuries, and the sweetener derived from it contains zero calories. This means that stevia is one of the best no-calorie sweeteners for people on a healthy diet.
Sweeteners on a Keto or Low-Carb Diet
The ketogenic diet involves dramatically reducing the intake of carbohydrates and replacing them with fat. Because of this, people following keto need to reduce their intake of sugar found in sweets, baked goods, dressings, and beverages.
The following good sweeteners are most suitable for people on a keto or low-carb diet because they do not spike blood sugar levels:
- Monk fruit
- Erythritol (Since it is a sugar alcohol, it can slightly spike blood sugar levels, but not drastically.)
These are low glycemic sweeteners for diabetics making them the best option for keto and low-carb dieters.
As a reminder, GI stands for glycemic index, a scale determining how fast carbohydrates, sugars, and starches are absorbed into the body. GI is divided into three categories: low GI (55 or less), medium GI (55–70), and high GI (70–100).
How to Choose the Best Sugar Substitute for You?
Here are the top factors to consider when selecting the best sugar substitute for you and your family.
Best sweeteners for diabetics come in a variety of forms, such as liquid and powder. In addition to this, they are also available in different volumes and packaging. For instance, if you are a passionate baker, you will want to choose an enormous container, whereas people on the go will prefer single packets.
You might be interested in swapping processed white sugar with sweeteners that are good for you because they are typically zero-calorie alternatives. Although sweeteners such as stevia or erythritol are calorie-free, some natural options, including coconut sugar, honey, and molasses, are not.
With this in mind, choose a sugar alternative that you can fit into your daily calorie intake for weight loss.
Carbohydrate and Sugar Content
Besides counting calories, people on a strict diet will also need to consider the carbohydrates and the sugars in their favorite natural or best artificial sweetener. For instance, natural sweeteners such as honey and agave syrup are high in carbs and sugar, making them unfit for people with diabetes.
Sweetness and Flavor
Different healthy sugar alternatives have different levels of sweetness and flavor profiles. For instance, higher-processed sugar substitutes tend to have a bitter aftertaste. Also, sugar alternatives such as monk fruit and stevia are sweeter than processed white sugar. As for molasses and honey, these have specific flavors.