Refined and added sugars are one of the most talked about ingredients in our food supply. They have been associated with many serious diseases including obesity, cancer, diabetes, and so much more.
Cutting back or quitting on refined sugar can be a hard challenge, however, luckily there are quite a few natural alternatives on the market that are actually tasty and far better for our health.
Here are 4 natural sweeteners to consider adding to your diet.
Stevia is one of the most popular natural sugar alternatives on the market. It is derived from the leaves of the South American plant stevia rebaudiana. Stevia is about three hundred times sweeter than sugar, so it is important to start with small amounts. It contains zero calories, and zero carbohydrates. Some stevia products will combine stevia with other natural sweeteners, which would give the product a low carbohydrate content. This is something to look out for if you are counting your carbs. Stevia has actually been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (1). This alternative is easy to digest and will not spike your blood sugar! Some have described stevia to have a slightly bitter taste, however I enjoy it and can confidently say it is one of my top choices when it comes to natural sweeteners.
Monk fruit is my personal favourite! It comes from the vines of the Southeast Asian plant siraitia grosvenorii. Monk fruit is around two hundred times sweeter than traditional sugar, so it is important to start small if you're adding it in place of sugar. Monk fruit contains zero calories and zero sugar and can support stable blood sugar levels. Monk fruit also contains specific antioxidants which studies show can reduce inflammation within the body (4). Like with stevia, many products mix sweeteners which is why it is always important to read the label thoroughly. Monk fruit is easy on the stomach and tends to be a little less bitter compared to stevia. Many find monk fruit has a slight fruity taste that is quite mild and pleasant.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables. Unlike both stevia and monk fruit, erythritol is less sweet when compared to sugar. Erythritol is around 70-75% as sweet as traditional sugar and is therefore a great 1:1 substitute. For this reason, erythritol is a popular option when it comes to baking as it can be easily swapped in for sugar in any recipe. Unlike stevia and monk fruit, erythritol is low calorie but is not zero calorie. Erythritol does have some carbohydrate as well, as it is a sugar alcohol. Since humans are unable to break down sugar alcohols, erythritol does not cause a spike in blood sugar or insulin (2). Erythritol can cause digestive upset in high doses, similar to many sugar alcohols which should be considered.
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol that has grown in popularity over the last several years. Like erythritol, it does not spike blood sugar or insulin and is therefore a desirable option for those managing their sugar intake. Xylitol contains 40% fewer calories when compared to table sugar. Table sugar contains 4 calories per gram, while xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram. Xylitol has been shown to have positive impacts on dental health. It can reduce plaque and inflammation in the mouth and help to lubricate the mouth for those that suffer from dry mouth (3). A drawback to xylitol is digestive upset, which is seen with many sugar alcohols. Compared to erythritol, xylitol reports to have much more gas, bloating, and digestive upset when consumed in moderate to high amounts. Also, xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs and cats!
Allison is the in-house nutritionist at House of Wellness. She is a registered holistic nutritionist with experience in weight loss, mental health, hormonal balance, and digestion. She is passionate about helping others elevate their health and truly discover their highest potential! Allison believes in products made with integrity and focuses on effective solutions to help her customers and clients.
1. Ray, J., Kumar, S., Laor, D., Shereen, N., Nwamaghinna, F., Thomson, A., Perez Perez, J., Soni, L., & McFarlane, S. I. (2020).Effects of Stevia Rebaudiana on Glucose Homeostasis, Blood Pressure and Inflammation: A Critical Review of Past and Current Research Evidence. International journal of clinical research & trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7059728/.
2. Shin, D. H., Lee, J. H., Kang, M. S., Kim, T. H., Jeong, S. J., Kim, C. H., Kim, S. S., & Kim, I. J. (2016, August).Glycemic Effects of Rebaudioside A and Erythritol in People with Glucose Intolerance. Diabetes & metabolism journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4995183/.
3. Janakiram, C., Deepan Kumar, C. V., & Joseph, J. (2017).Xylitol in preventing dental caries: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320817/.
4. Xue, W., Mao, J., Chen, Q., Ling, W., & Sun, Y. (2020, October 20).Mogroside IIIE Alleviates High Glucose-Induced Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Apoptosis of Podocytes by the Activation of AMPK/SIRT1 Signaling Pathway. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7585782/.