Natural Alternatives to Refined Sugar

Are you looking for an alternative to refined white sugar? Are you confused about all the natural alternatives or just want to learn more about them? Don’t want your children or yourself to be bouncing off the walls and having a meltdown after eating sugar? If you answered yes, read on and learn more! There are answers/alternatives and I use many of them in my new cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem-see Orders page!

Many of us have made the choice to eliminate refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup(HFCS) from our diets and replace them with an array of more natural sweeteners. There are many alternatives for sweetening, but what are they and how do they differ?  Many of these alternatives have a lower glycemic index which will eliminate the highs and lows associated with refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

The research on high fructose corn syrup is mixed. However, it does suggest that consuming it can promote diabetes, obesity and  heart disease. Studies have shown a correlation between HFCS and the increased incidence of obesity and diabetes. Anyone who has eaten white sugar knows that it causes spikes in blood sugar followed by the sugar lows.

Agave nectar and palm sugar are suitable for diabetics because they are very low glycemic index. However, if you are a diabetic please consult your physician and try them in small quantities to begin. I hope they work well for you and you can have dessert again without suffering!

Many of us also experience inflammation in our bodies and get hives or feel “spacey” when we eat white sugar. Since refined sugar can be associated with inflammation, it can aggravate any pre-existing inflammation such as arthritis. I personally, cut it out of my diet many years ago and feel so much better. If I do eat some refined sugar, I break out in hives! It is very difficult to avoid it when eating out, but it is something we have complete control and choice in our own homes/kitchens. Read labels and make your own choice. It is hidden in all kinds of food, even salad dressing!

White sugar is highly processed and can be very toxic due to the chemical solutions,  bleaching and filtering with bone charcoal(not vegan). Yes, bone is used to filter sugar. This processing is not only unhealthy for our bodies, but is doing harm to the environment.

The sugar cane itself is not the  problem, but how it is processed and refined is a problem. There are less refined/processed sweeteners made from the sugar cane such as sucanat and molasses-see below.

Healthy Alternatives to refined white sugar(GI80): Available at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, health food stores, some ethnic grocery stores and online

Agave nectar: (GI 32)Tastes sweet and neutral. Extracted from the Blue Agave Cactus. Raw agave syrup has a low glycemic index and is absorbed into the body much slower than sugar. It eliminates the highs and lows experienced with eating refined sugar. Dissolves in cold liquid. Available in light and dark, use light unless recipe indicates dark.

Palm Sugar/Coconut Sugar:(GI35) One comes from the palmyra or sugar palm and the other from coconut palm, but both are produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds.  The sap is boiled down to concentrate it and evaporate the moisture. Low glycemic index!

Date Sugar: (dates are about GI44, but sugar GI is not available) finely ground dried date crystals. Can be used in place of sugar. Very expensive.

Maple Syrup: (GI 54)syrup/sap from the Sugar Maple Tree that is boiled and evaporated. A flavorful sweetener.  Also dried and made into crystals, known as Maple Sugar.

Honey: (GI58)derived from the nectar of flowers gathered by bees. Available in liquid and crystal form. Sweeter than sugar. Anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Do not feed to infants under 2 years of age.

Molasses:(GI54) use unsulfured. Cane sugar syrup, unrefined/unprocessed. Great in gingerbread/snaps.

Sucanat: (GI55)dehydrated, unprocessed sugar cane juice. Fine ground golden brown crystals. An affordable, raw sweetener with a light molasses flavor. Interchangeable with maple/date sugar.

Give these alternatives a try and find your favorite. Please post a comment on this blog and share your experience or thoughts about alternative natural sweeteners.  See Recipe of the Week to get a homemade ice “cream” recipe made with agave or honey-fabulous on top of the Summer Fruit Crisp made with agave and one of the natural sugars above!

Enjoy and Be Well, Lauren Hoover

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16 thoughts on “Natural Alternatives to Refined Sugar

  1. Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I
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  2. Found this website by accident!.. Looking for alternatives to refined white sugar !….my 12yr old son has Crohn’s disease . He was so ill 2yrs ago that he has had his large colon removed! … The disease has now spread to his small intestine! .. And we are very worried about the future as he was allergic to a lot of his medication !..my husband & I are convinced that what we eat in the western world has a lot to do with this type of illness although his consultant will not advocate cutting things out of his diet to see if it makes a difference! .. We are desperate for help with cooking etc. .. I enjoy cooking and make a lot of things from scratch but need help with the science behind it! .. Is there any advice you could give us …….many thanks Jennifer Reid

  3. Thank you for that info, Jesse! I was thinking how sucanat would be a great alternative, evidently NOT! Unless I could find a responsibly, substanable, source. Does anyone know of one? I am looking for a sugar substitute ;to use in my canning, jams and preserves. I just can’t do 7 cups of sugar!!!! for 6 pounds of fruit. And Splenda…..I am not comfortable with it.in those quanitities. Any ideas anyone? Susan

    • Susan, you can use Coconut Palm Sugar in equal proportion to recipes that call for sugar. See my recent post on coconut palm sugar II. I made delicious Apricot and Plum jam with it this summer and am enjoying it now.

  4. I have 2 sons who are in the process of being diagnosed with aspergers (a form of autism) and in my research I have found that refined sugars make the symptoms worse. In reading this article I can see why! Thank you for all the above information and giving plenty of alternatives. Chelsea

  5. I have a question. how much of agave,sucanat, honey do you substitute for sugar in a recipe. I am finding diff. answers to this. one says 1/3 cup agave to 1 cup sugar. another says equal 1 cup to 1cup? which is right? Thanks in advance if you can answer this for me. and same question for sucanat and honey.

    • Lori, Agave needs to be reduced by 25% in recipes to replace sugar. Coconut Palm Sugar is equal substitution and is low glycemic index and sustainable too! Honey is also sweeter and acidic so that is more tricky. Honey is 1 1/2 times sweeter than honey, but you cannot always adjust exactly. You may need to reduce liquid in the recipe and you may need to add baking soda since it is acidic. Check out the book Covered in Honey by Mani Niall and some of my recipes also use honey. Good luck.

  6. While in Guatemala I’ve learned that cane sugar is one of the most chemical-intensive, land-degrading crops that exists, as they first burn the land to clear it, then drop a pest and herbicide bomb to sterilize what’s left, then apply regular rat poison doses because it’s such an attractive thicket to rodents. Because the soil is so burned, bleached, and lifeless after this, it doesn’t really give the crop any nutrients, so they feed it large amounts of chemical fertilizers that run off into nearby bodies of water.

    As I look for healthier and safer alternatives, it seems to me that honey and agave are the easiest to buy knowing they haven’t had awful environmental effects. Anyone know about the other alternatives?

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