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Between diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer, researchers have found sugar to be associated with all of them. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5174139/
Think about your dietary weaknesses.
Is sugar one of them?
I know that I have a sweet tooth at times.
When you want something sweet, we turn to sugar.
One of the biggest problems in our modern diets is that we tend to consume more sugar than we should.
That’s why so many experts are now coming out with recommendations for us to lower our sugar intake.
But what if you can let go of everything in the world except for that sweet fix?
What do you do then?
Don’t worry, though.
In this article, you’ll learn some alternatives to sugar that will make it easy to reduce your sugar intake.
What is Sugar?
There are many different names that people use to refer to sugar. Some are correct, while others are not.
So before we delve deeper into this article, let’s try to clear up some of this confusion.
First, it is essential to understand that in medicine, the word “sugar” can refer to three different things.
These things all fall under the carbohydrate umbrella, which makes the confusion more difficult.
When you are thinking about “blood sugar,” you are more likely thinking about glucose.
Glucose is the primary sugar found in your blood and has a quicker impact on your body than the other sugars.
Glucose is one of the simple forms of carbohydrates. It is also your body’s preferred form of energy. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sucrose-glucose-fructose#what-are-they?
By simple, I mean that glucose cannot be broken down further and still be considered a carbohydrate.
In foods, you usually find glucose used to build more complex carbs.
If your body doesn’t use its glucose immediately, it stores in a form called glycogen.
Similar to glucose, fructose is a simple form of carbohydrate.
You may also know fructose as the “fruit sugar” because it is found naturally in fruits, honey, and agave.
The body’s response to fructose in the blood is slower than glucose.
Your body cannot use fructose right away.
Our livers have to convert fructose into glucose before the body can use it.
By consuming a lot of fructose-containing substances, you might be putting a burden on your liver. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145298/
Out of the three types of sugars, fructose is the sweetest.
The white substance that you put in your foods and call sugar is usually sucrose.
Sucrose is a carbohydrate that is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
It is found naturally in vegetables, fruits, and grains. We also add it to foods like ice cream and candy.
Every time you eat sucrose, you are getting glucose and fructose at the same time.
Your body can’t use sucrose right away and has to break it down to those two sugars first. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4124338/
As you can see, sugar has different meanings depending on the context.
For the rest of this article, anytime I say sugar, I am referring to sucrose.
Why Is Sugar Bad for You?
According to scientists, sugar does not contain essential nutrients that benefit our diets outside of its sweet taste.
There aren’t any proteins, essential fats, vitamins, or minerals in sugar. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#section1
Your body breaks down sugar into glucose and fructose. In the presence of glucose, your body converts more fructose into fat for storage.
This study found a link between sugar and obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15051594/
Other studies found a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24493081/ , https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01830725
What about that sweet tooth that we hear about so much?
This study reveals that sugar activates a similar response to addictive drugs.
People can be addicted to sugar, just like people can be addicted to drugs!
If you’re now worried about your sugar intake, one of the first things experts recommend you do to lower your input is to start reading labels. https://www.byrdie.com/healthy-sugar-substitute
You’ll be surprised at the things that are hiding sugar, even if they don’t taste sweet.
It can be hiding in things such as cereals, salad dressings, and salsa.
Experts say that reading food labels is an effective way to keep your added sugar intake in check.
Some companies may say that a product doesn’t contain sugar, but the ingredients of their product might include any of these things.
If you see these ingredients, know that the product contains sugar: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
- brown sugar
- corn sweetener
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrates
- high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- malt sugar
- anything that ends with “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Another option that multiple people take is to find alternatives to eating sugar.
The following sections introduce you to those sugar alternatives.
I also go over some precautions and things to keep in mind about each one.
Google sugar substitutes, and you are more than likely to encounter the name Stevia.
Many people prefer Stevia over sweeteners such as sucralose because its origins come from nature rather than a lab.
Manufacturers extract leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant to create Stevia.
This plant is located in South America.
For over 200 years, indigenous people have used Stevia as a sweetener and as a medicine. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09637480903193049?journalCode=iijf20
Stevia extracts are either stevioside or rebaudioside A.
Stevia products sold in grocery stores may contain either or a mixture of these compounds.
For example, Stevia in the Raw contains rebaudioside A.
Benefits of Stevia
Here are some of the reasons why so many people love Stevia: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/stevia-vs-sugar#stevia-basics
- According to this article, Stevia can be up to 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. That means you need less of it to make things taste as delicious as using sugar. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890837/
- Stevia is calorie and carbohydrate-free. That means you can add it to your diet, and it won’t have a significant effect. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170679/nutrients
- Stevia may help lower hypertension. Researchers showed that stevioside, one of the Stevia extracts, can help lower high blood pressure. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/14693305/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014988/
- Stevia can help lower blood sugar, according to these studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2900484/ , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/14681845/
- The FDA considers Stevia extracts such as Rebaudioside A and stevioside to be “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states
Caution with Stevia Use
Even though the benefits of Stevia sound great, you also need to be aware of certain facts about Stevia before rushing to buy it.
- Inconclusive evidence. Although I presented some great studies that demonstrated some of Stevia’s benefits, none of that information is conclusive about the safety and effectiveness of using Stevia. We still need more in-depth research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590273/ , https://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/189/28/E929.full.pdf
- Stevia might interact with certain medications. Please consult with your healthcare professional before using Stevia.
- Many Stevia products contain Stevia blended with other sweeteners such as erythritol (mentioned later). For example, Stevia in the Raw contains Stevia mixed with either dextrose or maltodextrin. https://www.intheraw.com/products/faqs/stevia-in-the-raw/
- Caution with products that contain dextrose or maltodextrin.
- You might not like the taste. According to the Stevia in the Raw company, they add dextrose to enhance the flavor for their consumers. This brings up the possibility that some of you might like Stevia, and others might hate it.
- The FDA considers Stevia extracts, such as rebaudioside A as generally recognized as safe. However, it does not approve stevia leaf, and crude stevia extracts use in food. https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fda-basics/has-stevia-been-approved-fda-be-used-sweetener
You can use Stevia in the following ways:
- Small sachet
- Small packet
- Mixed with other sweeteners
2. Monk Fruit
Monk Fruit is also known as Luo Han Guo or Siraitia Grosvenorii or”buddha fruit.”
It is a fruit originating from Southern China and Thailand.
Eastern medicine uses it as a common remedy for lung congestion, sore throat, and constipation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007378/
Monk Fruit contains both fructose and glucose naturally.
However, its sweetness comes from its antioxidants called mogrosides.
When producers make the sweetener, they extract mogrosides from the fruit.
Therefore, Monk Fruit sweetener itself does not contain fructose or glucose. https://www.healthline.com/nutrtion/monk-fruit-sweetener#what-it-is
Benefits of Monk Fruit Sweetener
- The International Food Information Council Foundation and FDA state that Monk Fruit sweeteners are 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. Less needed for the same effect. https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/ , https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states
- The FDA considers it to be “generally recognized as safe“ or GRAS in its extract form. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states
- Monk Fruit extract doesn’t have any calories, carbs, or nutrients. Its consumption offers little effect on your diet. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monk-fruit-vs-stevia
- It helps with infection. Eastern medicine has been using it for centuries for treatments such as colds. It isn’t too surprising that this study found that monk fruit extract can inhibit the growth of oral bacterial species. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20183321 , https://perfectketo.com/monk-fruit/
- Monk Fruit may help prevent cancer. Scientists in this study discovered that mongrosides might potentially aide in the treatment of colorectal and laryngeal cancers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924201/
Caution with Monk Fruit Use
- Little research. Although the research presented above introduces you to some of the Monk Fruit effects, there aren’t enough studies out there about the effects of the Monk Fruit sweetener on humans to be conclusive. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/monk-fruit-sweetener#benefits
- Monk Fruit vs. Monk Fruit Sweetener. You might say that people have used Mon Fruit for centuries, so it must be safe. You have to understand that they used the fruit or its juice. The sweetener form is newer compared to that.
- Hard to find. Fresh monk fruit does not stay fresh for long. Drying the fruit doesn’t make it any easier to grow, harvest, and process. It is also expensive to import it. Those entire costs lead to monk fruit sweeteners costing more than other sweeteners. You also have fewer options. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monk-fruit-health-benefits#allergies
- Taste is relative. Monk Fruit sweeteners have a fruity aftertaste. Some people prefer it compared to other sweeteners like Stevia. Others can’t stand it.
Using Monk Fruit
- You can use Monk Fruit in the following ways: https://perfectketo.com/monk-fruit/
- Dried (the fruit)
- Mixed with other sweeteners
Erythritol comes from a family of compounds called sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohols are abundant in natural foods such as fruits and vegetables. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756564/#__ffnsectitle
Unlike other sugar alcohols, producers create erythritol through the natural process of fermentation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5011233/?report=reader
Erythritol first entered the markets in Japan in 1990. The World Health Organization (WHO) approved it in 1999, followed by the FDA in 2001. https://foodinsight.org/what-is-eythritol/ , https://apps.who.int/food-additives-contaminants-jecfa-database/chemical.aspx?chemID=961 , https://www.fda.gov/media/121983/download
Benefits of Erythritol
- Few calories per gram. According to Healthline, erythritol contains about 0.24 calories per gram. This is about 6% of the calories in sugar. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/erythritol#section1
- Improvement in dental health. In this study on children, the researchers found an association between erythritol candies and lower plaque and plaque acetic acid growth. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24095985-effect-of-three-year-consumption-of-erythritol-xylitol-and-sorbitol-candies-on-various-plaque-and-salivary-caries-related-variables/
- Not as sweet as sugar. Erythritol is said to be about 60-80 percent as sweet as sugar. For some people, erythritol tastes as sweet as sugar, so it doesn’t matter to them. https://foodinsight.org/what-is-erythritol/, https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-erythritol-2242294#benefits-of-erythritol
- Lower gastrointestinal symptoms. Unlike other sugar alcohols, getting GI upsets is not as common with erythritol. Children between 4-6 tolerated up to 15 grams of erythritol in this study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25744158-gastrointestinal-tolerance-of-erythritol-containing-beverage-in-young-children-a-double-blind-randomised-controlled-trial/
Cautions with Erythritol Use
- GI upset in some people. I know. I just got done saying that erythritol causes less gastrointestinal problems than other sugar alcohols. However, it still can cause problems for some people. Those with a history of GI problems, like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, or diarrhea should be careful with this sweetener.
- Nutrition Facts Label Confusion. According to the FDA, it does not require producers to list sugar alcohols in its Nutrition Facts. If it isn’t there, you have to look for erythritol in the ingredients list, and that doesn’t tell you how many grams it has. Remember, the closer it is to the beginning, the more the product has. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/sugar-alcohol.html
- Cool or minty taste. Some people have said that erythritol can have a cooling effect in their mouths. If that is not something you want, mixing with the sweet taste in your mouth, be careful. https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-erythritol-2242294
- Not as sweet as sugar. Here is another benefit that can be a negative effect on some people. While others might think erythritol works for them, others might not agree easily.
- As Medical News Today points out, there is conflicting research about erythritol. Newer studies seem to contradict findings from earlier studies. For example, this study states that erythritol doesn’t affect your metabolism. However, a 2017 study revealed that erythritol increases the risk of severe overweight, meaning it does affect metabolism.  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318392.php#erythritol-and-digestive-ailments , https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.gov/8457525/ , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5448202/#s16title
You can use Erythritol in the following ways: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a19055328/erythritol-side-effects/
- Mixed with other sweeteners
Allulose is a relatively new sugar alternative that has entered the markets.
It is also known as D-psicose (or D-allulose) and is considered a “rare sugar.” This definition means that you only find it in a few foods such as wheat, figs, and raisins.
You may notice the “ose” ending in allulose. Earlier in this article, I said that anything that has that ending is a carbohydrate.
And allulose is indeed a carb like sucrose or sugar.
Allulose is more like glucose and fructose, the simple carbs in sucrose.
Allulose and fructose share the same amount of carbons and hydrogens in its chemical formula. What makes the difference is the arrangement of its atoms.
It might not seem as much when you think about it. For your body, the difference is enough.
Your body does not digest allulose as much as it can digest fructose.
Benefits of Allulose
- Even if your digestive system absorbs allulose, most of it will just pass through your blood straight to your urine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26297965
- Experts say that allulose only provides about 0.2-0.4 calories per gram compared to the four calories of sugar. This means that allulose as a sugar replacement has less impact on your diet.
- FDA approved. In 2014, the FDA approved the use of allulose in foods and as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fdcc/?set=GRASNotices&id=498 In 2019, the FDA also decided that allulose will not be included as a total or added sugar in the nutrition labels of products. https://www.fda.gov/media/123342/download
- It lowers blood sugar. In these studies, experts found that allulose use lowered blood sugar and the risk of developing insulin resistance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26297965 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22877751
- No adverse effects. The participants of this study did not have any adverse or negative effects after taking allulose. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20208358
Cautions with Allulose Use
- It is still new in the market. The FDA approved allulose in 2014. As I am writing this article, that was only a few years ago. There hasn’t been much time to evaluate the use of allulose as a commercial product fully.
- It doesn’t have global approval. The FDA has approved allulose in the United States. Other countries such as Japan and Korea also approved its use. https://www.ingredientsnetwork.com/what-s-next-for-allulose-news077698.html However, based on what I found, allulose is not approved in Europe or Canada. https://www.ingredientsnetwork.com/what-s-next-for-allulose-news077698.html , https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food-additives/lists-permitted/9-sweeteners.html
- Only a few human studies about allulose. At the time that I am writing this article, there have only been small studies done on allulose. compared to the larger studies done on other sweeteners, it is not a definite conclusion. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/allulose#section6 , https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326198.php#summary
- Potential digestive issues. In this report, the FDA stated that large amounts of allulose could lead to abdominal discomforts such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. https://www.fda.gov/media/106159/download
- It can be expensive. Allulose is still a new enough sweetener that you can’t find it everywhere yet. This is similar to Monk Fruit. On Amazon, I found that most allulose products were at least $10.
You can use allulose in the following ways: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326198.php#suitability-in-keto-or-paleo-diet , https://allulose.org/allulose-info/allulose-applications/
- Carbonated and non-carbonated beverages
- Salad dressings
- Jams and jellies
- Chewing gum
- Sweet sauces and syrups
How to Use Alternative Sweeteners
Now that we have learned about these alternatives to sugar, it is essential to understand how conversions work.
Converting between sugar and these alternatives may depend on the product and the brand you buy.
Some people can substitute every cup of sugar for a cup of Stevia, for example. Others cannot.
Many brands also say that they can replace 1 cup of sugar for 1 cup of their products, making conversion easier.
Many brands offer instructions on their packages. You can also look at their websites for instructions.
Another thing to be aware of is that some brands may not have one type of sweetener, but a mixture of sweeteners.
I found this nice conversion calculator from WholesomeYum that uses many common sweetener brands. https://www.wholesumyum.com/natural-low-carb-sweeteners-guide-conversion-chart/#conversioncalc.
Here are conversion calculators and conversion charts from some sweetener brands:
- SweetLeaf https://sweetleaf.com/stevia-conversion-calculator/ Also, check their conversion charts here. https://sweetleaf.com/stevia-conversion-chart/
- Truvia https://www.truvia.com/conversion-charts
- Now BetterStevia https://www.nowfoods.com/now/nowledge/betterstevia-sweetener-equivalency
- Pyrure https://pyureorganic.com/faq/
Mixing Sweeteners in Drinks, Sauces, Etc.
One thing that I found out the hard way when I used these sugar alternatives was that they weren’t always easy to dissolve as sugar.
From my experience and my research, erythritol is the one that dissolves the worst.
I even found it to crystallize in my drinks sometimes!
This problem typically occurs when you use the granulated forms of the sweeteners for things that you would want to be smooth like drinks.
Luckily I discovered some ways that might help you avoid these problems:
- Instead of using the granulated sweeteners, you can use either their powder or liquid forms. Some recipes that I saw using alternative sweeteners usually called for the granulated types when it came to baking.
- Consider using allulose instead. Allulose is closest to sugar and may dissolve better than the other sweeteners. https://www.wholesomeyum.com/natural-low-carb-sweeteners-guide-conversion-chart/#chooselowcarbsweeteners
Baking with Sugar Substitutes
Replacing sugar using these sugar alternatives may be as easy as figuring out the right conversions.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to baking. Except for allulose, these sweeteners act differently from sugar.
Many of your favorite baked foods depend a lot on the caramelization of sugar at high temperatures.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Even if you make the right sugar-to-sweetener conversion, what works for sugar may not work for that sweetener. You may find that using less or more in some recipes gives you the taste or texture that you want.
- Lighter products. The sugar alternatives that you use may not have the browning effect that sugar provides. You might consider lowering your baking temperature and increasing baking time.
- Try not to mix liquids with dry products. You might find yourself wondering if you can replace powder sugar with liquid Stevia. Or you are maybe replacing liquid sugar with powder allulose. The difficulty in baking comes from the accuracy in the balance between the ingredients. Making these kinds of swaps might not achieve the results you want.
- Erythritol has a minty aftertaste. This side effect is stronger the more quantities you use of it. You may want to consider using another sweetener if you are trying to make treats that required large amounts of sugar.
- Stevia may increase bitterness in bitter foods. If you have naturally bitter foods, Stevia might increase that taste. An example is Lily’s Chocolates, that uses Stevia. For a while, their milk chocolates tasted like dark chocolate to me. But my taste buds eventually adjusted, and I began to enjoy them.
- Erythritol has a cooling effect. After a day or so, erythritol-sweetened baked goods have a cooling effect with their sweetness. If you are going to use erythritol, experts say to use it in recipes where you are likely to consume the product the day you make it.
- Concentrated Monk Fruit. Pure forms of Monk Fruit may not handle high temperatures very well. But some have said that their products turned out fine, so you might need to experiment with this.
We tackled a variety of topics in this article. Let’s review them:
- Sugar can mean either glucose, fructose, or sucrose. When referring to table sugar, you likely talking about sucrose.
- Excess sugar intake can have negative consequences, such as increasing your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- If you want to reduce your sugar intake, one way is learning how to read nutrition labels for the products you buy correctly.
- Alternatives to sugar you want to consider are Stevia, Monk Fruit, Erythritol, and Allulose.
- To make the right sugar conversions, make sure to read the instructions that come with your sweeteners or visit the brand’s website.
Based on the information you have learned, find a sweetener that you believe you want.
Then decide what types you want to buy to replace sugar.
Then buy and explore how it affects your life.
Thanks for reading!
References [ + ]
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