By Jane Barthelemy.
I’m passionate about natural sweeteners, and I hope you are too. This is an exhaustive list of 325 sweeteners available in the USA, by yours truly. Gleaned from nutrition labels and supermarket shelves, it’s the most complete list I’ve seen so far. Sweeteners are alphabetical, with their ingredients when possible. Actually this list will never be 100% complete, as new sweeteners are invented every week. I don’t sell sweeteners. I just study them, observe my clients, and listen to my body. I hope this is helpful. So, what’s the best sweetener for you?
Executive Summary: The Best Sweeteners:
These are the five sweeteners that I consider BEST. That’s because they are either completely unrefined, or zero- carb, available, taste delicious, and are easy to use in recipes.
a. Raw honey is a truly unprocessed sweetener.
The food eaten by the young bees is a superfood for humans too. Honey is very high in carbs and calories, and it gives a nice big blood sugar spike. It contains about 50% fructose, 44% glucose, and 1% sucrose, surprisingly close to table sugar. For these reasons I reserve honey as a rare Paleo treat, and use it infrequently. Honey is almost twice as sweet as sugar, so one would use 1/2 to 2/3 of the amount of sugar called for.
b. Chicory Root – Just Like Sugar Table Top
A zero-calorie, zero glycemic, zero-carb granulated sweetener from natural chicory root, used cup for cup like sugar. Find it in food coops, Amazon, or JustLikeSugar.com,
c. Lo Han Guo
PureLo Lo Han Sweetener is made from Luo Han Guo, a sweet Chinese herb, also called “monk fruit” PureLo contains Lo Han Guo and inulin powder. It has zero carbs, zero calories, and no sugars. Buy PureLo at SwansonVitamins.com or Amazon. PureLo is about 6 times sweeter than sugar, so you can use 1/6 the amount of PureLo as sugar called for in a conventional recipe. Find an easy conversion chart in my book Good Morning Paleo!
d. Swerve Sweetener
Swerve is a non-GMO Erythritol sweetener that can be used cup for cup like sugar. It has zero calories and zero net carbs. It is available at swervesweetener.com and Amazon.
e. Raw Stevia leaves
One of the safest and least processed sweeteners available, raw or dried stevia leaves, or green stevia powder are 35-40 times sweeter than sugar. For a delicious way to sweeten your tea, get a stevia plant. Unprocessed stevia has an aftertaste some people don’t like. Raw stevia is very different from chemically processed stevioside drops and powders.
Uh Oh! Why aren’t these in the best list?
Xylitol didn’t make it because it has 67% the calories of sugar, it gives a small glycemic rush, it leads to gastric disturbance in some people, and causes liver failure in dogs.
Refined stevioside drops and powders are highly processed with chemicals such as formaldehyde and methyl alcohol. This proprietary refinement process was developed because the stevia leaf cell walls are so tough, they don’t break down with the usual methods of heating or centrifuging. These chemicals are not healthy.
Maple Syrup, Coconut Nectar, Coconut Sugar, and Agave didn’t make the list, as they’re refined concentrates, high in sugars and carbs. Check the labels and you’ll see.
Compare calories per cup in popular sweeteners.
How do so-called healthy sweeteners stack up?
Compare Net Carbs in Sweeteners
There Are 12 Categories Used for Sweeteners.
(The categories not mutually exclusive.)
1. Best Sweeteners – Completely unrefined, or zero carb, easy to find, delicious taste, and easy to use in recipes. Raw honey, chicory root, PureLo Lo Han Guo by Swanson, Swerve Sweetener, and raw stevia leaves.
2. Zero Carb Sweeteners – This is a class of sweeteners that contain no carbs and no sugars of any kind. They do not cause a blood sugar spike or insulin response. That is great, but it doesn’t necessarily make them healthy.
3. Low Carb Sweeteners – These have relatively low carbs compared to table sugar.
4. Paleo Sweeteners – These are sweeteners that could be gathered or made in the Paleolithic period. Examples are raw honey, chicory root, stevia raw leaf, raw maple sap, and Brazzein berries from West Africa.
5. So-called “Natural” Sweeteners – These are sweeteners that many people consider “Natural”, and they may be somewhat less refined than table sugar. Examples are Turbinado sugar, rice syrup, honey and maple syrup. “Natural” is not an indication that they’re healthy – we need to first consider other factors like the carb level and production methods.
6. High Carb Sweeteners – Most of our common sweeteners are high in carbohydrates. Anything high in carbs will give you a blood sugar spike or insulin response, which destabilizes metabolism. Carbs are easy to find on nutrition labels.
7. High Fructose Sweeteners – Fructose is a specific type of sugar found in plants like fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and bananas. Recent research shows that fructose is linked to lipid fat deposits in the liver, arterial plaque, obesity, and other diseases. So it’s a good idea to limit consumption of fructose. Most sweeteners contain several types of sugars, so this category is a simplification.
8. High Glycemic Sweeteners – These sweeteners are high in glucose, causing a glycemic rise in blood sugar, followed by a sudden drop. The constant see-saw in blood sugar destabilizes the metabolism and has been linked to accelerated aging, weak immune system, and other metabolic diseases. Most sweeteners contain several types of sugars – for example, table sugar is made up of both glucose and fructose. So this category is also a simplification.
9. Fermented Sweeteners – This is a class of crystalline fermented plant sweeteners, known as Polyol sweeteners, such as Erythritol and Xylitol. Fermented sweeteners have a similar structure to a glucose molecule, but the carbs are not digested in the same way. Fermented sweeteners are lower in carbs than table sugar.
10. High Intensity Sweeteners – These high potency sweeteners range from 3 times to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Most of them are artificial, however some are 100% natural. You won’t find many high intensity sweeteners listed on packaged food labels. Their miniscule weight is below the legal minimum of 0.5 grams per serving, so there is no requirement to disclose them. A few high intensity sweeteners are made with nano technology – a growing industry that alters molecules on a microscopic atomic scale.
11. Industrial Sweeteners – These are sweeteners that are created by and/or intended for use in the food industry. There are a great many industrial sweeteners made for specific commercial purposes, and equally many unknowns about their production methods or ingredients.
12. Artificial Sweeteners – This is a class of sweeteners that are chemically created non-caloric sugar substitutes, and are usually high intensity. Examples are aspartame, sucralose, and refined stevioside. They’re often called non-nutritive sweeteners, as opposed to “nutritive” sweeteners like glucose. I include stevioside even though it is only partly artificial, as a highly refined extract from a stevia plant using chemicals such as formaldehyde and methyl alcohol.
“We don’t need sugar to live, and we don’t need it as a society.” Dr. Mehmet Oz