What can I substitute for sugar?

In this concise article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for sugar”. We have discussed a few substitutes which are not only a replacement for sugar but super beneficial to our health. The benefits of sugar substitutes are mentioned along with the discussion about, why not use traditional sugar? and what problems could it cause?

What can I substitute for sugar?

There are various substitutes for sugar that we can add to our routine instead of using sugar. Consuming a lot of sugar can cause changes in gut bacteria, problems for the liver, cavities, as well as it causes increased risk of heart diseases because the refined sugar is full of chemicals that could cause health issues, or this sugar is just so refined that there’s no nutrient left behind (2,3,4). 

The sugar beet and sugar cane production volumes have increased by 2.5% and 2.7% per annum respectively over the past five years (2013). The increase in the extent of cultivation was accompanied by increased production of sugar, which has reached the rate of almost 0.8% per year in the period of 2008/2009 – 2011/2012 (1).

So, here’s a brief discussion about using sugar substitutes for a healthy life.

Substitutes of sugar

These are the replacements of sugar:

  • Raw honey
  • Dates
  • Coconut sugar
  • Dolcedì 
  • Agave nectar
  • Stevia sweetener

Raw honey:

The best sugar substitute one can find is raw honey. It is not even technically sugar; it is more of whole food like it contains powerful antioxidants. It helps get rid of reactive oxygen species from our blood. Basically, during the metabolism, our cells produce waste oxygen species that need to be eradicated, so honey helps to eradicate them.

The phytochemical compounds present in honey have been reported to be responsible for the medicinal properties of honey such as anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-allergic, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-parasitic activity, anti-ulcer, wound healing, and cardiovascular disease prevention (5).

Also, replacing sugar with raw honey can dramatically reduce the impact on our blood sugar level, this is because raw honey has a lower glycemic index (7).

Moreover, raw honey contains B-pollen which has a lot of powerful properties. It prevents us from different allergies, like it sort of builds an antibody or histamine blockers. Studies reported that some chemicals, such as gallic acid, kaempferol, p-coumaric acid and caffeic acid present in honey may inhibit the release of histamine, intracellular calcium and pro-inflammatory cytokines  and β-hexosaminidase, which are pro-inflammatory mediators (5).

Raw honey is also beneficial for digestive issues (e.g Diarrhoea)  Like, if we are having Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) bacteria in the stomach which causes severe stomach ulcers, then raw honey would be quite helpful for this (6).

Dates:

Replacing dates with sugar is highly beneficial because dates are high in fibre, which means that in addition to getting the carbohydrates sweet benefits, it negates the negative impact by having a high amount of fibre.

Due to fibre, it controls the problems of constipation and blood sugar level. Dates contain high calories. Carbs and a few of the proteins are the basic reasons for these calories. In addition to the carbs, calories, and fibres; dates are rich in vitamins and minerals (8).

The risk of getting inflammation and plaque formation is lowered in the brain when we consume dates in replacement to sugar, so it reduces the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease (8).

Moreover, in the last weeks of pregnancy when dates are consumed; it promotes and eases natural labour for pregnant women (8).

Coconut sugar:

Coconut sugar can also be a sugar substitute. It contains inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that is a fertilizer for gut bacteria. We need this fertilizer for our gut bacteria to flourish so that we can have a gut biome. Coconut sugar is a low glycemic sweetener with a healthful glycemic index of 35. Thus, it is good for diabetic and weight control (9). 

In addition to that, it contains a huge amount of potassium, magnesium and is super good when it comes to electrolytes. It’s going to help us replenish ourselves after a workout or just after a long day in the sun. 

Dolcedì:

It is a natural sweetener obtained from 100% organic apples (Apple nectar). On the glycemic index scale, its average is between 7-9, which has a much lower impact just equal to lettuce. It is super sweet and can be used as a replacement for traditional sugar.

As it is obtained naturally, it has the ability to get dissolved easily in drinks (hot and cold both), so; it makes the taste of food and drinks much better without changing their taste. It has 25% fewer calories than traditional sugar.

Agave nectar:

Agave nectar is also one of the substitutes for sugar. The reason we should replace agave nectar with sugar is, on the glycemic index scale its value is lower because it has less glucose (7). 

However, the fructose content of agave syrup is much higher than that of high fructose corn syrup, which is of concern since some research has linked high fructose intake to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area), high triglycerides, heart disease and insulin resistance. High fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose while agave nectar syrup contains 90% (10).

Due to this reason, the consumption of agave nectar is a bit slower in the bloodstream of our body, so the perforation of insulin is not so expeditious.

Stevia sweetener:

It is a plant-based calorie-free sugar substitute. There are no carbs in this sweetener so there is no rapid perforation of insulin. It is much tastier than the traditional sugar so a very less amount of stevia sweetener should be used. 

Just because we are having very low calories due to the consumption of less stevia does not mean that we start taking high amounts of stevia., as it can cause constipation. Studies in long-term administration of stevia to mic lead to a significantly decreased serum high-density lipoproteins (HDL) level and increased serum low-density lipoproteins (LDL) level in male and female mice groups (11).

Keeping in mind the benefits of the above-mentioned sugar substitutes and the issues that sugar consumption can cause, it is stated that consuming too much sugar can cause health issues like weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and tooth cavities.

So, it is better to avoid traditional sugar and prefer sugar substitutes.

Other FAQs about Sugar that you may be interested in.

What Can I Substitute for White Sugar in a recipe?

How to soften hardened brown sugar?

How to melt brown sugar on the stove?

Conclusion

In this concise article, we have answered the question, “What can I substitute for sugar”. We have discussed a few sugar substitutes along with their benefits. 

References

  1. Svatoš, M., Mansoor Maitah, and Anna Belova. World sugar market–basic development trends and tendencies. Agris on-line Papers Econ Infor, 2013, 5, 73-88. 
  2. Vos, Miriam B., et al. Added sugars and cardiovascular disease risk in children: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 2017, 135, e1017-e1034.
  3. Satokari, Reetta. High intake of sugar and the balance between pro-and anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. Nutrients, 2020, 12, 1348.
  4. Moynihan P. Sugars and Dental Caries: Evidence for Setting a Recommended Threshold for Intake. Adv Nutr, 2016,, 7,149-156. 
  5. Aw Yong, Poi Yi, et al. The potential use of honey as a remedy for allergic diseases: a mini review. Front pharmacol, 2021, 11, 599080.
  6. Hashem-Dabaghian, Fataneh, et al. Combination of Nigella sativa and honey in eradication of gastric Helicobacter pylori infection. Iran Red Crescent Med J, 2016, 18.
  7. Atkinson, Fiona S., Kaye Foster-Powell, and Jennie C. Brand-Miller. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes care, 2008, 31, 2281-2283.
  8. Jain, Shri Mohan. Health benefits of dates: Phytochemicals and their functions. Regional Workshop on the Improvement of the Dates Value Chain in the Near East and North Africa Region Kuwait, 9-12 December 2013. 2013.
  9. Jirasatid, S., and M. Nopharatana. Impact of coconut sugar syrup on quality of acidophilus milk during cold storage. Int J Agri Technol, 2020, 16, 819-830.
  10. Neacsu, N. A., and A. Madar. Artificial sweeteners versus natural sweeteners. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Economic Sciences. Series, 2014, 7, 59.
  11. Farid, Alyaa, et al. The hidden hazardous effects of stevia and sucralose consumption in male and female albino mice in comparison to sucrose. Saudi Pharmaceu J, 2020, 28, 1290-1300.