[Below is my transcript of my video on the top five sugar substitutes, along with supplemental information on the topic.]
Today, I’m here to share with you my top five natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes. This is a big deal.
So many people overconsume high fructose corn syrup, processed sugar and just carbohydrates in general. I’m going to go over my top five natural sweeteners to use instead. Many of them — though not all of them — still have sugar, but they’re much easier for your body to digest and process, and they bring the most health benefits to your body.
So whether you’re looking for sugar substitutes for baking or cooking, or just something to add in your morning tea or smoothie, these are the best five natural sweeteners you can use.
Top 5 Sugar Substitutes
1. Raw Honey
To start with, my No. 1 natural sweetener is pure, raw honey. We know the many health benefits of raw honey, so you really want to make sure it says raw on the label — because that’s the healthiest kind. Ideally, purchase it from a local source.
One of the reasons it’s so beneficial is that honey is not just a sugar — it’s actually a food. In addition to sugar, honey also contains amino acids, specific types of electrolytes and antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds that can really support the health of your body. So one of your best options when it comes to sugar substitutes is to use pure, raw honey.
Now, you want to use it sparingly, as the proverbs say. (1) You don’t want to go overboard with using these sweeteners. One tablespoon, one to two times daily, is a good, healthy amount that most people can do well with.
There are a few other benefits of honey as well. For instance, it helps reduce allergy symptoms. The reason it does is, if you buy local honey, it’s the local pollen, and it actually really helps with allergies because it helps your body adapt to local pollen. It’s kind of a natural immunization over time.
In fact, research in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology tested this theory and discovered that preseasonal use of birch pollen honey helped people with birch pollen allergies by lowering total symptoms by 60 percent, experiencing twice as many asymptomatic days, having 70 percent fewer days with severe symptoms, and by using 50 percent less antihistamines compared to the group that took conventional meds. (2)
By the way, there was a study at Texas A&M University that found that about 76 percent of honey on supermarket shelves doesn’t contain any pollen whatsoever. (3) That’s why you’ve really got to buy the raw stuff if you want the real deal.
Also, raw honey contains antimicrobial properties. So I don’t just eat honey. I actually use honey when I get a cut or a wound and put it in the area. If you have acne or skin issues, you can put it right on the area. So it can actually even be used as a form of natural medicine.
One of my favorite ways to use honey is in the morning with my sprouted, soaked oatmeal. Sometimes I’ll put it in a breakfast smoothie, and I’ll use it when I’m making gluten-free pancakes or use it with some green tea — just a little bit of honey in there to sweeten it up. Honey is probably my most used sweetener that I utilize on a regular basis.
The No. 2 sweetener you should really consider using on a regular basis — and this is especially good if you have blood sugar issues, if you’re overweight or if you have diabetes — is stevia. Stevia is a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of a flowering plant.
There are many types of stevia. Ideally, you should get full, green leaf stevia. Another form of stevia that’s suitable is stevia that’s just ground and part of it is extracted.
There are many brands out there that you should avoid because they’re so highly processed, and they also add in other chemicals. Plus, they come from GMO corn or add in GMO corn derivatives, and we all know we don’t want GMOs in our diets.
Sweet Leaf is one of my favorite brands I use because it’s natural, healthy and delicious. In fact, it even has stevia flavors — you can get chocolate stevia, vanilla stevia, chocolate raspberry stevia and pumpkin pie spice stevia. There are a lot of different brands out there; just make sure you choose the healthiest, most organic type you can find.
The great thing about stevia is there’s no sugar involved at all, making it truly one of the best sugar substitutes around. So if you have diabetes or blood sugar issues, or are looking to lose weight fast, this is a great no-carbohydrate solution.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements performed on diabetic rats found stevia improved diabetic symptoms and insulin reactions after 30 days of stevia consumption. (4)
Again, just like using honey sparingly, you shouldn’t dump this in your foods and go overboard. A little bit goes a long way, so use just a few drops in your morning tea. I love this with my herbal teas in the morning. I add a little bit sometimes to something like a morning smoothie, a little bit to different baking goods, or if I’m making homemade puddings, I’ll put this in there with some chia seeds and coconut milk and coconut oil.
A little bit of stevia is great, especially if you’ve got blood sugar issues or weight loss issues. Try some stevia, my second favorite natural sweetener.
My No. 3 natural sweetener is dates. We could throw other fruits here into this category — things like raisins, apricots, other dried fruit and pineapple juices — but the great thing about dates is they’re also very high in fiber and potassium, as well as other vitamins and minerals. In fact, of all the sweeteners I’m going to go over, dates nutrition has the highest nutrient value.
Now in terms of phytochemicals that heal the body, honey is the highest, but in terms of actually vitamins and minerals and fiber content dates are the highest. That fiber actually slows down sugar absorption.
So remember, if we’re comparing this to white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, dates are not sugar. Dates are a food that contains sugar, and this food also has fiber and antioxidants, and minerals like potassium, that help you slowly absorb sugar and help regulate sugar within your body.
That makes dates very sweet, and I actually love making homemade pecan pie with dates like Medjool dates. You’ll find in my “Real Food Diet Cookbook” that we use dates all the time. You can mix some dates with some nut butter and make food bars at home, or you can make protein bars and pies. This is amazing to add with some pecans and cashews and make a homemade piecrust.
Dates are good to use in baking especially. I like to make a smoothie at home with some cashew butter and peaches and throw some dates in there. They’re great to just throw in smoothies as well, and they’re really great if you’re into raw food and vegan foods. Dates are probably the No. 1 natural sweetener used.
This a good thing, because dates have many benefits. The potassium is great for flushing out toxins and balancing electrolytes in the body, so this is great for athletes. Plus, dates have been shown to decrease cholesterol, relieve constipation and boost energy, among other health benefits. (5, 6, 7)
Again, you don’t want to go overboard, but dates are a fantastic sweetener and my No. 3 favorite sweetener.
4. Coconut Sugar
No. 4 on my list is coconut sugar. Organic coconut sugar is unrefined, vegan, non-GMO. When you’re baking, let’s say, a cake and you want a recipe that has the equal amounts of one cup of sugar to one cup of an alternative natural sweetener, coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar is the ideal replacement.
Coconut juice, which is where a lot of coconut sugar comes from, is full of potassium, electrolytes and nutrients. So if you’re looking for equal comparison to sugar that’s nontoxic, non-GMO, that your body’s going to be able to digest better, organic coconut palm sugar is a better option..
All of these sweeteners, by the way, are lower on the glycemic index than sugar. Where regular table sugar scores 100, many of these sweeteners score closer to a 50, so half the glycemic index. That means they affect your body in a lesser amount to where they’re not going to cause your energy levels to drop or increase or spike your insulin levels, increasing your risk of diabetes, like a lot of the other sugars out there today.
So this coconut sugar is a great replacement, an equal replacement, to actual table sugar, especially in baking cookies, pies and things like that.
5. Maple Syrup
Last but not necessarily least in terms of a natural sweetener is 100 percent pure organic maple syrup. Look for grade B or even grade C that is USDA-certified organic.
Maple syrup is one of the best sugar substitutes because it’s a fantastic sweetener. It’s good especially over things like pancakes and waffles and good in certain recipes where you want more of that earthy flavor along with it.
Maple syrup nutrition has so many benefits in addition to simply being one of the healthier sugar substitutes. That’s because maple syrup has a higher antioxidant capacity than sugar. (8) In fact, according Pharmaceutical Biology, pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants. (9) These antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds, are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases. (10)
Transition to Sugar Substitutes
What I would do is get rid of the sugar. If you just are using regular sugar in your baking and cooking, the majority of that sugar is genetically modified. It comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn.
That means regular sugar is unnatural and highly toxic to the body. So why use it? It’s so easy to replace those fake sugars with real sugar, so use these natural sugar substitutes and natural sweeteners instead — and avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs.
So remember these five natural sweeteners: raw honey, stevia, dates, coconut sugar and pure, organic maple syrup. Use those five natural sugar substitutes, and you’re going to be a lot healthier while satisfying your sweet tooth.
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