Which sugar is right for you?

back to articles

Looking for alternatives to refined sugar can be confusing and time consuming so I have put together a quick guide of the most commonly used sugar substitutes. Take a read and decide which one is best for you.

HONEY Calories: 1 tablespoon - 22 calories

Bees make honey using the nectar of flowers and is one of the most popular natural sweeteners. Choose a good, raw honey which has multiple health benefits including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. It also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
According to research, honey, particularly dark un-pasteurised varieties such as buckwheat, has higher traces of nutrients and antioxidants.

MAPLE SYRUP Calories: 1 tablespoon - 50 calories

The sap taken from maple trees is heat-treated, to condense it, leaving the concentrated sticky syrup.
While it is a lot less sweet than honey, it does retain its taste even in heat, which means it’s great for incorporating into cooking.
The syrup can be used in the same ratio as sugar, and according to research, by ensuring it is in its pure form it means that it contains over 54 antioxidants.
Choose the darker varieties to get more antioxidants.

DATE SUGAR Calories: 1 tablespoon - 43 calories

Made from dehydrated, ground dates which goes through minimal processing and tastes slightly sweeter than white sugar which means that less needs to be used. It’s full of fibre, vitamins, and energy-boosting minerals. It’s a great choice for baking. However, it doesn’t melt, so the brown powder can't be used as a direct alternative for sugar. Useful to know.

STEVIA Calories: 0

Stevia has been used for over a thousand years in South America and is extracted from a plant. It is a white, powdery sweetener, which tastes just like white sugar.
It is popular because it is 30 times sweeter than sugar, has no calories, no carbohydrates and does not raise blood sugar.
Studies have also shown that Stevia is linked to alleviating health problems such as high blood pressure, and is shown to be an anti-inflammatory effect.

COCONUT PALM SUGAR Calories: 1 tablespoon - 45 calories

Coconut sugar is made from heat-treating the sap from the flower buds of the coconut palm tree to evaporate off the water content.
It’s available as a solid or liquid, but the granule form is most popular, due to similarity to normal table sugar. Coconut palm sugar contains several nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. It may be higher in calories but it is low glycemic. It’s great for use in curries and savoury sauces.

MOLASSES Calories: 1 tablespoon - 47 calories

Also known as black treacle this is processed from refined sugar.
A versatile alternative, molasses can be used in sweet baking for breads, cakes and biscuits, as well when making savoury food such as chutney and sauces.
According to studies, the dark syrup has shown to provide relief from menstruation problems, obesity, diabetes and even acne.
While regular molasses come from the first boiling of cane sugar syrup, blackstrap molasses come from the third.
Choose blackstrap molasses as a tablespoon, will provide you with 20% of your recommended daily intake of calcium and 40 per cent of the recommended iron intake.

AGAVE NECTAR Calories: 1 tablespoon - 60 calories

Agave nectar comes from the plant from which tequila is made. It is sweeter than normal sugar so only a small amount is needed. It has a low glycemic index (so it won't raise blood sugar levels) but it has a high fructose content which is known to have a negative effect on liver function as well as playing a part in promoting obesity.


Full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit is a simple alternative to pure refined sugar. As a sweetener, fruit sugar looks like table sugar, but is much sweeter.
Although it contains the same calories as normal sugar, fruit sugar has a low glycemic index and so will not cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Calories: 1 tablespoon - 24 calories

BARLEY MALT SYRUP Calories: 1 tablespoon - 60 calories

A dark brown, sticky and thick sweetener produced from barley. It is about half as sweet as normal refined sugar and has a rich, toasted taste.
This sweetener is extracted from barley so people with gluten intolerance should avoid it.

BROWN RICE SYRUP Calories: 1 tablespoon - 55 calories

Brown rice syrup is made from whole grain rice that has been treated with enzymes, and has a mild taste similar to light honey.
A complex carbohydrate, the syrup tends to be more satisfying than many sugar alternatives.

However for those considering the syrup as a sweetener, it is important to take into account that it has a high glycemic index of 98, compared to 64 in refined sugar. It also has a high calorie content. It enters the blood stream quickly and is, therefore, not recommended for diabetics.

• Sugar causes an excessive dopamine release into the brain, which means it is highly addictive
• It plays a harmful role in tooth decay, as the bacteria uses the energy in sugar to form together to create plaque
• Too much sugar can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and type II diabetes

Written by: Mimi

Leave a Reply