Seven Natural Sweetener Alternatives to Sugar

Seven Natural Sweetener Alternatives to Sugar

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White sugar has been getting a huge amount of bad press in the last few years, and rightly so – the processing it undergoes strips it almost completely of nutrients so it provides only calories and energy without any useful vitamins or minerals.

Add to this the evidence that refined sugar is linked to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and even addictive behaviour, and you have a very compelling argument to cut as much of the stuff from your diet as you can!

Thankfully, removing processed sugar from your diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sweet treats ever again, as there are plenty of natural sweet alternatives available to try.

We take a look at seven of the most popular alternatives and their sugar conversion rates to help you make use of them in baking, desserts, sauces and smoothies.

Maple Syrup

For many people, a bottle of maple syrup sits in their kitchen cupboard to be brought out just a few times a year as a pancake or ice cream topping. However, maple syrup (which is actually boiled sap collected from maple trees) makes a brilliant alternative to white sugar in cooking and baking.

This syrup has a deep caramel taste that adds a more complex flavour to foods than white sugar, plus it’s also three times sweeter than sugar and contains calcium, omega 6 fatty acids and minerals too.

When choosing a maple syrup, it’s always important to look for a ‘pure’ syrup of at least grade B classification. That way you can be sure you’re buying a high quality product that boasts the natural nutritional benefits maple syrup can offer. Avoid the imitation ‘maple flavoured’ syrups, which are usually a high fructose sugar or fruit syrup with artificial flavourings. Whilst these may be cheaper, they are higher in sugar and void of any nutrients, so it’s best to stay away.

To use maple syrup in cooking, reduce the original quantity of sugar by a third and also remove three tablespoons of liquid in the recipe for every cup of maple sugar used. Because cakes, muffins and other baked treats can brown faster when they have maple syrup in the recipe, be sure to check on them frequently while in the oven.

Maple Farm 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup

Maple Farm 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup

Maple Farm produce pure Canadian maple syrup that is free from additives, preservatives and dyes. A 2018 Great Taste winner, their products range from delicate to strong in taste, all with good clarity and a light, silky texture.

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Raw Honey

Another popular alternative sweetener to try out is raw (unpasteurised) honey. Raw honey that has been cold-extracted is high in B vitamins, pollen, enzymes and antioxidants like vitamin C. Along with this, there’s evidence that raw honey has antibacterial properties and can help with allergies like hayfever.

Unfortunately, most mass-produced honeys have been heat treated and filtered, stripping the honey of its natural nutritional properties. It is therefore best to avoid these cheaper types of mass produced honey (often found in supermarkets) and select a raw honey instead. As it has not been filtered, raw honey often has a cloudy appearance and a thick texture and has a delicious floral flavour.

To maintain the health benefits of raw honey, it’s best to use as a drizzle on yoghurt, in smoothies or in raw dessert making.

Igmis Natural Honey

Igmis Natural Honey

Sustainably collected by countryside beekeepers, Igmis’ raw honey is unfiltered, unprocessed and unpasteurised with no additives, preservatives or added sugar.

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Date Syrup

As a fruit-based natural sweetener and alternative to cane sugar, date syrup (or date nectar) is a great substitute as it retains many of the vitamins and nutrients of whole dates, including fiber, iron, potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese.

Great for those who are watching their intake of sugars, it is lower in sugar than maple syrup, molasses, agave, honey, and refined sugar.

Often used in Middle Eastern desserts it is a thick, rich sweetener that is quicker, easier and more convenient to use than the date fruit. It can be used in baking, sauce recipes or as a topping. Use by substituting one cup of date syrup for one cup of sugar in your recipe.

Soom Premium Silan Date Syrup

Soom Premium Silan Date Syrup

Made from 100% steamed and pressed dates, Soom’s premium silan is a low-sugar, nutrient-dense sweetener alternative that is high in fiber, iron, potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese.

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Coconut Nectar

You’ve probably heard of coconut oil, coconut water and even coconut sugar, but what do you know about coconut nectar? Coconut nectar (sometimes also known as blossom syrup since it’s collected from cut coconut blossoms) is high in zinc, magnesium and amino acids, and has a rich caramel taste without much of an actual coconut flavour.

It makes a great natural sweetener as it can be used in a range of recipes, desserts and smoothies, while also being the perfect refined sugar substitute for tea and coffee. Replace one cup of sugar in the recipe with 3/4 of a cup of coconut nectar for a natural sugar alternative that’s low in fructose and low on the glycemic index.

Biona Organic Coconut Blossom Nectar

Biona Organic Coconut Blossom Nectar

Harnessing the power of coconuts to create a uniquely flavoured syrup, Biona Organic’s coconut blossom nectar is certified organic and delectably sweet.

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Molasses

Molasses makes another effective natural sweetener in certain recipes and the thick sticky liquid has some surprising health benefits. Packed full of B vitamins, one cup of molasses also contains huge amounts of potassium, iron and calcium, so even though it’s created from boiling sugar cane as part of the sugar-making process it doesn’t have the empty nutrition-less calories of refined sugar.

Because molasses has a strong deep flavour, it’s best for recipes like fruit cakes and spiced baking. Molasses contains more sugar than many other alternative natural sweeteners but is less sweet than white table sugar, so you’ll need 1 1/3 cups of molasses for every cup of sugar in the recipe. You’ll also need to add half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the recipe, if bicarb isn’t already included, as molasses is acidic and may affect the chemical changes that happen during baking.

Meridian Organic Molasses

Meridian Organic Molasses

An all natural, 100% organic blackstrap molasses, Meridian’s molasses contains all the beneficial nutrients of the sugar cane which is was extracted from.

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Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is a slightly lesser known natural fruit-based sweetener made from the juice of the Peruvian yacon tuber (similar to a sweet potato), sometimes known as the Peruvian Ground Apple.

Similar in thickness to molasses, the syrup has a rich, caramel flavour that is brilliant for adding depth to sweet treats like cookies and desserts. High in fibre and potassium, the yacon root also has prebiotic effects that can help to promote good colon and digestive health.

For use in recipes, one cup of sugar is the equivalent to 3/4 cups of yacon syrup. As well as the syrup, yacon can also be purchased in flake form, too. These flakes are made from dehydrated slices of yacon root and can be sprinkled into trail mixes or onto granola to add extra fibre, texture and natural sweetness.

YaconViva! Pure Peruvian Yacon Syrup

YaconViva! Pure Peruvian Yacon Syrup

A true superfood with an ultra low glycaemic index of 1, YaconViva’s pure Peruvian yacon syrup is rich in indigestible FOS sugars – meaning you get all the sweetness with none of the guilt!

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Lucuma Powder

Lucuma powder is created from the dried orange flesh of the lucuma fruit, found in South America. It was traditionally used as a sweetener by the Incas and is growing in popularity because it’s so versatile.

Often considered as a ‘superfood’, it is rich in carotene, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins and antioxidants. It is also low in calories and has a distinct flavour that is very similar to butterscotch or caramel.

Lucuma ice cream is incredibly popular in Chile and the powder is perfect for desserts and baking as well as adding to smoothies for extra sweetness. In addition to its other benefits, the fruit is low on the glycemic index so it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes and is safe for diabetics.

Because lucuma powder is less sweet than refined sugar, you’ll need to use twice as much as sugar in recipes and you’ll find it adds a richness in flavour and texture. Powdered sweeteners are often the best to use in things like pastry as they don’t add extra texture-changing wetness to the mixture. It is also a fantastic sweetener to use in raw chocolate making too.

Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Raw Lucuma Powder

Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Raw Lucuma Powder

A low GI sweetener, Wholefood’s lucuma powder is 100% pure, UK Soil Association certified organic, Vegan Society registered, and allergen free.

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Choose Natural Sweeteners for a Healthier Alternative

If you’re looking to cut down on your refined sugar intake then finding the natural sweetener that you like most is a good way to start. With options that are rich in flavour, and others that boast nutrient-dense properties while having a low GI, there is a natural sugar alternative for everyone.

Whether you only want sweetness in your cup of tea or you bake enough cakes to rival Mary Berry, you can skip on the processed, refined nasties and have a perfect sugar alternative up your sleeve for whenever you need it.

Last updated May 29, 2019

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