Top 5 Sugar Alternatives: How Do They Stack Up?

Top 5 Sugar Alternativesgrafvision / Shutterstock
Processed sugar can be found in everything from bagels to beverages to breakfast cereals in shocking quantities. While sugar may be sweet, it brings with it a host of potential health concerns like obesity and heart disease.

A growing awareness of sugar’s negative health effects has prompted some people to seek out healthier alternatives. Here, we’ll break down the top 5 sugar alternatives and see which — if any — come out on top.

Aneta_Gu / Shutterstock

Stevia

Pros:

It has no calories.

It’s low on the glycemic index.

Cons:

It’s known for its noticeable, unpleasant aftertaste.

Best Uses:

It’s a good choice for diabetics because it doesn’t raise blood sugar the way white sugar does.

It’s best used in recipes that contain other strong tasting ingredients that mask stevia’s bitter aftertaste.

JPC-PROD / Shutterstock

Xylitol

Despite its chemical-sounding name, xylitol is actually a sugar alcohol found in nature. It’s a common additive in sugar-free gum, toothpaste, and mints.

Pros:

It’s low calorie and low on the glycemic index.

It’s sweeter than sugar, so you don’t need as much of it to get the same effect.

It can help prevent tooth decay — unlike sugar, which causes tooth decay.

Cons:

Some people report an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues after consuming large quantities of xylitol.

Xylitol is incredibly poisonous to pets.

Best Uses:

It’s tasteless and odourless, so it works tell as a general purpose sweetener for coffee, tea, and cereal.

Its similar composition to sugar makes it an easy substitute for baked goods.

mama_mia / Shutterstock

Honey

Honey is an antioxidant-packed substance made by bees out of plant nectar. Both organic and processed versions are available.

Pros:

Sweeter than sugar, so it can be used in smaller quantities.

Cons:

Not much lower in calories than sugar. Not generally recommended as a sugar substitute if your goal is weight loss.

Best Uses:

Baked goods, cereals, dressings and sauces can all benefit from the smooth sweetness of a drizzle of honey.

Honey’s antibacterial properties also make it great for soothing a sore throat. Try it in tea or the flu-busting beverage called a Hot Toddy.

1 of 2