If you’re looking to avoid sugar or reduce sugar intake, it doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all sweet food out of your diet. Instead, there are many natural sweetener alternatives worth trying, that can give you that sweetness without the sugar and the calories.
With so many available though, it’s best to do your research and identify which ones are right for you. In this article, we’ll take you through some options that you can look out for and see which one best suits your needs and taste.
4 Natural sweetener alternatives worth trying
Arguably the most popular natural sweetener alternative is Stevia. Stevia is made from the extract from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is part of the chrysanthemum family.
Stevia can come in powder, liquid or granulated form, making it versatile in the kitchen. It contains no artificial ingredients, no carbohydrates and virtually no calories.
It is 200-400 times sweeter than table sugar so a small amount will go far. You don’t need to add the same number of teaspoons to your food or beverage as you would with sugar as it is much sweeter.
However, while it is generally recognized as a safe natural sweetener to table sugar, it may cause some side effects in people. So, if you’re new to trying stevia, then ensure that you keep your intake low at first and monitor for side effects such as gut issues.
Interference with digestion
Some people may experience gut problems when consuming stevia. It may cause digestive problems such as diarrhea and bloating.
The study, Anti-Quorum Sensing Activity of Stevia Extract, Stevioside, Rebaudioside A and Their Aglycon Steviol, published in the journal Molecules, has also linked stevia to issues with bacterial communication, which can cause disruptions and an unbalanced gut.
Bear this in mind if you’re adding it to your diet, and try small amounts first.
Another natural sweetener that’s worth trying is erythritol. It’s a natural, low-calorie sugar alcohol that can replace table sugar in foods and liquids. It can also be used to ‘bulk’ or thicken foods—all without the calories. This is because it’s a sugar alcohol that isn’t broken down by the body. The small intestine absorbs it quickly and within 24 hours, it is passed out of the body through urine. It basically travels through your system but doesn’t get metabolized, hence turned to energy by the body.
When consumed in moderation, erythritol can be safe to consume. It is also fine for those with diabetes as it doesn’t impact glucose or insulin levels. However, much like anything, too much of it can cause some side effects.
Because it is a sugar alcohol that simply passes through your body, it’s not unlikely to experience gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is another natural sweetener that is a great alternative to sugar. It’s extracted from monk fruit, that is also known as luo han guo or Buddha fruit, grown in Southeast Asia.
Monk fruit is a small, round fruit that contains natural sugars—fructose and glucose. However, the sweetness isn’t actually from the fructose and glucose, it instead comes from the antioxidant, mogrosides.
The process involves removing the seed and skin from the fruit. This is then crushed to a juice. Mogrosides is then filtered and extracted from the juice and turned into liquid or powder form.
Monk fruit sweetener is 150-200 times sweeter than table sugar and are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), a review process category used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There haven’t been any reported side effects from monk fruit sweeteners but it’s recommended, as with anything, to consume in moderation.
Allulose is a natural sweetener alternative to sugar. It doesn’t contain as many calories as table sugar, yet replicates its taste. It occurs naturally in certain foods such as raisins, maple syrup and figs.
It doesn’t get absorbed by the body, hence it is only 0.2-0.4 calories per gram, or about 1/10th of the calories of table sugar.
The FDA has also stated allulose as GRAS. However, while it is approved in South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Mexico, it’s yet to be approved in Canada and European countries.
Like other artificial sweeteners, there could be a chance of gastrointestinal issues such as bloating. However, it is generally considered safe to consume in moderation and if there’s any side effects that occur, then it may be wise to consider switching to another sweetener or to reduce consumption.