Taste Test: Healthy Sugar Alternatives

Bon Appetit

Kick your sugar habit without relying on the artificial stuff. A nutritionist and chef picks her top natural sweeteners.


Coconut Secret Coconut Crystals

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

I used to be a sweets freak. I carried licorice like cigarettes, rewarded workouts with chocolate. Not anymore.

Since becoming a holistic nutritionist and vegetarian chef, I've cut out processed foods and refined sugars. It's prompted positive changes in my energy, mood, and sleep. I even shed a few pounds. And because sugar contributes to depressed immune function, bone loss, and more, I know reducing my consumption has improved my health.

But I managed to keep my sweet tooth--without turning to artificial sweeteners. Instead, I cook with natural, less-refined alternatives like these favorites. They're not an excuse to eat unlimited sweets, but by choosing ingredients that retain nutrients, I make desserts that actually nourish me. Here's what I use.

Coconut Palm Sugar

A no-brainer sugar replacement that's rich in potassium and iron. Similar in taste and appearance to brown sugar, it can be substituted 1:1 for white or brown sugar without making other changes. Find it at natural foods stores and some supermarkets.

Recommended brand: Coconut Secret

Whole Foods Pitted Dates

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Dates

A sweetener and a whole food. The caramel-like Medjool variety is my go-to for raw desserts (like these Cocoa-Date Truffles). Dates add a complex sweetness and bind ingredients well. I also slice this quality carb onto my oatmeal in place of brown sugar.

Pick organic unsulfured Medjool dates


Madhava Agave Nectar

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Agave syrup

Agave dissolves easily, so it's my first choice for cold beverages (good-bye, simple syrup!). And it's sweeter than white sugar, so I can use less of it.

Try using agave syrup in our Strawberry Tarts with Ginger-Nut Crust.

Recommended brand: Madhava










Blis B Maple Syrup

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Maple Syrup

Another favorite, and not just because I'm Canadian. It adds depth--plus manganese and calcium--to marinades and homemade granola. And it's great in baked goods:

For basic cakes, replace 1 cup sugar with 1 cup syrup, and reduce other liquids by 1/3 to 1/2 cup to compensate for the extra liquid (you'll get the hang of it). I prefer grade B for its robust taste.

Recommended brand: Buy local. We like Blis B Grade Michigan Maple Syrup










Mesquite Powder

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Mesquite

The mesquite tree, common to the American southwest, produces a beanlike pod that can be dried and pulverized for use as a sweetener or flour. It's gluten-free, with a low glycemic index, and high in fiber and protein.

Sprinkle mesquite powder onto oatmeal, add it to smoothies, or replace a percentage of regular flour in baking recipes. Mesquite adds a warm, mellow caramel flavor to almost any food that needs a touch of sweetness.

Recommended brand: Navitas Naturals









Organic Molasses

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Blackstrap Molasses

This robust, mineral-rich by-product of refined white sugar is viscous and nearly black in color. It adds a wonderful depth to stews and chilis and tastes great in smoothies and hot beverages. Unsulphured and organic is best.

Recommended brand: Wholesome Sweeteners















Organic Brown Rice Syrup

(Photo by Matt Duckor)

Brown Rice Syrup

Thick and honey-colored, and only about half as sweet as sugar, brown rice syrup is derived by culturing cooked rice with enzymes to break down the starches, then straining off the liquid and reducing it to the desired consistency. It's great over pancakes, in coffee or tea, or substituted for other sweeteners in baking. High-quality rice syrup should only contain brown rice and filtered water.

Recommended brand: Lundberg










More from Bon Appetit:

25 One-Bite Appetizers

Junk Food Makeover: Healthier Chicken Nuggets

Top 20 Best-Tasting Burger Recipes

Healthy French Fry Alternatives

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Ladies European Tour event suspended after on-course caddie death

      The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour was suspended during the first round on Wednesday following the on-course death of a caddie. The caddie’s name was not released, but Dubai media reported the caddie was carrying for Anne-Lise Caudal. The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters began on Wednesday.

      Devil Ball Golf
    • Dear Abby: May I fantasize my husband's a woman?

      DEAR ABBY: I’m a woman, twice married. My first marriage was to a woman who hurt me deeply by lying and cheating. I am now married to a man who, even with his faults, is a wonderful husband. My thing is, I am still strongly attracted to women. I consider myself to be bisexual. When my husband notices that I look at women, I’m honest and tell him what I admire about a particular woman. What I leave out is that I’m turned on by them. He is not open to my actively being bisexual, not even a threesome. Is it all right for me to fantasize when I’m intimate with him that he’s a woman? I know some people fantasize about being with a celebrity or a more attractive mate, but is it all right to fantasize

      Chicago Sun-Times q
    • Constant Gym-Goer Ditched Her Cardio Workouts for Powerlifting and Lost 37 Lbs.

      For years, Alice Fields was a cardio queen, who would toil away on the treadmill in the hopes of slimming down. Fields tried this weight loss method unsuccessfully for around five years, and says she “felt trapped in my own body,” until a friend introduced her to powerlifting 18 months ago. “Not only had my strength increased dramatically, but my whole body composition changed.

      People
    • 12 Secrets Costco Shoppers Need to Know

      Stu pendousmat via Wikimedia Commons A Costco membership opens doors, quite literally, to a vast selection of bulk-size groceries and household goods selling at discounted prices. But buying potato chips ...

      Kiplinger
    • Woman shuts down saleswoman who called her $130 engagement ring 'pathetic'

      When it comes to love, it's not about the money. Quinn and Ariel McRae dated for two years before tying the knot. But a saleswoman where the couple bought Ariel's rings tried to put a damper on the festivities by calling the jewelry "pathetic." "My husband doesn't have a lot, neither of us do," McRae explained in a Facebook post about the encounter. "We scrape and scrape to pay bills and put food in our bellies, but after almost 2 years of dating we decided that we couldn't wait anymore, so we didn't." "I wasn't even thinking about rings, I just wanted to marry my best friend," she continued, "But he wouldn't have it. He scraped up just enough money to buy me two matching rings from Pandora." The two headed to the store and picked out a pair of rings they could afford — two rings for $130. SEE ALSO: Little boy proposes to his classmate with his mom's diamond ring McRae was was thrilled to get her rings, and then, the couple encountered a saleswoman. "While we were purchasing my rings... another lady that was working there came over to help the lady selling them to us," she wrote. "She said, 'Y'all, can you believe that some men get these as engagement rings? How pathetic.'" "I watched my now husband's face fall," she continued. Quinn was already upset that he couldn't his fiancé a more expensive ring, so the saleswoman's words crushed him. "He was so upset at the idea of not making me happy enough and of me not wanting to marry him because my rings didn't cost enough money or weren't flashy enough," she explained. "Y'all I would have gotten married to this man if it had been a 25¢ gum ball machine ring" she proudly posted. "When did our nation fall so far to think the only way a man can truly love a woman is if he buys her $3,000+ jewelry and makes a public decree of his affection with said flashy ring?" McRae quickly shot down the pretentious saleswoman, calmly saying, "It isn't the ring that matters, it is the love that goes into buying one that is." "My husband was so afraid of me not wanting him because he couldn't afford a piece of jewelry," she posted. "But here I am though, courthouse married, $130 ring set, the love of my life by my side and happier than I could ever imagine." Looks like this marriage is off to a pretty perfect start. Mashable reached out to McRae for a comment, and will update the story when she replies. BONUS: Tom Hanks photobombed a wedding photoshoot in gym shorts

      Mashable
    • Japan's sex problem is so bad that people are quitting dating and marrying their friends

      The Japanese sex problem has become so desperate that its young population are giving up on dating and are just marrying their friends. A Government survey found 69 per cent of Japanese men and 59 per cent of Japanese women do not have a romantic partner. One Japanese aggregator website has since been awash with stories of how people have simply got married to life-long friends. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with just 8.4 children being born per 1,000 inhabitants over the last five years. Its population of 127m people is predicted to decrease to 87m by 2060. The survey, carried out by the country’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, also

      Business Insider q
    • The Messy Truth About Van Jones

      They never learn. The grand journalism pooh-bahs at CNN were humiliated this election cycle when WikiLeaks revealed that former CNN contributor and interim DNC chair Donna Brazile had shared a question with the Hillary Clinton campaign in advance of a March Democratic primary town hall debate. According to CNN, "activist anchor" Roland Martin and his production team at CNN's debate partner and identity politics network TV One were responsible for the leak. CNN host Jake Tapper called the episode "very, very troubling" and condemned the breach: "Journalistically, it's horrifying," he told WMAL radio. CNN president Jeff Zucker declared after an internal investigation that the network "would not

      CNS News q
    • New Zealand passport robot tells applicant of Asian descent to open eyes

      A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photograph rejected when facial recognition software mistakenly registered his eyes as being closed. Richard Lee's attempt to renew his passport was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand's department of internal affairs. "No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," Lee told Reuters.

      Reuters
    • ‘This Is Us’ Fans Shocked by ‘Shocking’ Fall Finale

      On the midseason finale of This Is Us, Toby surprised Kate by flying across the country to declare his love for her during a Christmas party. "I can live without pizza and cookies and potato chips and whatever that brownie thing was that they were serving on the plane," Toby said. "The one thing I cannot live without, is you." After that speech, Toby and Kate snuck away to express their feelings without their clothes on, but when they were done, it was clear something was wrong. Toby was breathing heavily, and then later, he collapsed, presumably from a heart attack. Fans of the show took to Twitter to express their concern for Toby. Destinee Chrystal wrote "I'm going to be so upset if Toby dies. This is the worst cliffhanger ever," and KayKay tweeted "It took me 6 minutes to process that ending. All I know is Toby better be alive on January 10th."

      Superfan TV
    • First round of Dubai Ladies Masters suspended after caddie dies on the course

      The first round of the Dubai Ladies Masters has been suspended following the death of a caddie, the Ladies European Tour have confirmed. The unnamed male, who was reportedly carrying for carrying for Anne-Lise Caudal, was attended to on the green by the on-site medical team before being taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead. A statement from the Ladies European Tour read: "First round play was suspended at 10.30am on Wednesday at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters after a caddie collapsed on the 13th fairway.

      International Business Times
    • All of the Gorgeous Photos From Mark Ballas and BC Jean’s Dream Wedding (14 photos)

      The Dancing With The Stars pro married his Alexander Jean bandmate at a Nov. 25 ceremony

      People
    • White flight is creating a separate and unequal system of higher education

      Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, argues that inequities in higher education are exacerbating racial inequality. — Danielle Douglas-Gabriel In the post-World War II era, whites fled the center city to the leafy-green suburbs and better neighborhood schools. Today, a similar trend has taken root in American higher education, only this time whites are fleeing the underfunded and overcrowded two-year and four-year open-access colleges for the nation’s top 500 universities. Since the 1990s, the number of black and Latino high school graduates who enroll in college has more than doubled. But three-quarters of that increase has been at

      Washington Post q
    • Boeing responds after Trump knocks contract for Air Force One jets

      Donald Trump declared Tuesday morning that the Air Force should cancel its contract with Boeing to build two new presidential airplanes, asserting that the agreement had a $4 billion price tag. “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. It’s not clear how Trump, who frequently tweets exaggerated or baseless claims, arrived at that number.

      Yahoo News
    • The Voice Top 8 Results Recap: Did the Right Four Singers Make the Finale?

      Allergy season is pretty much over, so don’t try to blame the water in your eyes from pollen now that The Voice semifinal results telecast has come to an end. No one said it would be easy, after all. With four of the eight remaining contestants slated for the CTRL+ALT+DEL treatment (AKA descent into the pit […]

      TVLine.com
    • 17 times Ariel Winter set the red carpet on friggin’ fire in 2016

      There’s so much to love about the hit show Modern Family. And one of our favorite parts is the insanely talented cast –…

      Hello Giggles
    • College football’s 2016 coaching changes: Who’s in and out at 17 schools so far

      Things have picked up, but this has still been a slower year for college football coach firings and hirings than the last few, which might be a little surprising, considering three of the biggest jobs (LSU, Oregon, and Texas) just changed hands.

      SB Nation q
    • 15-Year-Old Allegedly Decapitated Missing Classmate in ‘Horrific, Horrific Murder’

      Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino walked out the door of his house on the night of Nov. 18 — and was never seen alive again. On Saturday, weeks after his disappearance, one of Lee’s classmates at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with allegedly murdering and decapitating the 16-year-old, PEOPLE confirms. “This was a horrific, horrific murder,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said at a news conference on Saturday.

      People
    • The Last Tango In Paris Rape Scene Is Just One Of Old Hollywood's Many Scandals

      It's easy to romanticise Old Hollywood as an era filled with glamour and grace. After all, don't we all love watching a charming black-and-white movie and daydreaming about a simpler, more dazzling time? But celebrities back then were hardly angels, and often found themselves embroiled in scandals that will completely shock you.

      Refinery 29 UK
    • Caddie dies, 1st round stopped at Dubai Ladies Masters

      A caddie collapsed and died during the Dubai Ladies Masters on Wednesday, forcing the suspension of the first round and shortening the tournament to 54 holes. The Ladies European Tour said play was suspended at 10:30 a.m. after 56-year-old caddie Maximilian Zechmann fell ill on the 13th fairway of the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club. Zechmann, an Austrian who had been based in Dubai, was caddying for French player Anne-Lise Caudal.

      The Associated Press
    • Matt Jordan Slams Kenya Moore

      Matt Jordan posted a lengthy Instagram caption slamming his ex-girlfriend, “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kenya Moore.

      International Business Times