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

    • Donald Trump Mistakenly Tweets to the Wrong Ivanka — and Receives a Stinging Response

      The president-elect, whose inauguration is Friday, tweeted Monday night that CNN was doing a “special report on my daughter, Ivanka. In his original tweet, @drgoodspine said “@Ivanka Trump is Great a woman with real character and class.” Although Trump changed the “G” in “great” lowercase, he kept @Ivanka as is — and got a response from the unsuspecting woman with that account name. Ivanka Majic responded to the mistaken tag, “And you’re a man with great responsibilities.

      People
    • Jay Cutler body shamed after Kristin Cavallari posts vacation photos

      Jay Cutler was able to get away to Mexico last week to celebrate his wife's 30th birthday, but the Bears quarterback couldn't escape criticism as some social media users slammed his vacation body. "He looks so flabby," one Instagram user commented on a picture of Cutler, wearing a Nike tank top and shorts, on a boat with Kristin Cavallari. "Jay been eatin them pancakes!" wrote another. Cutler, 33, hasn't played for the Bears since injuring his shoulder in the Nov. 20 loss to the New York Giants. His future with the team is uncertain. In the meantime, he threw a surprise party at Fulton Market Kitchen in the West Loop for Cavallari, who turned 30 on Jan. 5. The couple, who wed in 2013 and raise three

      Chicago Tribune q
    • This extremely tiny apartment is going viral because it’s so well-styled, and we’re obsessed with it

      If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that size doesn’t matter — at least, not when it comes to homes. Giant…

      Hello Giggles
    • Authorities: Trooper was shot by driver he sought to help

      PHOENIX (AP) — The man who shot and severely beat an Arizona state trooper last week was a former member of the Mexican federal police who was in the country illegally, authorities said.

      Associated Press
    • 11 Amazing Celebrity Wedding Cakes (9 photos)

      No expense is spared when cake is involved. From Delish

      Delish
    • Letter from alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed finally reaches White House

      As his time in the White House winds down, President Barack Obama received an unusual piece of mail: a letter from accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Officials confirmed that the letter arrived at the White House to CBS News, but are declining to provide further details. Mohammed is awaiting his death-penalty trial at Guantanamo Bay, accused of planning and orchestrating the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. The Miami Herald, which first reported on the letter, says it was written in 2014, and was only delivered after a judge ordered reluctant Guantanamo Bay prison officials to put it in the mail. The

      CBS News q
    • 'Nature at its best:' Giant gator spotted at Florida nature center

      Floridians have seen their share of giant alligators, but usually not like this.

      WPVI – Philadelphia
    • Pictures of Mcdonald's new Big Macs are already sweeping the internet

      People across the country are already stumbling across McDonald's (MCD) all new Big Macs, which were originally unveiled last November and scheduled for an early 2017 launch.  The Grand Mac, which rests on a larger sesame seed bun, is made with two beef patties that weigh in at one-third of a pound compared to a traditional Big Mac, which has two, 1.6-ounce beef patties. Think of this one as a supersized Big Mac. The Mac Jr. is a essentially a single-layer Big Mac, which may be more ideal for the hands of kids (great news, right?).  Each sandwich has the traditional Big Mac sauce.  McDonald's started testing the Grand Mac and Mac Jr. in more than 120 restaurants in the central Ohio and Dallas

      The Street q
    • Maine governor to Rep. John Lewis: You need a history lesson

      PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader who says he doesn't see Donald Trump as a "legitimate president," should be grateful for all that Republican presidents have done for black people, GOP Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday.

      Associated Press 59 min ago
    • ‘Flip or Flop’ Divorce: Christina El Moussa Speaks Out After Infidelity Rumors: “A Lot Going On Lately...”

      Christina El Moussa is speaking out. The star of Flip or Flop has broken her silence for the first time since her estranged husband Tarek filed for divorce last week. The newly controversial reality star shared a picture of her daughter, Taylor, 6, and wrote, “A lot going on lately… But making time for what’s important is what’s really important.” She and Tarek are also parents to one-year-old Brayden. This comes shortly after In Touch revealed that Christina already moved on with her new boyfriend, Gary Anderson. As In Touch exclusively revealed, Tarek was suspicious that Christina was texting another man while the two were still married. Gary and Christina met in 2015 when he was hired as a

      intouchweekly.com q
    • Everything Aaron and Jordan Rodgers Have Said About Their Family Feud

      Quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have led the Green Bay Packers to a narrow victory during Sunday night’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, but his family did not share in the celebration. According to a new interview with The New York Times published Sunday, Ed Rodgers confirmed that he’s not on speaking terms with his son following the 32-year-old NFL star’s rise in popularity. Word of the family’s rift became public knowledge last spring when the quarterback’s younger brother Jordan appeared on JoJo Fletcher‘s season of The Bachelorette.

      People
    • Tom Brady has defied logic by getting better at a skills test that the Patriots use to see if players are declining

      At age 39, Tom Brady continues to get better. In 2016, Brady had one of the best seasons of his...

      Business Insider
    • The iPhone 8 is already causing problems for Apple’s competitors

      The iPhone 8 is rumored to have an OLED display , a first for Apple’s iPhone. But OLED screens have been in use for quite a few years, with Samsung being the most prominent smartphone maker to use such displays in its top smartphones. However, as we’ve said before, the iPhone is still the only phone that matters when it comes to setting new mobile trends. And a new report seems to further reinforce that idea, as it looks like iPhone 8 rumors were enough to convince some Apple competitors out there to bulk up on OLED supply. According to Digitimes ’s sources, some of Apple’s China-based rivals are worried that the iPhone maker will eat up all the available OLED display, and they have rushed to secure production capacity for small- and mid-sized OLED panels. The sources expect the increased OLED demand to cause shortages. Samsung is going to be Apple’s main OLED display supplier this year, reports said, but even Samsung won’t be able to meet Apple’s demand in the future. Apple is rumored to launch three new iPhones this year, including the iPhone 8 with an OLED display and two iPhone 7s versions that will have LCD screens. The same unnamed sources said that LCD display demand will remain tight this year, as display size of mainstream smartphone models is moving from 5-inch to 5.5/5.7-inch screens. The report also notes that other key components might face shortages this year, aside for displays, including memory products and optical sensing devices. The reason is similar, strong demand from China-based smartphone makers.

      BGR News
    • Sasha Obama and Joe Biden’s granddaughter apparently went on a Miami vacation together, and yes, we’re jealous

      Saying goodbye to the Obama presidency has been pretty overwhelming for us, so we can’t even imagine all the emotions his family…

      Hello Giggles
    • These Are the Best Trader Joe’s Foods, According to Customers

      For those who are loyal Trader Joe’s shoppers, this is basically the supermarket’s version of the Emmy’s.

      People
    • Pakistani mother sentenced to death for daughter's 'honour killing'

      A mother who murdered her own daughter and set her alight for marrying the man of her choice has been sentenced to death, officials said Tuesday, in a case that had revolted many in Pakistan. Zeenat Bibi, aged 16, was doused with kerosene and set alight in June last year in Pakistan's teeming cultural capital Lahore, a little over a week after she wed 20-year-old motorcycle mechanic Hasan Khan against her family's wishes. A judge in an anti-terror court in Lahore sentenced her mother Perveen Bibi to death on murder and terrorism charges, prosecutor Mian Mohammad Tufail told AFP.

      AFP
    • An insidious new Gmail phishing attack is tricking even the most careful of users

      A new phishing technique is fooling internet users into giving hackers access to their Gmail accounts. According to WordPress security plugin creator Wordfence , the way that the attack works is that hackers send emails to the contacts of compromised accounts containing a seemingly innocuous attachment. When the user clicks the attachment, a new tab opens in the browser that looks nearly identical to the Google sign-in page. If the user inputs their log-in information, it goes straight to the attacker. On Hacker News , a commenter describes an incident that occurred at his school last year in which several employees and students were tricked into handing over their account information to attackers after receiving compromised emails and opening the attachments, thus perpetuating the cycle: "It's the most sophisticated attack I've seen. The attackers log in to your account immediately once they get the credentials, and they use one of your actual attachments, along with one of your actual subject lines, and send it to people in your contact list. For example, they went into one student's account, pulled an attachment with an athletic team practice schedule, generated the screenshot, and then paired that with a subject line that was tangentially related, and emailed it to the other members of the athletic team." While the idea of having your Gmail account serve as a host for the chain of hacks to continue is frightening enough, the hackers will also have the ability to download and read through all of your private emails, as well as gain access to other information connected to your Google account (or whichever service is hacked). Here's what you need to look out for in your address bar to avoid this attack: As you can see, not only is the beginning of the string odd, but there is a script hidden behind a long wall of whitespace. You won't be able to see the script in your address bar without tapping on it and scrolling to the right, but there are several other signs to watch out for that are even more obvious. For example, here's what my address bar looks like when I navigate to Gmail in Chrome: See the green text and the "Secure" label in front of the address? That indicates that I've reached a safe, secure website, as opposed to the black text up above. Not every site is going to be certifiably secure like that, but if you are visiting a Google log-in page specifically and don't see it, alarms should go off in your head. Google might fix this eventually, but for now, just pay attention and look for green text. Furthermore, if you don't have two-factor authentication on your Google account (or any other account which contains sensitive information), treat this as a wake up call and set it up immediately.

      BGR News
    • Trump accuses civil rights leader Lewis of lying about inauguration

      By Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump extended his war of words with African-American civil rights leader John Lewis on Tuesday, accusing the Democratic congressman of lying when he said Trump's inauguration would be the first that he would miss. "John Lewis said about my inauguration, 'It will be the first one that I've missed.' WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he 'thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in....he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president.' Sound familiar!" Trump said in a pair of posts on Twitter.

      Reuters
    • 14 TV Shows Likely to Get the Ax After This Season

      These 14 comedies and dramas may be headed for cancellation this season.

      The Cheat Sheet q