5 types of sugar substitutes

Want to add a little something sweet to your everyday menu, but don’t know where to start? It can be a real challenge to identify which sweetener option is best for satisfying your sweet tooth and keeping your smile in tiptop shape. Here's your go-to guide for finding the perfect substitute.


1. Natural sugar superstar: dates

  • High in natural sugar, dates can help regulate your blood sugar levels.

  • They’re a bit messy and sticky when eaten alone, but they can be a great addition to your morning breakfast smoothie or afternoon protein shake for a kick of sweetness.

  • There are also date syrups available — giving you a sweet alternative to refined sugar without subjecting your teeth to their natural, chewy stickiness that can linger and cause cavities.

Make dates into a thick paste by softening in about 4 cups of simmering water for 10 minutes, then blending with water. You can use this as a direct replacement for refined sugar in recipes. 

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2. Plant-based powerhouse: stevia

  • Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana shrub, and is calorie-free and up to 450 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Research has shown that using stevia as a sugar substitute may prevent weight gain and can reduce overall blood sugar levels.

  • While generally safe, some studies have found stevia can disrupt your natural gut microbiome. This can disturb your oral and overall health.

Although it is sweeter than sugar, stevia does taste slightly bitter.


3. Deliciously beneficial: honey

  • Honey has an abundance of plant compounds that provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, as well as trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.

  • Honey has a slightly lower glycemic index than table sugar. This means it is digested and absorbed slower and won’t have as negative of an effect on your blood sugar — making it healthier for you and your teeth than refined sugar.

  • Honey is still high in calories and cavity-causing sugar, so enjoy it in moderation.

The types of plant compounds in honey depend on the type of bee that produced it and the type of flower from which the bee was collecting pollen.


4. Two-steps to delicious: coconut sugar

  • Coconut sugar is made in a natural, two-step process: cut into the flower of the coconut palm and collect the sap, then place the sap under heat until the water has evaporated.
  • Unlike table sugar, coconut sugar retains some nutrients found in the coconut palm, so you and your smile aren’t consuming empty calories.

  • Like honey, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar.

While coconut sugar is less processed than regular table sugar, it has the same amount of fructose and should still be enjoyed sparingly.


5. Feel the (sugar) rush: sugar alcohols

  • Also known as polyols, sugar alcohols are a carbohydrate naturally found in fruits and vegetables.

  • The bacteria that naturally live in your mouth can’t ferment sugar alcohols, so they don’t damage your teeth the way regular sugar does.

  • The most popular sugar alcohols that are used as alternatives to sugar include erythritol, xylitol (safe for humans, not for pets) maltitol and sorbitol.

Sugar alcohols can appear in products from peanut butter to chewing gum and toothpastes.

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