The Healthiest Natural Sugar Substitutes

The reason I started creating my own truly sugar and artificial sweetener free recipes is because there are NO OTHERS out there. Here is all the investigation I did to find the best organic natural sweetener with no side effects!

This post is NOT sponsored in any way, and I don’t sell any products such as MLM.

This post may contain Amazon Associates affiliate links, that I may earn small amounts from if you click them. See the bottom of this page for more details. This doesn’t create bias because I’m not creating my recommendations based on a payment from specific products.

What’s Wrong With Sugar?

The reason I avoid sugar isn’t because of calories or dieting. I don’t advise anyone to count calories! I do mention the glycemic index, but that wasn’t my main criteria either.

Sugar intake contributes to many serious health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. It also has negative effects on the skin and signs of aging. There’s so many negative things to say about sugar, that I’m not going to attempt to to list them all. I will link a published report that I co-authored on how the food industry obscures science and undermines public health policy on sugar, to show that I have definitely looked into this issue in depth.

While natural sugars are less processed and than cane or beet sugar, sugar is still sugar. Many “no sugar” or “paleo” recipes still contain maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, agave, raw sugar, molasses or high-sugar fruit, such as dates. I don’t use any of those in my recipes, but I do often use applesauce because it contains much less sugar than any of those. Occasionally I use bananas. One benefit of using fruit is that they contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

What’s Wrong With Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial (saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, etc.) AND natural sweeteners (such as stevia) that are more than 30 times sweeter than sucrose are defined as “Intense Sweeteners.” They are commonly promoted as a healthful alternative to sugars, but have actually been linked to weight gain and obesity.

Intense sweeteners may also interact with the gastrointestinal microbiome (scientific journal source), which is known to be associated with the progression of obesity, diabetes and associated metabolic conditions [sources: 21,22,23,24]. There is evidence to suggest that health issues like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may also be associated [sources: 8,25], potentially from altered hormone secretion, and/or disruption to the intestinal microflora.

Do be aware that when you sweeten food, even with some of these more natural options, your body continues to crave sweets and you may eat more later in the day.

Best Sugar Substitute:

Pure Monkfruit Extract is the best option I have found for a natural, organic no-sugar sweetener and I have been using it for years. Monkfruit (Luo Han Gua) is a small melon found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia and can be purchased as a liquid or powder. It is sometimes called “Buddha fruit.” Monk fruit extract is a natural, calorie-free sweetener with a glycemic index of zero. It’s 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, so you can use a small amount and still get a sweet taste.

More human studies are needed, but from what has been done, monkfruit reduced/ regulated blood sugar and insulin levels. It may act as a prebiotic which encourages good bacteria in the gut, and may increase the growth of short chain fatty acids. It contains antioxidants which are thought to support the immune system, digestive tract, glands, and respiratory system. It also may have many other benefits such as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties including fighting Candida. One study found that monkfruit may prevent cancer cell and skin tumor growth.

No negative health effects have been found from consuming monkfruit regularly. However, for allergy concerns, if you are allergic to gourds, such as pumpkins, melons, squash and cucumbers, you may want to be cautious.

Read labels and ingredients lists carefully to only get pure monkfruit, because it’s often sold as a blend, paired with erithritol or other sugar alcohols that are not recommended.

This is the brand of pure organic powdered monkfruit extract I’ve been using: https://amzn.to/3SA0WLS (all links are Amazon Associate links). There are now several other organic options available so I’ll start trying other brands. This one is lower cost: https://amzn.to/3T2ACuf. Here is another option: https://amzn.to/3T2E4Gr, and another: https://amzn.to/3wi0yKu.

Monkfruit extract is also available in a liquid form, but the only organic one I could find is from Now brand, and it tasted horrible so I don’t recommend that one.

Other OK Sugar Substitutes:

Glycine is one I need to look more into. Glycine is a supplement that I use to aid sleep, and it has a slightly sweet taste when mixed with water. I’ve heard of people using it as a sweetener. If you try this, be sure to look carefully at serving sizes, as this is a nutritional supplement.

Bocha Sweet (brand name) is derived from kabocha, a type of pumpkin. It doesn’t contain additives or fillers. But, it’s not organic. It says non-gmo but I don’t see a certification, so I don’t trust that.

Allulose is usually derived from corn. When I first searched years ago I couldn’t find an organic one, but it now I see there is this one: https://amzn.to/49BjpyC so maybe I will try it, although I prefer to avoid corn, at least it’s organic and non-gmo. Unlike other low-calorie sweeteners, it has a similar flavor to traditional sugar. Allulose doesn’t affect insulin levels, so it’s a good sugar alternative for people with diabetes. Some people may have gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating or constipation.

Yacon syrup is a good substitute for honey due to its color and sticky texture. It does contain some sugar though and some sources say not to bake with it. Yacon syrup is derived from the yacon plant, a species of daisy traditionally grown in South America. It contains one-third of the calories of traditional sugar and contains fructooligosaccharides, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as prebiotics, which feed probiotics—the friendly bacteria in the gut—and improve the overall health of the microbiome. Some limited research suggests that yacon syrup could increase feelings of fullness. For some, especially those with IBS, fructooligosaccharides can increase gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. I have used this product: https://amzn.to/3wncV87

Chicory has a very low glycemic index and contains B vitamins, soluble fiber, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. It is derived from the root of a perennial herb plant and studies show it may prevent constipation and help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon. Beware that like Monkfruit, it is often sold as a blend combined with other ingredients such as sugars or sugar alcohols. Don’t confuse chicory with inulin. Inulin is a compound found in chicory, but they are not the same thing. Chicory root has a mild laxative effect and decreases swelling. It does contain carbs and sugar. Years ago I couldn’t find an organic one or even one that stated where it was sourced. Now there are organic options, but they are marketed as a coffee substitute and have a strong taste: https://amzn.to/4bDqb8K. My guess is these would not work well as a sweetener unless mixed with the more hazardous additives. Chicory root is also available as a syrup, but I couldn’t find a certified organic one.

Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup might be a good option, but I can’t find an organic one. It tastes similar to honey and does contain some sugar, carbs, and has a glycemic index of 15. Also, Jerusalem Artichokes are known for causing gas, so I would worry that the syrup does too.

Avoid These Sweeteners:

If sugar is listed on an ingredients label, it is very likely to be genetically modified beets if it isn’t stated as “cane sugar.”

Stevia has a distinctive taste (often described as “weird,” and requires caution because there is evidence that it is pharmacologically active after consumption with endocrine disrupting antimicrobial effects that can negatively impact the gut microbiome consumption. For a lengthy write up with even more details about possible hazards of stevia, see this link from “The Paleo Mom” with citations at the end. If you do use it, use in small amounts and look for organic whole leaf stevia without maltodextrin whenever possible.

Erithritol, Malitol, Maltitol, and other Sugar Alcohols all end in “ol.” Swerve is one example of a brand name that contains them. There isn’t a lot of research done on sugar alcohols, but is known that they can have effects similar to sugar, and they can upset your digestive system. They still affect blood sugar and ketones, so are not recommended if those are important considerations for you. Erythritol is usually made from corn in some kind of fermentation processing that involves yeast. In my opinion based on what I’ve read, these are still a little better than sugar so sometimes I consume things with sugar alcohols, when it’s the best available choice considering all ingredients in a food.

More sweeteners to avoid:

  • Sucralose (brand name Splenda)
  • Saccarin (brand name Sweet-n-Low)
  • Aspartame (brand names Nutrisweet & Equal)
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) (studies found lots of mercury contamination)
  • Fructose (could be HFCS at 90% fructose)
  • Fructose syrup (could be HFCS at 90% fructose)
  • Agave (very hard on your liver). It’s also higher in fructose (the form of sugar linked to diabetes and heart disease) than any other sweetener—even high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Brown rice syrup (could contain high amounts of arsenic)
  • Isomaltooligosaccharides
  • Dextrin
  • Soluble corn fiber
  • Somewhat related to the subject of alternative sweeteners, is natural flavors. Check out this post for why I avoid them, with a couple of resources to look further into.

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