5 Natural Sweeteners to Use Instead of Sugar


Image by Snestorm

A few years ago, I made some dietary changes that made a huge impact on my health. I began cooking from scratch, started buying more natural, whole foods and gave up sugar.

Giving up sugar was the hardest task for me. I love sweets. But then I discovered that giving up sugar didn’t mean giving up sweets, because there are actually healthy alternatives out there that I can eat in moderation.

Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup is an excellent natural sweetener, rich in zinc and manganese. But it has the potential to raise your blood sugar, so use it sparingly. It’s much sweeter than sugar, so fortunately, a little goes a long way.


Also sold as Rapadura, Sucanat is pure granulated sugar cane juice. Therefore, it contains the natural occurring vitamins (A,B) and minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium) from the sugar cane. It also still contains molasses and has a rich color and flavor.


Raw honey is a nutrient-rich natural sweetener with healing properties. Also sweeter than sugar, less honey needs to be used if you’re substituting this in a recipe. Though it is a healthy natural sweetener, use it in moderation because it will raise your blood sugar.

Soon after I started drinking coffee, I realized that all of those yummy coffee drinks were made with syrups, which were mostly sugar. Thankfully,  an awesome barista offered me a delicious alternative. Instead of adding sugar to coffee, add honey, cinnamon and milk of your choice (non-dairy or sometimes none for me). Tastes just like French toast. Mmmmm.


Molasses, found in sugar cane, is removed during the sugar-refining process. It is rich in minerals and will also be rich in pesticides if it comes from a non-organic source. It has a strong flavor, and is better suited to gingerbread cookies than sugar cookies. Not that you’re eating those, though … 😉

Agave Nectar

Agave has grown quite popular over the last few years. It comes from several different species of agave plants, (if that sounds familiar, it’s the same plant that tequila comes from). Agave nectar is a little sweeter than sugar and is a good substitute in cooking. However, the sweetness comes from fructose, which has to be broken down by your liver, so use it sparingly.

If you’re new at using these alternatives and need some good resources, check these two out:

The first is this recipe: Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. Amazing! We eat these a lot, with or without chocolate chips.

Treat Yourself Real Food Desserts by Kate Tietje at Modern Alternative Mama. This is an entire cookbook dedicated to using these alternative sweeteners for desserts. I’ve made quite a few of the recipes in there and my family thought they were great.

Do you use alternative sweeteners in your home?


  1. says

    I’m so with you –
    We don’t even buy white sugar anymore!!

    We also use agave, honey, molasses…
    and for baking, coconut crystals (lower glycemic index than brown sugar, but very similar).


    I’ve also started using organic Stevia extract to make natural lemonade or sweet mint-tea. I ordered a little bottle of Stevia drops from Vitacost about 6 months ago & it takes so little to sweeten an entire pitcher of juice, I’ve hardly used half the bottle. (economical AND natural sweetener!)

    As always, I love your helpful & encouraging posts!!

  2. Lori says

    We use coconut sugar and xylitol. Xylitol is birch sugar, I believe, has much less impact on blood sugar levels than regular sugar, is found in many fruits as well, and is even good for teeth! It tastes and looks like sugar.

    I know that there are many opinions on sugar alternatives. Your suggestions and these two that I have mentioned have worked well for our family.

  3. says

    Nina, thanks for your awesome e-book. I’ve read a good deal of it and passed it to my wife who is traveling right now. We’re poring through it to decide what we’re going to implement. It really is quite well done. Once we get through it and make changes to our existing plans, I’ll let you know! Again, thanks!

  4. says

    Thanks Teri! I think I’ll be buying some Stevia drops. I want something to sweeten iced tea with since I don’t really like it unsweetened. It’ll be great for lemonade, too. Mmmm, Arnold Palmers!

  5. says

    Good for you!!! I have taken on this challenge beorfe and when I slowly introduced sugars back into my diet I really noticed a difference in how I felt. You and I are like-minded, I always think about how “this or that” will make me feel beorfe I eat it. Coming from a family with a history of digestive problems(TMI…I know),I have really become more aware of what I eat, how, and most importantly, how it will make me feel!I do eat some sugar today, in fact there was some baked on the top of the scone that I had at the Give Thanks Bakery today:) However I monitor my intake and make better decision now than I did beorfe. Can’t wait to hear how it goes for you!

  6. says

    I’ve actually had a difficult time lately, eating things here and there that I know I shouldn’t, but justifying it (very well, of course :)). Thankfully, though, my body is great at alerting me and I’m back on the saddle, so to speak, with more determination, because I really don’t like feeling terrible, especially when I’m the one that caused it.

  7. says

    So new to this and was wondering if there is a basic equation or rule of thumb to use ………for example when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar use….2 tablespoons of honey or is there something like that for the above. I changed out molasses for sugar once and jsut went measuring amount the same; needless to say it was a disasaster of huge proportions.


  1. […] Update 10/2012: The rash is gone. After much experimentation, I know that the rash comes with gluten, sugar, corn and milk. However, after implementing the suggestions listed in the GAPS diet book, I can eat small amounts of wheat with no issues. I also can eat natural sweeteners.  […]

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