If you find the facts about table sugar disturbing, a natural sugar substitute may be the answer. Many of the sugar substitutes on the market today may be touted as “natural”, but the use of that word is relative. While many of these products are, in fact, derived from natural substances, they are highly processed leaving no real nutritional value once they hit your kitchen table. Additionally, a chemically modified molecular structure may even be more detrimental to your body than ‘the real thing’. Natural sugar substitutes vary in sweetness, calories, heat-stability and taste. You might find that many of them are challenging to cook with, but if you just want to add a little sweetness to your coffee and you’d like to go the susbstitute route, you’ve got a few natural and healthy choices.
Stevia is one of the best natural sugar substitutes for a number of reasons. It’s an herb native to Central and South America and is a part of the sunflower family. This herb is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, so it can be used sparingly to sweeten coffee or tea. Used in high concentrations, however, you may notice a bitter aftertaste. There is no evidence that stevia has any negative effect on blood glucose, so people with diabetes can feel comfortable using it in place of sugar. Studies reveal that it may even provide benefit to those who are obese or have high-blood pressure. Stevia is available as a dietary supplement and natural sugar substitute and is virtually calorie free.
Xylitol is another naturally occurring substance that works well as a sugar substitute. Containing about half the calories of regular table sugar, it also has many oral health benefits. Studies show that the use of xylitol can actually repair teeth and gums and unlike sugar, xylitol contains zero net effective carbohydrates. This natural sugar substitute is safe for diabetics and has many other health benefits as well. After you begin using xylitol, you may experience brief periods of diarrhea as your body adjusts.
Erythritol is similar to xylitol in that it is a sugar alcohol which is derived from fruits and fermented foods like cornstarch or sugar cane. Erythritol, however, is a calorie-free natural sugar substitute and will not lead to bloating or other gastrointestinal upset like diarrhea. Since it’s a little less sweet to the taste than table sugar, you’ll have to make up for this by adding a little more to your coffee.
Agave Nectar and Natural Honey
Substances like agave nectar, red clover honey and orange blossom honey make great sweeteners for coffee and other beverages. These liquid substances are low-glycemic but do contain fructose which may be of concern to diabetics. These substances are liquid in form and are higher in calories and carbohydrates than regular sugar, but are all-natural and much sweeter. You may be able to save on calories by using less honey or nectar to sweeten your drinks.