Glycemic index (GI) is an inherent property of foods that contain carbohydrates. A food or beverage can have an index ranging from 0–100 which describes how much and how fast carbs are metabolized into glucose and released into the bloodstream. We’ve been told by nutritionists and maybe our doctors to cut back on sugar or use sugar alternatives to avoid health problems and prevent diabetes. Following a low GI diet can have multiple benefits including managing diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, improving heart health, sustaining energy levels, and even managing acne. Below are 6 popular natural sugar alternatives that are considered healthier than consuming sugar itself.
Date Syrup (GI: 47)
A natural liquid sweetener made from dates, which are known to be rich in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. The syrup retains most of the nutrients in dates but most of the calories too, so moderation is key with this alternative if you’re on a calorie-cut. Its glycemic index is 47 which is lower than honey, but still higher than most sugar substitutes. Nevertheless this is a perfect sugar swap in baked goods, smoothies, and even as a maple syrup substitute.
Monk Fruit Extract (GI: 0)
Made from its fruit, also known as lo han guo, which is native to China and used historically as a medicinal food. It is popularized for being not 2 times sweeter but 2 orders of magnitude sweeter than sugar! Its sweetness comes from the fruit’s natural antioxidant which makes it a safe and healthy alternative to sugar. Good news for anyone looking to get into a new diet lifestyle because this extract is gluten-free, vegan, keto-friendly, and paleo-friendly. If this sounds too good to be true, well it is. No sugar alternative is perfect and monk fruit sweetener is known to have a slightly weird aftertaste. Additionally it might be harder to find than sugar which can make it more expensive. Even still, its suitable for cooking and baking and is calorie-free!
Allulose (GI: 0)
Although it sounds synthetic, allulose is a natural but rare sugar found in wheat, figs, and jackfruit. Because it is not completely metabolized by the body, this alternative is very low in calories and diabetes-friendly! In addition, this alternative does not cause some of the digestive side effects seen with sugar alcohols. Bad news for those with a sweet tooth, although it has the same taste and texture as sugar it’s only about ¾ as sweet. Even still, this sweetener is a great alternative but relatively new to the sweet scene so the science behind it won’t be as comprehensive as other substitutes.
Stevia (GI: 0)
Stevia is all natural and derived from its plant. This popular substitute needs to be handled with care. If you are swapping out stevia with sugar, keep in mind this natural sweetener is almost 300 times sweeter than sugar. Luckily, here’s the correct equivalent to keep you just sweet enough: for every one cup of sugar only ½ teaspoon of stevia extract is needed. If you are looking for a no-calorie sweetener and can overlook the minor gas and bloating that stevia is reported to cause then stevia is the one for you.
Coconut Sugar (GI: 35)
Coconut sugar comes from coconut flower and is popularized for its low glycemic, 35. It’s a conventional substitute for sugar as its readily available in stores. Coconut sugar contains some essential minerals but unfortunately does not contain enough nutrients and is still loaded with fructose — known to cause metabolic disorders. Although it is a natural and safe substitute for sugar and even diabetes-friendly, it isn’t the most nutritious.
Xylitol (GI: 12)
This sugar substitute is a sugar alcohol with about ⅓ the calories of sugar. It is a natural sweetener found in plant pulp but used mainly in the production of toothpaste and chewing gum because of its cooling taste and its ability to promote dental health. On the down side this sweetener is not very earth-friendly as most xylitol is made from GMO corn which can be terrible for the environment. Let’s not forget moderation is key with food and this includes xylitol, be sure not to consume too much or this can cause bloating and diarrhea effects. This sugar alternative is suitable for many weight-loss dietary lifestyles but be careful to keep away from dogs as this alternative is extremely toxic to them.