Alternatives to Sugar

Sugar (table sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses, muscavado, rapadura) is a highly refined, processed food which many Naturopaths refer to as white death. It contains minimal amounts of nutrients or vitality and plays havoc with the pancreas, insulin production and blood sugar regulation.


  • Agave syrup is a traditional succulent (_Agave tequiliana_) grown in South America and Mexico, it has a low glycemic index number which means that it is a great alternative to sugar. Agave syrup is highly nutritious and is recommend for using in cooking as an alternative to sugar as it holds up well under heat. It has a high fructose, low glucose content.
  • Stevia is an extremely sweet powder (up to 100 times sweeter than sugar) yielded from the South American (Paraguay) herb _Stevia rebaudiana_. It is believed to be calorie free and is a great substitute for sugar especially for diabetics or people wanting to loose weight. Stevia has a beneficial effect on pancreatic function in helping to improve insulin levels to help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Xylitol is produced from the naturally occurring sugars in berries, corn fibres and Birch bark. It has a low glycemic index which means it is beneficial for people with sugar imbalances. Xylitol is much sweeter than sugar and only small amounts are required to sweeten foods.
  • Honey is a superfood which is often underestimated for its nutritional and health giving benefits. Some of its potent actions are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, immune stimulating and healing (vulnerary) for burns and ulcers.
  • Dried fruit purees (apricots, dates, prunes, apples) are a great food alternative to sugar. They contain high amounts of the simple sugar fructose and are a great way to use foods to sweeten meals.
  • Brown rice syrup and Barley malt syrup are not as sweet as sugar however is nutritious as it contains vitamins. It is made from sprouted brown rice grains.
  • Fructose is basically fruit sugar and is derived from fruits high in this simple carbohydrate such as berries, apples, pears and honey. Fructose is not recommended by diabetic patients as an alternative for sugar as it has no effect on regulating blood sugar levels.


The following is a table of the approximate Glycemic index (GI) and caloric amount of some sugar alternatives, also included are other common sweeteners. The glycemic index is a rating of sugars from 1-100, a high GI reading is 69+, a moderate GI is 50-69 and a low GI is below 50.

  • Food calories/ tbsp GI value
  • Agave syrup 45 27
  • Stevia 0 0
  • Xylitol 40 7
  • Honey 64 75
  • Dried fruit puree 18 35
  • Brown rice syrup 45 40
  • Barley malt syrup 45 40
  • Fructose 54 25
  • Table sugar 45 65
  • Corn syrup 57 89
  • Maple syrup 52 54

The University of Sydney has an informative website containing information about the effect of different carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Check out their website by following this link:

It is not recommended to use synthetic alternatives to sugar such as Sorbitol, Saccharin, Sucralose and Aspartame as these are artificial alternatives and are carcinogenic.