Quitting refined sugar can be tough, but given how incredibly harmful sugar can be, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Fortunately, quite a few sweeteners found in nature are actually good for your health.
They’re low in calories, low in fructose, and taste very sweet.
Here are 5 natural sweeteners that are truly healthy.
Stevia is a very popular low calorie sweetener.
It’s extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana.
This plant has been grown for its sweetness and medicinal purposes for centuries in South America.Several sweet compounds are found in stevia leaves. The main ones are stevioside and rebaudioside A. Both are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram.
Therefore, stevia is very sweet but has virtually no calories.
Additionally, a few human-based studies suggest stevia has health benefits, including:
- Stevia can lower high blood pressure in people with hypertension by 6–14%. However, it doesn’t affect normal or only mildly elevated blood pressure levels .
- Stevia has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes .
Several older studies in rats show that stevia can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reduce plaque buildup in the arteries .
If you need to sweeten something, stevia may be your healthiest choice.
Erythritol is another low calorie sweetener.
It’s a sugar alcohol found naturally in certain fruits. However, powdered erythritol available for purchase is most likely made via an industrial process.
It contains 0.24 calories per gram, or about 6% of the calories in an equal amount of sugar, with 70% of the sweetness.
Erythritol tastes very much like sugar, although it can have a mild aftertaste.
Erythritol doesn’t spike your blood sugar or insulin levels or affect levels of blood fats like cholesterol or triglycerides
It’s absorbed into the body from the intestines but eventually excreted from the kidneys unchanged
Studies show that erythritol is very safe and may even be linked to several health benefits.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to that of sugar.
It contains 2.4 calories per gram, or about two-thirds the calories of sugar.Xylitol appears to have some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay (11Trusted Source).
According to some animal studies, it may also improve bone density, helping prevent osteoporosis .Furthermore, research shows that xylitol can increase levels of several compounds in the digestive tract to help support your gut microbiome .
Xylitol also doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels. However, as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive side effects at high doses (9Trusted Source).If you have a dog at home, you might want to keep xylitol out of its reach since it’s highly toxic to dogs .
4. Yacon syrup
This sweetener has recently become popular as a weight loss supplement. One older study in women with obesity and slight dyslipidemia, or abnormal levels of blood fats, found that it caused significant weight Yacon syrup can help prevent constipation and has various benefits due to its high amount of soluble fiber
Don’t eat too much at a time though, as it can cause digestive problems.
5. Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit is a type of fruit native to Southeast Asia. It’s often used to make a natural sweetener called monk fruit extract.
It’s free of calories and carbohydrates, and some research suggests that it may also help support better blood sugar management .Monk fruit also contains antioxidant compounds known as mogrosides, which have been shown to reduce markers of inflammation in test-tube studies .
Plus, other test-tube studies have found that certain compounds extracted from monk fruit could slow the growth of specific types of cancer cellsAlthough there’s limited research on the effects of monk fruit in humans, it’s generally considered safe and hasn’t been associated with any negative side effects .
However, it’s important to check the ingredient label when purchasing monk fruit extract, as many products are combined with sugar or other sweeteners, which could negate its potential health benefits.