When it comes down to it eating sugar is one of the worst things you can put into your body. Instead, try to use more of these natural sugar substitutes in your diet to enhance weight loss.
Getting rid of the sugar in your diet is the number one thing you can do to lose more weight and improve your health.
Sugar is highly addicting and is the cause of many of the chronic diseases in the United States. Everything from obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
It’s easy over consume sugar so it’s a wise idea to look for natural alternatives. The average American consumes more than 150 pounds of refined sugar every year.
But there are ways you can kick sugar to the curb with these healthier and natural substitutes.
I’m sure you can agree it can be difficult to completely get rid of sugar from your diet.
Use these natural sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth while minimizing the health consequences.
Natural Sugar Substitutes for Weight Loss
So Why Is Sugar So Bad For You
There really are no health benefits to eating sugar. It just gives you empty calories that’ll skyrocket your blood sugar levels.
There are no vitamins, minerals, proteins, good fats or antioxidants to be found in sugar.
Eating sugar can damage your metabolism by increasing the amount of insulin your body releases. This can cause your body to store more fat, lose more muscle and have decreased energy levels.
There’s more evidence today than ever sugar causes obesity and type 2 diabetes. It can stop your body from telling you it’s full. Next thing you know you’re eating more and more because of the sugar you ate.
Studies have found individuals who eat the most sugar are more likely to be overweight and have deadly visceral belly fat.
Even drinking diet soda has been heavily linked to increases in abdominal fat.
Along with obesity and stomach fat from eating sugar comes increases in the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Sugar is incredibly addictive and I’ve found it to be one of if not the hardest part of embarking on a new diet.
Eating sugar causes your brain to release dopamine in the reward center part of the brain. Very similar to hardcore addictive drugs.
This gradually leads to overeating and can be very hard for someone to kick sugar to the curb for good.
See my other blog post on How To Stop The Painful Sugar Withdrawal.
The Best Natural Sugar Substitutes
These are going to be your best alternatives for sugar as they cause the least amount (if any) damage to the body.
Look at using one of these sugar substitutes before any others.
Stevia is the healthiest sugar substitute you can use, and it’s my favorite alternative.
Stevia contains zero calories and there have been zero links associating it to weight gain.
You can also expect to lower your blood pressure when you start substituting stevia for regular sugar.
You’ll lower your blood sugar levels along with fighting diabetes by decreasing blood sugar levels.
Just make sure you find a stevia that has less bad additives as many on store shelves do.
See my blog post on is stevia safe to find my favorite choices for stevia.
Monk fruit is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. The monk fruit extract has zero calories and zero carbohydrates.
It’s named after the monks who ate the fruit and needs to be processed as it can go bad quickly.
You can expect to keep stable blood sugar levels when you substitute sugar for monk fruit in your diet.
There is no evidence of negative side effects from monk fruit, but keep in mind it’s relatively new to the scene. The FDA says its “generally recognized as safe” but there still needs more research to be done.
But a good quality monk fruit sweetener can be hard to find.
Many contain dextrose or have other additives that may cause an insulin response in your body.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a very similar sweetness to sugar.
It has 2.4 calories per gram which is about 40% less than sugar.
Substituting sugar for xylitol won’t raise your blood sugar or insulin levels. This is key.
Interestingly enough researchers found xylitol can reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay. It does this by increasing the amount of calcium your body can absorb.
Make sure you don’t eat too much of it as it can cause digestive issues such as an upset stomach.
Be sure to keep it away from your dog at all costs. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs so it’s best to keep it out of their reach at all times.
Yacon syrup tastes sweet and has a similar dark color and thick consistency to molasses.
This study found those who switch sugar for yacon syrup had significant weight loss in overweight women.
The reason yacon syrup is so effective as a natural sugar substitute is it contains 40-50% fructooligosaccharides.
This is essentially just a special type of sugar your body can properly digest. This way you get to taste the sweetness of yacon syrup without getting the negative effects of sugar.
Yacon syrup only contains 1/3 of the calories compared to regular sugar.
This study found the fructooligosaccharides found in yacon syrup helped to decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin. This will help to decrease your appetite and hunger.
Studies have also found it to be beneficial to the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Having healthy gut bacteria is key to not only weight loss and preventing diabetes, but for a strong immune system and sharp brain.
Be sure not to eat too much of it as it can cause digestive problems such as gas and diarrhea.
Don’t try to cook or bake with it as it’ll break down the molecular structures at high temperatures.
Instead use it to sweeten coffee, tea or on top of foods.
The Next Best Natural Sugar Substitutes
These are natural alternatives for sugar that don’t have all the health benefits as those above. They might even have some negatives health consequences.
If you can I’d choose one of the options above first. Use the substitutes for sugar below sparingly.
Raw honey is natures oldest sweetener. It contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants.
It can help to lower inflammation and chronic diseases that can develop in your body. The high amount of antioxidants in raw honey help to do this.
This 8-week study found eating honey helped to significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Surprisingly eating raw honey was also found to increase HDL (good) cholesterol. But keep in mind it also raised blood sugar levels some.
This study by San Diego State University found substituting sugar for honey helped to prevent weight gain while lowering blood sugar.
The University of Wyoming found in a study raw honey could active hormones in the body that regulated appetite.
Eating raw honey will have a less harmful effect on your blood sugar levels than regular sugar.
Even though it has additional health benefits while sweetening your food it should still be used sparingly.
It does contain a good amount of fructose (the same as regular sugar) that can lead to health problems when over consumed.
Be sure to find raw honey over processed honey as the former will retain the nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, minerals.
The manufacturing process uses heat that can kill off or at least severely damage these nutrients.
Maple syrup is a healthier sugar substitute but that doesn’t mean you can go out and eat those pancakes.
It has a Glycemic Index (GI) of 54 compared to 65 for regular sugar so it shouldn’t spike your blood sugar as much.
Maple syrup is a thick and sugar liquid processed from the sap of maple trees.
It contains a good amount of minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, and manganese.
It might be surprising to hear maple syrup has more antioxidants than honey.
This study also found maple syrup to have cancer-fighting benefits. Keep in mind this study was in test tubes and more research is needed.
Maple syrup still contains a good amount of sugar in it. It’s only a little bit lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar.
It might not raise your blood sugar levels as quickly, but at the end of the day, it’s still going to raise them.
Be sure to use maple syrup sparingly for these reasons as a natural alternative to sugar.
Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It has a glycemic index ranking of 50.
Coconut sugar is very high in fructose so should be used minimally as a replacement for table sugar. The main reason you want to avoid table sugar is its high fructose content.
You should use coconut sugar sparingly even though it’ll be absorbed slower in your body. It’ll still cause an insulin release in your body.
It contains the same amount of calories as regular sugar too.
Make sure you check the labeling on coconut sugar as the American Diabetics Association warn many add regular sugar.
Coconut sugar is thought to be a much healthier alternative to regular sugar but the truth is it is only slightly.
Dates are a natural fruit high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and manganese.
Your body can digest dates easily so they make a very popular sugar substitute.
There is even a study finding eating dates helped to lower LDL cholesterol while reducing the overall risk of a stroke.
Dates are quite high in fiber with 6.4 grams per serving. The fiber in the dates should help to slow the blood sugar response in your body.
Dates are surprisingly low on the Glycemic Index with a score of 42.
But dates are still very high in sugar and you should eat only sparingly.
You’ll find a lot of health bars out there using dates as a natural sweetener. It’s easy to think you can eat dates guilt-free, but the truth is they can cause you to gain weight too.
Blackstrap molasses are the finished product from heating cane sugar. It’s a dark and thick liquid with syrup like consistency.
Molasses have a GI score of 55, which less than regular sugar.
Blackstrap molasses are higher in antioxidants than both honey and maple syrup. This natural sweetener also contains lactic acid that has many benefits for the health of your skin.
Swapping sugar for blackstrap molasses is a better alternative, but it’s still a form of sugar.
Best like the rest on this list to use sparingly or it’ll undoubtedly cause you to gain weight.
The Worst Sugar Substitutes
These are the sugar substitutes to stay away from at all costs.
They’ll cause more damage to your body than regular sugar if you can believe that.
Agave nectar is thought to be a wise option as a natural alternative to sugar. Wrong!
The truth is agave nectar contains 85% fructose which is crazily enough more than table sugar.
These high amounts of fructose will no doubt cause you to gain weight and increase fat stores in your belly.
Many incorrectly believe agave nectar to be better for them than table sugar, but it’s not.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
You’ll find high fructose corn syrup in many processed foods and sodas. It’s made from corn and is thought to be a healthier alternative to table sugar.
Believe it or not, high fructose corn syrup contains a lot of fructose. It says it right there in its name.
Consuming high fructose corn syrup has been linked to weight gain, obesity, diabetes and more chronic health problems.
High fructose corn syrup is just as bad as regular sugar (if not worst) and should be avoided.
Be sure to check the label on food packaging to make sure this sweetener isn’t to be found.
Sucralose & Aspartame
These are definitely not natural sweeteners at all. But I thought I would include them in the list of the worst offenders.
What is the risk of artificial sweeteners?
Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar but there are studies finding it associated with weight gain.
Since it contains zero calories and nutrients it can trick your body into expecting an influx of nutrients.
When no nutrients or calories come in the theory is your body starts craving these foods more and more.
Next thing you know you’re eating more and more food to satisfy these cravings cause from eating sucralose.
This 2013 study even found consuming sucralose to have a negative impact on your gut bacteria. It was also found to affect your body’s insulin response and could even alter your genes.
Aspartame is the sweetener you’ll find in many diet sodas out there. It’s 180 times sweeter than sucrose.
It won’t create the same blood sugar response in your body as regular table sugar.
But many people have difficulties breaking down this artificial sweetener.
Many who use aspartame have found it gives them headaches, irritability, nausea and other mood changes.
Some studies with rats have found it also linked to cancer. The fact that aspartame has the potential to be a carcinogen should be enough to keep you away from it.
This study by Research in Nursing & Health found those on a high aspartame diet were more likely to be irritable and depressed.
Drinking both soda and diet soda will cause you to gain belly fat.
As you can see there really is no perfect natural sugar substitute out there.
Even the healthiest alternative to sugar will cause some problems in your body in large amounts.
I know it can be next to impossible to completely get sugar out of your diet for good. The next best thing is going to be to minimize the damage.
Stick with the sugar substitutes at the top of this list first. The second best options are going to be better for you than regular sugar, but still should be used minimally.
You don’t have to completely kiss your sweet tooth goodbye, but it’ll be a good idea to find a better sugar alternative.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.