A Real Food Kitchen Series: Healthy Sweeteners

Jul 6, 2020

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Last updated on May 3rd, 2023 at 03:27 pm

Healthy sweeteners instead of refined sugar can cause confusion and mistakes when we cook and bake with them.

It is very important to understand that sugar is sugar.  After all, even healthy sweeteners of any form will cause your insulin levels to rise – some a little, some a lot – this means that it is always important to be mindful of sugar consumption and to pair them with other macronutrients.

The overconsumption of sugar has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and the like. Therefore, let us choose to be wise when picking and choosing our healthy sweeteners, how we include them in our lifestyle, and how we consume them.

Also, understanding that using less-processed sweeteners gives the dish or baked goods a bit of extra flavor. For example, honey has a strong and distinct flavor that may be detectable in the end product, depending on your use. Moreover, many of these less-processed sweeteners I am about to list will lend a slight blondish color to the food, so if you are trying to make a cake and keep it as white as possible, you must pick your sweetener carefully.

healthy sweeteners

Here is a list of my very favorite healthy sweeteners:

Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup is my all-time favorite sweetener and is very versatile. It is rich in trace minerals and an excellent sweetener for baking or drizzling.

Maple Sugar

It should be no surprise that I am also a fan of maple sugar. Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup – the end result is beautifully sweet and blond sugar crystals. It is a little bit more expensive but so worth it.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar (also known as palm sugar) is traditionally made from the sap of coconut flowers. It is generally boiled down to create either a soft paste or a granulated form. This is a great sweetener to use for baking cookies or cakes.


Did you know that molasses is the by-product of refined sugar production? This mineral-rich and nutrient-dense syrup is slightly sweet and best used in baking.


Sucanat is dehydrated cane juice, and it is also rich in minerals. It is essentially white sugar before it hits the factory to be stripped from all these minerals. I might also note that sucanat is not pure white like refined white sugar. Whole cane sugar can be used instead of white sugar at 1:1 when baking and cooking.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is a great sweetener that doesn’t cause a significant rise or fall in blood sugar levels. When purchasing honey, it is important to pick raw honey because it contains beneficial enzymes lost during processing and filtering.

healthy sweeteners

Other healthy sweetener options:

Date Sugar

Date sugar is 100% dehydrated dates that are ground into small pieces. It is important to note that date sugar doesn’t dissolve in liquids, so it is best used in baked goods.


Muscovado is a fantastic option when you want brown, moist sugar. It has quite a bit of molasses, so it is excellent for a richer flavor. The darker the muscovado, the more molasses it contains.


Stevia is a very sweet powder that comes directly from the stevia plant and has become popular over the last few years. The stevia leaf extract can be up to 250-300 times sweeter than white sugar and is therefore considered a high-intensity sweetener. You only need a tiny amount. I actually don’t like/recommend stevia at all.
Please note: stevia leaves are green, so if you must, be sure that you purchase green stevia powder.  If it is white, it’s probably been bleached.

Sweeteners to avoid:

It is best to avoid refined and chemically made sweeteners, like agave, white sugar, xylitol, Sweet ‘N Low, corn syrup, etc. Moreover, it is also interesting to note that many of the “raw” sugars on the market are white sugar with a little bit of molasses added to give the sugar the natural brownish color. As discussed in this post, reading all the labels is the only way to know if you have the right product.

More to read:So Many Names For Sugar” and  “Simple Steps To Navigate The Grocery Store.


Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is for educational purposes only.

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