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High intakes of sugar in the diet are linked to conditions ranging from dental caries to diabetes. This being the case, what else can you use? If you aren’t a fan of artificial sweeteners, try the following three alternatives, which provide some phytonutrients and have a lower glycemic index compared to table sugar. Or, just use sugar in very small amounts.


An ancient sweetener with newly discovered medicinal properties, honey is a top choice. The glycemic index of blended honey is moderate (50–65, which is similar to sugar). The downside? Some vegans choose not to consume honey.

Pure maple syrup

Produced by boiling the sap of sugar maple trees to concentrate it into a viscous, amber-colored syrup with a unique sweet taste, pure maple syrup is also a source of minerals such as manganese, zinc, iron, and calcium. It also contains vitamins and phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant activity. Like all syrup sweeteners, it provides fewer calories than sugar per 100 grams, and it has a moderate glycemic index of 54. Just don’t confuse it with the cheaper maple-flavored syrup!

Raw agave syrup

Used by the Aztecs in Central America to treat wounds because of its antibacterial properties, agave syrup (or nectar) is produced from the sap of the Mexican cactus. It has a particularly low glycemic index of 15 (it’s predominantly fructose), and it contains saponins and fructans with anti-inflammatory and prebiotic qualities. While popular among raw food enthusiasts, it can be pricey!

Other sweeteners

You can also use fresh medjool dates for their texture and antioxidant-rich sweetness. But avoid highly processed sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, because they have a higher glycemic index (98) than sugar (65), which defeats the purpose!

Nutritionist Sue Radd Is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and co-author of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve well-being. See for more nutritional information.

Food Matters: Alternative Sweeteners

by Sue Radd
From the May 2016 Signs