7+ sweeteners as sweet on your health as they taste

Sugar has a bad rap and rightly so.

There are two especially egregious offenders that Americans have a love affair with: table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS, from corn starch).

These have no micronutrients and if eaten in excess, cause a variety of diseases. Unless you go exercise shortly after eating these, the more refined sugar foods you consume, the faster diseases develop.

Here’s what the science shows about sucrose:

  • Contributes to obesity
  • Increases systolic blood pressure
  • Spikes insulin, promoting metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes
  • Feeds cancer including cancers of the pancreas, stomach, biliary tract, gall bladder, colon, lung, prostate, breast, small intestine, larynx, rectum, kidney, liver, and uterus.

There are better sweeteners than refined sugar.  Let’s look at the healthy sweets that actually have nutritional value in contrast to the empty-calorie high glycemic ones…  

Peak Golden Oil

Helps Your Body Maintain Optimum Immune Balance!


Artificial sweeteners

These cannot promote health over the long term because they are not natural molecules. These synthetic chemicals have a super sweet taste, but science is uncovering the link between artificial sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet), saccharine and sucralose (Splenda), and disruption of healthy intestinal bacteria and obesity.

Related: 9 ways fake sweeteners can lead to disease

I tell my patients that diet colas may be worse for them than regular ones if they are sensitive to artificial sweeteners. Diabetics may have lowered blood sugar from these, but over time they cannot benefit as much as if they exercise and use stevia (discussed below). I’ll cover artificial sweeteners in more detail in a future article.

Healthier sweeteners

1. Whole foods

Fried fruits and vegetables are the healthiest sources of sweet food. I previously highlighted the health virtues of low glycemic foods. Yet even though dried fruits such as raisins and dates may be higher glycemic foods, they are also full of nutrition (fiber, enzymes, complete vitamins, organic minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals).

2. Stevia

The sweet herb stevia is my favorite here. Some species are up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia has proven itself healthy for a number of health conditions:

  • Immune system strengthening.
  • Blood pressure reduction. In a pilot study reported in the June 2008 issue of Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology, they used stevia in two treatment groups: individuals with low blood pressure, and in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. In the November 2003 Issue of Clinical Therapy, researchers reported their 2-year study in Chinese patients with mild hypertension. Oral stevioside significantly decreased systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure compared with placebo.
  • Blood sugar control. Stevia is shown to slightly improve blood sugar control in diabetics. In the November 2003 issue of Phytochemistry, it was shown that stevia is safe for diabetics. There were no allergic reactions to it in those studied.

Rebiana is the isolated molecular form of the natural stevia leaf, and is a major ingredient in Truvia™.

3. Raw honey

Honey contains more fructose than glucose, plus trace amounts of enzymes (glucose oxidase), amino acids, minerals, vitamins B and C, and even antioxidants.

Raw honey (before it gets heated and processed) has antibacterial activity when applied topically to wounds. it creates gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, both destroyers of bacteria and fungi. That’s why it can be used quite effectively as an antibacterial soap for acne treatment. It also helps heal burns and abrasions, mouth canker sores, and staphylococcal skin infections.

It also has anti-allergy effects when eaten. One allergist from Oklahoma has used it with approximately 22,000 patients across America to treat allergy symptoms. Dr. William G. Peterson is quoted as saying, “It must be raw honey because raw honey contains all the pollen [and propolis], dust and molds that cause 90 percent of all allergies…not be strained, not even through a cloth.” He prescribes a daily teaspoon of raw honey to control allergy symptoms and also to prevent a recurrence.

4. Agave nectar

They also report human clinical trials on Blue Agave Nectar which showed it does not elevate blood glucose or insulin levels in diabetics; also it does not trigger fat storage in adipose cells. Agave naturally contains Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium.

5. Black strap molasses

Molasses is made from young sugar cane.  When sulfur dioxide is added during the sugar extraction process, it acts as a preservative. However, the unsulfured molasses is made from mature sugar cane and is closest to its natural, whole food source (sugar cane). The dark molasses (with or without sulfur) is also known as blackstrap. Both are nutritious, containing high levels of calcium, iron, and potassium. As reported in the January 2009 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, blackstrap molasses was measured to have the most antioxidant content of the sweeteners in their study. They found that refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar contained minimal antioxidant activity; maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey showed intermediate antioxidant activity; raw cane sugar had a higher level, and dark and blackstrap molasses had the highest levels.

6. Xylitol

Xylitol looks and tastes just like sugar even though it is chemically not sugar, but rather an alcohol molecule. It is naturally found in some fruits, vegetables and various trees such as birch. It is not a whole food by the time it gets to you in the commercially available white powder forms but is still a very healthy sugar source.

7. Truvia™

Truvia is a combination of rebiana (extract of stevia) and erythritol and is manufactured by Cargill Inc. headquartered in Minneapolis. They steep the stevia leaves and “further purify it” to get to their desired ingredient (rebiana). Therefore, it is really a refined and processed version of stevia with erythritol added for sweetness.  Therefore, it is much like stevia, but without the clinical studies to prove its healthful value.

Other sweeteners

There are others including:

  • Grade B maple syrup (unrefined) — from maple tree sap. Still contains some vitamins and minerals.
  • Turbinado — raw sugar cane juice that has been dehydrated, colored and crystallized. It should be considered a partially refined sugar.
  • Date, mango fruit or kiwi sugar — made from dehydrated ground dates, mangos or kiwis.
  • Fructose (levulose) — found in many foods such as honey, tree fruits, berries, melons, beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and even onions. Fructose is a lower glycemic index
  • Sugar Alcohols — sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol (wood sugar or birch sugar). Because it decreases infection from tooth-harming bacteria in the mouth, xylitol gums have actually been well proven to reduce dental cavities.
  • Rice Syrup — from rice and sprouted grains. Maltose is the main sugar type here.
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate — remaining sugar from apples, devoid of most of its fiber, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Sucanat — from cane sugar that has not had the molasses removed from it. It contains nine minerals and six vitamins as it is only minimally processed.
  • Rapadura is essentially pure dried sugarcane juice much like sucanat.
  • Yacon root — is a non-glycemic, natural, raw, organic, low-calorie sweetener.

To your healthy sugar eating habits,

Michael Cutler, M.D.

Editor’s note: Being fit and healthy is not as complicated as you might think. In Dr. Cutler’s free report, you can read about 10 easy steps to a natural total health makeover based on just 7 basic fundamentals that cover ALL the bases… My favorite is #7: Indulge occasionally! For the rest, click here!


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  18. Geuns JM. Stevioside. Phytochemistry 2003 Nov;64(5):913-21. CONCLUSIONS: Stevia is safe when used as a sweetener. It is suited for both diabetics, and PKU patients, as well as for obese persons intending to lose weight by avoiding sugar supplements in the diet. No allergic reactions to it seem to exist.
  19. Sehar I, Kaul A, Bani S, Pal HC, Saxena AK. Immune up regulatory response of a non-caloric natural sweetener, stevioside. Chem Biol Interact 2008 May 28;173(2):115-21.  CONCLUSIONS: Present study, therefore, reveals that the drug holds promise as immunomodulating agent, which acts by stimulating both humoral as well as cellular immunity and phagocytic function.
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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.