Nutrition Articles

The Truth about ''Natural'' Sweeteners

Does Sugar by Any Other Name Still Taste as Sweet?

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Here’s a chart of how these sweeteners compare with one another and with regular table sugar:

Sweetener Serving size Calories Carbs Other nutrients of note
White (table) sugar 2 tsp 33 8 g None*
Blackstrap molasses 2 tsp 32 8 g Manganese (18% DV), copper (14% DV), iron (13% DV), calcium (12% DV), potassium (10% DV), magnesium (7%DV), vitamin B6 (5% DV), selenium (4% DV)
Rapadura 2 tsp 30 8 g None*
Sucanat 2 tsp 30 8 g None*
Turbinado sugar 2 tsp 30 8 g None*
Evaporated cane juice 2 tsp 30 8 g Riboflavin (3% DV), potassium (1% DV), manganese (1% DV), copper (1% DV), iron (1% DV)
Agave nectar syrup 2 tsp 40 8 g None*
Brown rice syrup 2 tsp 40 10 g None*
Honey 2 tsp 43 11 g None*
Maple syrup 2 tsp 45 9 g Manganese (22% DV), zinc (4% DV)

*Less than 0.5% DV of any vitamins or minerals

SparkPeople's Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand, notes that published recommendations say to limit added sugars from all sources to no more than 10%-15% of total calorie intake, which is 120 calories (7.5 tsp) of sugar for a 1,200-calorie diet. 

The bottom line is that sugar is sugar. Too much sugar—whether it’s marketed as “natural” or not—can harm your health.  Even sweeteners touted as natural or nutritious, like the ones discussed here, don’t typically add a significant source of vitamins or minerals to your diet. But in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with the sweetness that a little sugar adds to life. So if you’re going to eat it, eat the good stuff...just not too much of it. (Need help figuring out where hidden sugar may be lurking in your food? Check out this helpful resource from the USDA.)

This article has been reviewed and approved by licensed and registered dietitian, Becky Hand, and Tanya Jolliffe, a SparkPeople healthy eating expert.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • What happened to coconut sugar? It's high in minerals and low carbs and it tastes great - 10/13/2014 3:42:55 AM
  • i'm so tired of hearing 'sugar is sugar.' no it's not. there aren't any 'healthy' sugars, they all have a ton of calories, but if i want a sweetener it's far better for my entire system to use cane sugar or honey than HFCS made from GMO corn.
    khairete
    suz - 10/12/2014 9:26:40 AM
  • TWEETSIE2984
    My husband cannot eat any sugar sub except for truvia. The other ones give him acid reflux and make him sick. I myself prefer honey because it helps the immune system and allergys. Plus it is processed better by the body. - 9/29/2014 10:48:53 AM
  • Interesting - 6/20/2014 1:03:25 AM
  • I use only local raw unfiltered honey for my sweetener needs. It was recommended for my allergies and it helps. - 12/1/2013 7:33:10 PM
  • I didn't notice Stevia listed. I get it at the pharmacy vitamin section which seems to be cheaper than the "sugar" isle. - 11/13/2013 7:52:45 PM
  • Anyway, this article was better than the one about artificial sweeteners, where short term studies were cited....We have all seen that long term affects are not generally noted in these types of studies. I think that health news is changing rapidly right now, and it's hard to know what to believe, and although this article doesn't give an opinion about the sweeteners, I'm ok with that, since we really don't know for sure yet. Seems like the more 'natural' or 'whole, the better. For now, I'm sticking with raw, unfiltered honey, and other less refined/processed sugar options, if I need sugar. Maybe best to try to limit sugar- the less sugar and processed food I eat, the less I crave it anyway... But, as we all know, that can be undone in one meal and the cravings are back- that's when I try to use honey, dark chocolate, etc to help.... - 9/24/2013 1:46:52 PM
  • TIFFER32
    Great information. wish i had the conversion chart a couple of days ago when I baked. - 8/26/2013 5:04:47 PM
  • I don't like stevia either. - 8/9/2013 12:59:59 PM
  • Stevia is not mentioned, It is a favorite of mine that I use to sweeten tea or my real lemonade. I do not use much. I also use agave syrup but only use a tablespoon in my buckwheat pancakes, not on them. - 7/14/2013 7:25:37 PM
  • Stevia tastes bitter to me, not at all sweet. I love cooking with maple syrup, it adds a subtle flavor to food... yum. - 7/14/2013 12:28:45 PM
  • rapadura or coconut sugar which is least processed
    ? - 7/9/2013 1:28:34 PM
  • DORI411
    Am I the only one that can't stand the taste of stevia ? And no I'm not putting too much in.. I bought an expensive little bottle from the health foods store and only put one drop in my coffee... Yuck

    Or shouldi I try again with powder? - 4/19/2013 10:57:26 AM
  • Glad to read that blackstrap molasse is the only one that actually has nutrients : I love using it as spread on bread (yummy) and in herbal tea sometimes. - 12/14/2012 3:24:41 PM
  • 50SLADY
    I was also expecting the article to contain information about stevia, luo han guo, and erythritol. - 11/27/2012 8:05:45 PM

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