Finding a healthy alternative to cane sugar is easier than you might think. Most people know only of the artificial sugar substitutes such as Nutrasweet and Sweet n' Low. Fortunately, an increasing number of products include natural sweetener alternatives such as agave syrup, stevia and honey. But be careful, some natural cane sugar substitutes contain the same, if not higher, number of calories as plain white sugar. Choose a sugar substitute based on all the nutritional information including carbohydrates, glucose and calories.
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant of Mexico and Central America. This thick brown syrup tastes slightly less sweet than maple syrup and contains 60 calories per 2 tablespoons. Manufacturers frequently market agave as a lower gyclemic sugar substitute appropriate for diabetes. However, agave's glucose and sucrose content make it similar in nutrition and diabetic risk to regular cane sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. Using agave in moderation makes this plant nectar an acceptable sweetener, though not necessarily any healthier than cane sugar.
Stevia extract is a white, powdery low-calorie sugar substitute that manufacturers frequently advertise as the "all natural" alternative to cane sugar. Although stevia plants undergo processing for refining, this extract contains virtually no calories or carbohydrates, meaning your blood sugar won't spike after consumption. Stevia extract is reportedly 200 to 300 times sweeter than white sugar so use sparingly.
Honey exists in a variety of forms from raw to flavored and contains numerous antibacterial properties. Some people prefer the natural, unprocessed nature of honey to cane sugar. But while honey can effectively substitute for sugar, the nutritional content makes it quite similar to sugar in terms of calories, carbohydrates or glucose content.
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