Q: I know using sugar is not good for you and I'm looking for some alternatives to using sugar. I know you have healthy sugar-free recipes on your website. Could you tell me more about them and a few tips on how to use them in recipes?
A: Here are 12+ sugar substitutes* that are low calorie and won't spike blood glucose levels, including monk fruit, xylitol, stevia, yacon syrup and more. Note that you can also use flavorings and spices in your recipes so that you can use LESS sugar.
*These sweeteners are suitable for those with diabetes, trying to lose weight and those wanting natural, healthy and/or low calorie sweeteners. For those with candida, the best choices are stevia, monk fruit and Lakanto.
Xylitol and Erythritol
Are called sugar alcohols. They are white in appearance and are fermented products. Xylitol and erythritol can be derived from corn, so be wary if you have corn allergies (note that xylitol can also be derived from birch, so good for those with corn allergies). They naturally occur in food and are considered safe for consumption. They are medium-priced compared to the price of organic sugar and make good substitutes in baked goods. They are about 60-80% as sweet as sugar.
Tip: instead of using the standard 2 cups of "sugar" in recipes, use 1/2-3/4 cup of xylitol or erythritol, taste test the dough, then add in 1-2 tsp of stevia (or more) to sweeten (more about using stevia as an enhancer sweetener below).
Note that because xylitol and erythritol are fermented, those with digestive issues (e.g. small intestintal bacterial overgrowth-SIBO) may experience gas and bloating. Some may also exprience diarrhea when large amounts are consumed. If you have candida, you may be able to tolerate these sweeteners, however stevia would be a better choice.
Is a fructooligosacharide (FOS, a prebiotic food which the probiotic, friendly gut flora feed off) and is found in chicory root, jerusalem artichoke, dandelion root, yacon and burdock root. You can buy inulin as an extracted product (such as from the agave plant or from chicory) as a white powder. It's not as sweet compared to organic sugar, but you can pair it with another sweetener (e.g. stevia) and use it where a small amount of sweetener is needed e.g. no-baked goods, smoothies, tea, coffee, etc.
Tip: in no baked goods, try using 1-2 TBsp with another sweetner e.g 1/2 cup xylitol.
Note that inulin (a prebiotic) can cause gas and bloating in some in some individuals.
Is a fruit from South America. It's sold in North America in its powdered form and has a vanilla-like taste. Lucuma is rather pricey and isn't as sweet as organic sugar, however when just a small amount of sweetener is needed (e.g. tea. coffee, shake), lucuma will work fine on its own.
Tip: For recipes that require a large amount of sweetener such as baked goods, pair lucuma with another sweetner e.g. 1/2-3/4 cup xylitol or erythritol + 2-4 TBsp lucuma (the lucuma will also give your baked goods a slight vanilla-like taste).
Not suitable for those with candida.
Available as a syrup or powder, yacon = the tuberous roots of the yacon plant (Smallanthus sonchifolius). Yacon is not as sweet as organic sugar and has a "dark" molasses-like taste. Because of its particular taste and being pricey, it's best to use yacon when only a small amount of sweetener is needed (e.g. tea, coffee).
Tip:Try pairing 1-2 TBsp with another sweetner (e.g. 1/2-3/4 cup xylitol or coconut sugar) in no-baked and baked goods to benefit from its molasses flavoring and prebiotic properties (inulin).
Note that yacon is high in FOS (fructooligosaccharides) and thus some may experience gas and bloating. Not suitable for those with candida.
Coconut Sugar & Nectar
Or Coconut Palm Sugar, is the sugary sap (or nectar) collected from the tree's flowers, heated to allow the water content to evaporate, and then sold as a thick liquid or dried as a crystallized powder. It has a low glycemic index of 35, contains inulin and some essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It makes a good sugar subsitute for both baked and no-baked goods and is considered 50-75% as sweet as sugar. It is one of the pricier sweeteners out there.
Tip: A good one to use for quick breads when paired with stevia. Try 1/2-3/4 cup coconut sugar + several tsps of stevia.
Not suitable for those with candida.
Stevia is a plant that is 20-40 times sweeter than sugar in its whole form and 100-200 times sweeter in its extracted form (glucosides). You can grow stevia yourself (she is an annual and Wo mentions that she grows well indoors during the cold winter months) and harvest her green leaves. The green leaves can be dried and then ground to a powder where small amonts of sweeter are needed (e.g. coffe, tea). The leaves can also be used to make a brief infusion (steep the leaves 30-60 minutes) and the strained liquid can then be used to sweeten recipes (e.g. replace the liquid in quick bread recipes with the stevia infusion). Stevia can also be turned into a glycerite (steep the fresh leaves with glycerin to cover for 6 weeks, then strain) or tincture (steep the leaves in 100 proof vodka for 6 weeks, then strain). Both can then be used to sweeten recipes where a small amount of sweetener is needed e.g. tea, coffee, smoothie.
Since stevia has a bitter principle, stevia is often sold as Rebaudioside A (somtimes Reb C, sometimes known as stevioside), which is the extracted sweet part of the stevia plant. Reb A can be purchased as a powder or in liquid form.
Since stevia is so sweet, by herself she doesn't do well in recipes requiring large amounts of sweeteners. Instead, she shines as an enhancer sweetener; in other words, you can use LESS of your regular sweetner because stevia is very, very sweet.
Tip: use 1-2 tsp (or more) of stevia paired with 1/2-3/4 cup of another sweetner (e.g. xylitol, erythritol, Lakanto, yacon, coconut sugar) in baked good recipes.
Stevia is one of the best sweeteners for ALL kinds of digestive issues, including leaky gut, SIBO, parasites and candida as she has NO calories and does NOT contribute to an imbalanced microbiome (does NOT feed the "bad bugs").
As known as glycerol, food grade glycerine is a sugar alcohol that has a sweet taste, about 60-75% as sweet as sugar. It is not that expensive, has a low glycemic index and is often added in small amounts to foods as a humectant, thickener and/or sweetener.
Tip: You can use glycerin in small amounts to sweeten coffee, tea and smoothies. When paired with another sweetener (e.g. xylitol, Lakanto), it serves as an enhancer sweetener (plus adds moisture). Try 1/2-3/4 cup xlylitol + 2-3 TBsp glycerin in baked recipes <- Very good to try with "drying" flours such as oat and coconut. You can try using glycerin as the main sweetener in no bake recipes, then add in 1-2 tsp (or more) stevia to sweeten.
Like all sugar alcohols, can have a laxative effect when large amounts are consumed. Might be suitable for those with candida. Do note that being derived from a vegetable fat, it can bog down the liver and lymphatic system, so not for those with liver issues.
Monk Fruit/Lo Han/Lo Han Guo
Is a fruit from China that has a mocha-chocolate taste in its whole form. Because it has a bitter principle, it is sold as an extracted powder. It's not very sweet on its own and does well when used in small amounts, such as for tea or coffee. You can use monk fruit as a flavoring (e.g. 1tsp-1 TBsp) in no-baked recipes or use it in combination with xylitol and stevia for baked good recipes (OR try Lakanto which contains monk fruit, stevia and erythritol). <- Note that Lakanto is pricey, but you can purchase the 3 sweeteners and then make your own combination :)
Note that you can buy the whole fruit from Asian markets. To do: open the shell carefully and pull out the inner part. Crush this inner part to a fine powder using a coffee mill. Again, each fruit is different, so some taste sweet while others have a slight bitterness to them.
Suitable for those with candida (including Lakanto).
Fruits are a natural source of sugar and many are aware that dried fruit such as raisins, dates and apricots can be used to sweeten recipes. Interestingly, when you soak these dried fruits for 4-8 hours, you can then use the sweet soak water and use it in the place of liquids (water/ milk) in your baked good recipes.
Tip: replace the water in your oatmeal recipe with raisin or date soak water, cook, then sweeten with stevia if need be.
Another way to sweeten a recipe is to use fruit juices in place of water/milk in baked goods. For example, cranberry juice can be used in a cranberry recipe, orange juice in an orange quick bread recipe, while grape, pear and apple are all sweet juices that be used in many recipes. Using fruit juices to sweeten your recipe means that you can use LESS sweetener to your recipes.
Tip: try using 1/2-3/4 cup xylitol, erythritol or Lakanto AND use a fruit juice to replace the water/milk/oil in the recipe. If the dough is still lacking a bit of sweet, add in a bit of liquid stevia, then bake.
Yet one other idea is to use fruit butters or mashed fruit to replace the oil in recipes AND at the same time provide sweetness (meaning LESS sweetener will be needed).
Tip: replace 1 cup of oil with 1/2 cup fruit butter or fresh fruit pureed (e.g. peeled and cored apples blended in a fruit processor, mashed bananas, apple butter, etc.), then use 1/2-3/4 cup sweetener such as xylitol, erythritol, coconut sugar or Lakanto.
Note: fruits suitable for candida include the sours: berries, lemon, lime, pomegranate, tart cherry, and granny smith apple in small quantities.
Natural Sugars Which Spike Blood Glucose (NOT for those with candida)
Brown Rice Syrup
Is a thick syrup derived from boiling down the liquid from brown rice. Aside from arsenic being found in brown rice, the syrup is low glycemic and can be suitable as a sweetenr in moderation for those with diabetes, and those seeking weight loss or a healthy sweetener. It is not as sweet as sugar and works best when a small amount of sweetener is needed such as for coffee, tea or cereal. Some have noted that it has a slight rice-like "particular" taste. If used in baked goods, pair with another sweetener.
Tip: try pairing equal amounts of brown rice syrup with another sweetener such as xylitol, Lakanto, coconut sugar or erythritol in baked and no bake recipes.
Note that Sorghum Syrup can be used similarly to brown rice syrup.
Raw honey has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, as well as a host of minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese. These are detroyed with heat, so be sure to AVOID using honey in baked recipes. Honey can be used just like sugar, and is great to use on special occassions in no bake recipes. As well, a bit of honey to sweeten tea or coffee in moderation is fine if there are no blood sugar issues. Where honey really "shines" is when the immune system needs a lift, such as during a cold or the flu. Herbalists have often steeped herbs in honey for just such an occassion, such as with sage honey, violet honey or the pricey manuka honey. Note that honey is high in calories and has a high glycemic index of 64.
Tip: A tablespoon of honey (or an infused herbal honey) in a cup or two of warm water helps to soothe sore scratchy throats. Note that you can use LESS honey in a recipe if you pair honey with stevia. <- To do, sweeten the recipe with half the amount of honey, then add in 1-2 tsp (up to 1 TBsp) of stevia to sweeten. Add a touch more honey if need be.
Not suitable for those with candida.
Is a very thick syrup derived from sugar cane. The juice is extracted from the sugar cane, boiled down, then most of the sugar is removed before being boiled down a third time. The syrup has a particular "dark" taste and is rich in iron, potassium and magnesium. Because of its special taste, it is often used with other sweeteners in a recipe. Make sure you choose organic and unsulphured. Note that it is high in calories and has a glycemic index of 55. It is 60-70% as sweet as sugar.
Tip: Use 1/2-3/4 cup xylitol, erythritol, Lakanto or coconut sugar + 2 TBsp of molasses in a baked good recipe. 2 TBsp of molasses replaces about 1/2 cup of sweetener in a recipe. <- Good idea to make molasses or gingerbread cookies :)
For those with iron deficiency, 1-2 TBsp can be used as a supplement daily (barring there are no digestive/parasitic/candidiasis issues). Wo made a video on iron deficiency, which you can watch HERE if interested. You can also make an infusion of 1/2 oz. each parsley, nettle and yellow dock (+ 1/2 oz mint for taste, optional), then add a touch of molasses to taste.
It is a thick syrup derived from tapping maple trees. It comes in different grades/colors depending on how long it has been processed/boiled down. It is as sweet as sugar and contains B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, manganese and zinc. Note that it is high in calories and has a glycemic index of 54.
It can be used just like sugar to sweeten baked and no-bake recipe.
Bonus: Birch Syrup is similar to maple syrup in that it is high in minerals and B vitamins. It has a glycemic index of about 50 and can be used like sugar. Birch Water is what is tapped directly from the trees before it is boiled down (before the water is evaporated). Birch water is excellent to flush out toxins from the lymphatic system <- beneficial for those interested in detoxifying and those with edema/water retention.
Flavorings to Use so that LESS Sugar is Required in Recipes
When you add the following flavorings to your recipe, they not only make your recipe taste good, but you can get away with using LESS sweetener.
Flavorings to add to recipes include:
***ALL Recipes on Go Wild Be Free are Sugar-Free!!!***
Here are a few good ones to try:
is a Health Practitioner with a Background in Chinese Medicine. Get in Some of her Savvy Adivce When She Answers Your Health Question.
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