Sugar Alternatives: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Raw Honey

sugar-alternatives-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly Raw honey provides vitamins, minerals, amino acids and many other bio-active substances. However beware – not all honey is good! Most of the honey in supermarkets has been processed on high heats in order to speed up extraction from the honeycomb, which results in it losing its health benefits and becoming pure sugar. Raw honey, on the other hand, has been cold-extracted, thus retaining its health-giving properties. Look on the jar to make sure it has been “cold extracted”. I buy raw honey from Littleover Apiary – see below.

Fruit Juice, Fruit Concentrate and Sugar-free Jam

Commercial fruit juices are full of sugars and moulds. Freshly pressed juice is better, but not on a regular basis as juicing fruit concentrates its sweetness, therefore making it high in sugar. Fruit spreads work well as sweeteners in some desserts, but make sure it is not made with concentrated fruit juice.

I use Biona Organic Pear and Apple Spread 450g (Pack of 6) (paid link) in the occasional treat because it is made from concentrated whole fruits and not just juice. Sugar-free jam also makes a good sweetener in some desserts, but make sure it contains only fruit and doesn’t have sweeteners added. St Dalfour sugar-free jam is a good option (paid link)

FOS; Inulin

Fructooligosaccharides (usually abbreviated to FOS) and inulin are terms referring to naturally-occurring, mildly sweet, indigestible carbohydrates, commonly extracted from chicory roots and Jerusalem artichokes. They are known as prebiotics, a substance which provides nourishment for the gastrointestinal flora. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride says that “generally prebiotics feed pathogens as well as they feed beneficial microbes, which is why they are on the avoid list” (for patients of Gut and Psychology Syndrome – GAPS). However, she does say that GAPS patients can try them if they have been on the GAPS diet for a while (see under FAQs).


The fresh herb or green leaf stevia is best. Be aware that many stevia products have very little stevia left in them at all and are processed with toxic chemicals. Many contain Erythritol (a sugar alcohol – listed below) and dextrose.  Some brands also contain “natural flavours”, which may include ingredients that have been highly processed.

Coconut Sugar

This started out as something natural but is now generally a processed product.

Agave Syrup/Nectar

This is made by treating agave sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all its potentially beneficial health effects.

Sugar Alcohol: Xylitol; Erythritol; Sorbital; Mannitol; Lactitol

These are controversial. Some people say they are OK and others say they are not. Some studies show that while a number of them have a few health benefits, some can cause problems with digestion and for those who suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride advises her GAPS patients to avoid them. I myself have had problems with Xylitol in the past (stomach pain and severe bloating for a couple of days after eating), so I treat them with caution now (see GAPS and Me). For a more detailed discussion of these, please see the link at the end of this article.

The food and chemical industries have said for decades that all food additives are well tested and safe. And most additives are safe, However, the history of food additives is riddled with additives that, after many years of use, were found to pose health risks. The moral of the story is that when someone says that all food additives are well tested and safe you should take their assurances with a grain of salt.

Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Non-nutritive (Artificial/Synthetic): Aspartame; Saccharin; Acesulfame-K; Sucralose; Neotame; Cyclamate (Cyclamic acid); Alitame

Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions) says that “aspartame (or Nutra-sweet) is a neurotoxic substance that has been associated with numerous health problems including dizziness, visual impairment, severe muscle aches, numbing of extremities, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, retinal hemorrhaging, seizures and depression. It is suspected of causing birth defects and chemical disruptions in the brain.

Researchers at Utah State University found that even at low levels aspartame induces adverse changes in the pituitary glands of mice. The pituitary gland is the master gland upon which the proper function of all biochemical processes depend. When aspartame is digested it breaks down into the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, plus methanol. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a known poison …. the safety level of methanol has never been determined”.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit consumer watchdog, says it is best to avoid aspartame, adesulfame-K, saccharin and sucralose.

A study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2019 found that consumption of two or more glasses or artificially sweetened soft drinks a day increased deaths from circulatory diseases. A 2008 study by scientists at Purdue University showed that artificial sweeteners alone could result in higher blood pressure, weight gain and increased risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease in rats.

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