There are quite a few sweeteners that are perfectly safe to eat. They are low in calories, low in fructose and taste very sweet. Here are 4 natural sweeteners that are actually healthy.
Stevia is a very popular low-calorie sweetener. It is extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. This plant has been grown for sweetness and medicinal purposes for centuries in South America.
There are several sweet compounds found in Stevia leaves, the main ones are Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. Both are many hundred times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram. Stevia is very sweet, but has virtually no calories. There are some studies in humans showing Stevia to have health benefits:
- When blood pressure is high, Stevia can lower it by 6-14%. However, it has no effect on blood pressure that is normal or only mildly elevated .
- Stevia has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
There are also studies in rats showing that Stevia can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol and reduce plaque build up in the arteries .
If you need to sweeten something, Stevia may be the healthiest choice. However… many people really hate the taste of Stevia. It does depend on the brand though, you may need to experiment to find one that you like.
Erythritol is another low-calorie sweetener. It is a sugar alcohol that is found naturally in certain fruits, but if you’re buying powdered erythritol then it will most likely be made via an industrial process. It contains 0.24 calories per gram, or about 6% of the calories as sugar, with 70% of the sweetness.
Erythritol doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels and has no effect on biomarkers like cholesterol or triglycerides . It is absorbed into the body from the intestine, but eventually excreted from the kidneys unchanged. Studies show that erythritol is very safe. However, same as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues if you consume too much at a time .
Erythritol tastes very much like sugar, although it can have a mild aftertaste. I wouldn’t say that erythritol is “healthy” – but it certainly doesn’t appear to be harmful in any way and seems to be better tolerated than most other sugar alcohols.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar. It contains 2.4 calories per gram, or about 2/3rds of the caloric value of sugar.
Xylitol appears to have some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay . It may also improve bone density, helping to prevent osteoporosis . Xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
However, as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive side effects at high doses. If you have a dog in your home, then you might want to keep xylitol out of the house because it is highly toxic to dogs .
4. Yacon Syrup
Yacon syrup is harvested from the Yacon plant, which grows natively in the Andes in South America. This sweetener has recently become popular as a weight loss supplement, because one study found that it caused significant weight loss in overweight women .
It is very high in fructooligosaccharides, which function as soluble fibers that feed the good bacteria in the intestine. Yacon syrup can help against constipation and it has various benefits due to the high amount of soluble fiber. Don’t eat too much at a time though, as it can cause digestive problems.