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5 sugar alternatives (that aren’t artificial sweeteners)

By Camilla Wagstaff |



And kids eating 200 per cent more of them since the turn of the millennium! With all this news flying around, you might be wondering what the heck you CAN eat when you need something sweet.

A lot of the so-called “natural sweeteners” (we’re looking at you dates, honey and agave) still contain high amounts of fructose, which is the sugar we’re really trying to cut right back on.

But you can still enjoy the sweet things in your new low-sugar life! Here five sugar alternatives that come IQS approved. Enjoy (sparingly)!

1. Our favourite sugar alternative? Fresh fruit and veg!

The best way to flavour your food is to use the natural sweetness of fresh fruit and sweet veggies, like sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin and beetroot (we love stuffing these into desserts, like these Carrot Cake Cupcakes).

Carrot-Cupcakes

Whole fruits contain plenty of water, fibre and other good stuff to slow the sugar dumpage on the liver. Although we always try and opt for lower fructose versions, like berries and kiwifruit.

Fun fact: On the I Quit Sugar: 8 Week Program, we cut out all sweeteners, including fruit, for four weeks. This allows your tastebuds to reset. At the start of Week 6, you’ll probably find you don’t even need much sweetness anymore!

2. Second in line: Rice Malt Syrup.

Rice malt syrup is made from cooked and fermented rice. It’s a blend of complex carbohydrates, glucose and maltose, meaning it’s 100 per cent fructose-free!

We use rice malt syrup a lot in our sweeter recipes. And while it doesn’t have the same effect on our liver as fructose does, too much glucose can still have an impact on our blood sugar levels. So we recommend enjoying RMS-sweetened treats on special occasions and sticking to a smaller portion size.

3. The deal with stevia.

Stevia is a leaf-based sweetener that’s 100 per cent fructose-free, too. It’s also 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need to add a tiny bit. After a bit of hype a while back, scientists have now given stevia the okay.

(Try stick to liquid stevia though – the granulated form is mixed with erythritol. The liquid form is actually much sweeter too, so you’ll need to use even less.)

4. The sugar alcohols: Xylitol…

Extracted from birch cellulose, xylitol and is a rare sugar alcohol that won’t send blood sugar levels into a spin. This sugar alternative also has anti-bacterial properties, which is why it’s used in chewing gum.

Our livers do eventually convert xylitol to glucose though, so it’s best used sparingly.

5. … and erythritol.

Erythritol (a sugar alcohol commonly found in pears, watermelons, grapes and fermented products) is considerably less problematic than other sugar alcohols like maltitol, isomalt and mannitol.

However, don’t eat too much of this sugar alternative if you have a sensitive stomach, as over-consumption might cause a tummy ache!

We originally published this post in September 2016. We updated it in January 2017.

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