You hear it all the time: sugar is bad. And you know it’s addictive and can lead to some major health concerns. But if you’re looking to sweeten without refined or granulated sugar, what can you do? Is honey a good substitute for sugar? What healthy substitutes exist?
When the consumption of regular sugar is discussed, its often related to the following health concerns:
- Weight gain
- Serious heart health concerns
- Compromised blood sugar levels
- Fatty liver health problems
- Cognitive health issues1
No wonder the world wants to know the answer to, “Is honey a good substitute for sugar?” And here’s the answer if you’re ready for it: Plain and simple… No. Honey is not actually a good substitute for sugar. The reason being is that honey is sugar. Let’s take a look at the different types of sugar.
- Fructose from honey and fruit
- Lactose and Galactose from dairy products and milk
- Glucose from honey, fruits, and even some vegetables
- Maltose from grains like barley
- Sucrose is table sugar. It’s made from equal parts of glucose and fructose
- Xylose from straw or wood
If you see those names on your grocery products, steer clear. And remember, even though sugar may be natural, it’s still sugar. So when you’re eating fruit, you may as well consider that your dessert.
And for this reason, it’s actually best to avoid sugar as much as possible. The only time honey is really okay is if –
(a) it’s local and
(b) you only use less than a tablespoon a week.
That’s right, you should only really indulge in honey in extreme moderation.
Now, does this mean you’ll never enjoy sweet treats again? Of course not. But it does mean that you’ll have to start viewing fruit as what they really are – nature’s candy. This means only indulging in it every now and then and only when in-season. There are also plenty of healthy sugar alternatives to try.
Read on to learn which sugar alternatives to completely avoid and which are acceptable in moderation.
What’s Wrong With Artificial Sweeteners?
As you may have imagined, honey isn’t the only bad sugar alternative. The grocery store is usually inundated with heavily marketed artificial sweeteners. On occasion, you’ll run across a sweetener that won’t do much harm, but several products out there are just as bad for you as sugar.
And just because raw honey is considered one of the natural sweeteners doesn’t mean it’s good for you. “Natural” doesn’t always mean “healthy”.
Various sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin, and aspartame alter the gut microbiome by killing friendly bacteria and allowing your bad gut bugs to grow.
Believe it or not, a recent study out of Duke University showed that a single packet of a very popular artificial sweetener kills half of your normal intestinal flora.2 Isn’t it funny how a product meant to help your health can actually harm your health?
Even though artificial sweeteners aren’t technically “real” sugar like high-fructose corn syrup or turbinado sugar, they are still endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors cause trouble by altering your body’s internal clock and can actually trigger weight gain.3 Endocrine disruptors can interrupt developmental, neurological, reproductive, and immune processes in humans.4
Bottom line: Endocrine disruptors can harm your body in significant ways.
Now, most artificial sweeteners have negative health effects. To be clear, remember the following sweeteners can be found on Dr.
Gundry’s NO list:
- Acesulfame K
- Agave nectar
- Coconut sugar
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
Many health foods hide these sweeteners in their ingredients list. So even if a food is labeled “healthy” it may contain any one of the sweeteners above. And sodas labeled as “diet” are full of artificial sweeteners, so avoid them at all costs. If you notice any of the above sweeteners on your food label, you know what to do: ditch it.
Are There Any Friendly Sugar Substitutes?
Let’s take a look and get to know more about other, better sugar alternatives. Now, before getting too involved, remember the following substitutes are to be used only in moderation. Sweeteners, though not made of sugar, can trick your body into thinking it has eaten sugar. Therefore, you’ll start to crave more sugar. It’s a slippery slope. Any sweet flavor — even from a “healthy” substitute like stevia — can stimulate an insulin response that hikes up your blood sugar levels and leaves you wanting more. But, when consumed in moderation, there are several sweeteners that act as a great alternative to sugar.
So, what sweetening agents can you turn to in order to continue to make, bake, and enjoy your favorite foods?
Here’s a list of several Gundry-approved options. But remember… consume in moderation.
- Allulose — Allulose is special because it can potentially enhance the conversion of fat in healthy humans to usable energy just after you eat. This means it could support a healthy body weight by supporting overall energy metabolism.5
- Erythritol — Erythritol belongs to a family of natural sugar alcohols also known as polyols.6 Current research states polyols might actually be able to shift the microbiome toward an increase in bifidobacteria in healthy individuals. Therefore, polyols like erythritol could actually be beneficial as prebiotic agents.7
- Inulin — Inulin is a water-soluble polysaccharide in the fructans group of non-digestible carbohydrates. Inulin has been utilized as a prebiotic, potential fat substitute, sugar substitute, and texture modifier in certain foods due to its beneficial role in gastric health.8 Inulin is a type of fiber that’s found in certain plant foods like the chicory root.
- Monk fruit — Monk fruit was discovered in the 1930s. In China, monk fruit has been used as a natural sugar replacement for decades. Monk fruit is said to have a sweetening strength of 250 times that of regular sugar.9
- Stevia — Stevia sweeteners come from the Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni plant — native to South America. There, Stevia has been used as a sweet substitute for hundreds of years. Stevia is plant-based and zero-calories. But when measuring the sweetness of Stevia, it can be up to 350 times sweeter than regular sugar.10 Is there such a thing as ‘too sweet’? Seems so. Still, it’s a better option than most other sweeteners.
- Yacón — A perennial plant from South America, yacón is an abundant source of fructooligosaccharides. Not only that but the end products of fructooligosaccharide fermentation act as signaling molecules in the regulation of your body’s immune response. Furthermore, they may help support healthy blood sugar regulation and the breakdown and storage of certain fats.11
Shut The Door On Sugar
The World Health Organization suggests limiting your consumption of table sugar to no more than 10% of your daily calories. But for optimal health, the W.H.O. actually suggests sugar make up less than 5% of your daily calories.
But what if sugar didn’t account for any of your daily calories? By eliminating sugar altogether or consuming it in very small amounts and only from natural, lectin-free sources(like the ones listed above), you can make a major impact on your health.
So in the end, whether it be raw honey, table sugar, or fruit — do your best to avoid sugar in any form.
And again, if you do need to scratch that itch for sweetness, it’s best to rely on moderate use of healthy, lectin-free sugar alternatives. Check out the Gundry Yes/No list for a full list of approved sweeteners.
But however you choose to shut the door on sugar, your body will thank you when you do.