The 7 Best Sugar Substitutes of 2020, According to a Dietitian

Replace your processed sweeteners with more natural options

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Our Top Picks
"Each packet is equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar."
"Works well for a wide variety of diets, including low-carb, low-sugar, vegan, candida, keto, and paleo."
"Can be used as a 1:1 substitute for your usual white sugar, even in baking and cooking."
"Contains beneficial nutrients such as minerals and antioxidants, as well as fiber which helps to slow absorption of the sugar."
"The Non-GMO Project Verified is raw and unpasteurized—or not processed—which protects the beneficial nutrients."
"One 1/4-cup serving contains 8 percent of your daily value for calcium and iron."
"A top sweetener for vegans with 10 percent of your daily value of calcium and 15 percent of your daily iron needs."

Sugar substitutes can be tricky to navigate. Use of synthetic artificial sweeteners —such as aspartame and saccharin— has been debated for years due to their potentially damaging effects, even though many of them are considered "safe” by the USDA. If you're not a fan of artificial sweeteners, there are some 'better' options when it comes to sugar substitutes.

Natural sugar alternatives—such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and molasses— are smart swaps for typical white table sugar. Despite containing a bit more naturally-occurring sugar than their artificial counterparts, these inherently sweet products may even boost your health. Natural sugar substitutes—such as stevia and monk fruit extract—and some sugar alcohols are also good options to sweeten your favorite recipes.

Here, our nutritionist cuts through the confusion to help you choose the best sugar alternative for your individual needs.

Best Stevia: SWEET LEAF Sweetleaf Organic Stevia Sweetener

Stevia sweetener comes from the stevia plant, which has been used throughout the world since ancient times. It naturally has the same sweet taste as processed white sugar—in fact, stevia is 100 to 300 times sweeter—without any of the calories and can be used for all the same purposes.​

If you want to swap your daily sugar intake with something with a super sweet taste but minimal impact on your blood sugar levels, we recommend reaching for this zero-calorie sweetener from Sweetleaf Organics. The USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Paleo packets contain no bitterness, aftertaste, or artificial ingredients. Each packet is equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar, so Sweetleaf recommends starting with half a packet and adjusting to taste.

Like sugar, stevia is incredibly versatile. It mixes well with hot or cold beverages and cereals, or into your favorite recipe. Sweetleaf makes it easy to swap stevia for sugar in your favorite recipes with this stevia conversion chart.

Best Monk Fruit: Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener

If you're looking for a zero-calorie, zero-carb sugar alternative, Lakanto's Monkfruit Sweetener is an excellent choice. Made from the concentrated powder of a small green melon, monk fruit is 100 to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar and is commonly blended with inulin or erythritol—sugar alcohol— to reduce the intensity of the sweetness.

Lakatno blends monk fruit extract with erythritol to create a healthy cup for cup sugar alternative that works well for a wide variety of diets including low-carb, low-sugar, vegan, candida, keto, and paleo. The one-pound bag is great if you like to bake; however, the brand also offers convenient packets to take with you on-the-go.

Best Erythritol: Swerve The Ultimate Sugar Replacement

If you prefer a less sweet, zero-calorie sweetener, an erythritol product like Swerve's Granular Sugar Replacement may be for you. The sugar alcohol is only about 60 percent to 80 percent as sweet as sugar, and unlike other sugar alcohols, it doesn't contain any calories.

Swerve's non-GMO, plant-based sugar alternative can be used as a 1:1 substitute for your usual white sugar, even in baking and cooking. It's also gluten-free, keto-friendly, and kosher. Swerve also makes confectioners sugar and brown sugar replacements for bakers looking to sweeten their treats without calories, carbs, or a bitter aftertaste.

Plus, erythritol may have some health benefits. Research suggests that erythritol doesn't affect blood sugar and reduces the risk of dental caries.

Best Coconut Sugar: Nutiva Organic Unrefined Granulated Coconut Sugar

If you like the texture and light caramel flavor of brown sugar but are looking for a slightly healthier alternative, Nutiva's Organic Coconut Sugar is an excellent choice. Coconut sugar, a natural sugar made from the sap of coconut palms, contains beneficial nutrients such as minerals and antioxidants, and inulin fiber, which helps to slow absorption of the sugar. It's less processed than white sugar but contains a comparable amount of calories—18 calories per teaspoon.

Nutiva's USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified coconut sugar contains small amounts of potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Plus, it has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it won't cause much of a spike in blood sugar when consumed. It's an easy substitute for sugar and can be used as a one-to-one replacement for cane and brown sugar.

Best Honey: Wedderspoon Raw Premium Manuka Honey KFactor 16+

Not all sources of sugar alternatives are created equal. With multiple extensively researched health benefits—including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties—honey is one of the best natural sweeteners on the market.

Manuka honey, a type of honey native to New Zealand, contains more antibacterial properties than traditional honey due to its active ingredient, methylglyoxal, as well as it's total phenol content. Wedderspoon's Raw Monofloral Manuka Honey fits the bill of multi-functional superfood. Each jar is sourced, packed, and sealed in New Zealand, the home to Manuka honey. This Non-GMO Project Verified honey is raw and unpasteurized—or not processed—which protects the beneficial nutrients.

Wedderspoon independently measures the antibacterial potency of their Manuka honey using a measure called KFactor, which ensures you're getting the highest quality honey. This product has a KFactor 16, meaning that the honey is made primarily from the Manuka plant as opposed to a blend. If you're not a fan of honey jars, Wedderspoon offers a mess-free squeeze bottle and convenient travel packs to take with you on-the-go.

Best Maple Syrup: Coombs Family Farms Organic Maple Syrup

Maple syrup—a family favorite for topping waffles and pancakes—is a fantastic sugar alternative that may even have an anti-cancer effect. The Certified Organic Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup offers a robust, sweet boost to your favorite recipes with the distinct maple flavor. Maple syrup is not a low-calorie option, as 1/4 cup contains 200 calories. However, it does provide some beneficial nutrients. One 1/4-cup serving contains 8 percent of your daily value for calcium and iron.

American-made pure maple syrup used to come in different grades such as A and B—a confusing system that delineated color rather than quality—but now all maple syrups are "Grade A" with varying classifications of color and taste. The dark color and robust flavor are comparable to a "dark amber" variety.

Choosing Coombs' Maple Syrup is a sweet addition to your life—and is beneficial to the planet. Coombs supports sustainable forestry and advocates for small farmers.

Best Molasses: Wholesome Blackstrap Molasses

Research suggests that blackstrap molasses contains the highest amounts of antioxidants among sweeteners, including maple syrup and honey. This dark, bitter substance is what remains after all the sugar has been extracted from raw sugar cane. The intense flavor can overpower recipes, so it's best to use the bittersweet, sticky liquid in small amounts.

Wholesome Sweetener's full-bodied USDA Organic Molasses adds a natural caramel color and flavor to your favorite recipes, including gingerbread, bran muffins, marinades, and BBQ sauces. With 60 calories and 14g carbohydrates per 1 tablespoon serving, Wholesome's Grade-A, unsulphured molasses is not low calorie or low-carb; however, it does contain 10 percent of your daily value of calcium and 20 percent of your daily iron needs. For this reason, molasses is a top sweeter for vegans.

What to Look for in a Sugar Substitute


Form: Sugar substitutes come in different forms, such as powder and liquid, depending on the product. They also come in various types of packaging and volumes. If you're a baker and use a considerable amount of sugar substitutes, you may want to opt for a large container. Alternatively, if you choose to take your sugar substitute with you on-the-go, individual packets are a convenient choice.

Calories: The calorie content of sugar substitutes varies depending on the product you choose. For example, if you are looking for a low or zero-calorie sweetener, monk fruit extract, stevia, or erythritol may be good choices. If the higher calorie sugar alternatives—such as maple syrup, honey, molasses, or coconut sugar—fit into your daily calorie goals, those options may be an optimal white sugar substitution.

Sugar and Carbs: If you watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake, you will need to consider these two factors when choosing a sugar substitute. Some substitutes are low in carbs and sugar and have little effect on blood sugar, whereas higher carb sugar alternatives may cause blood sugar responses similar to regular white sugar.

Flavor: Sugar substitutes vary in flavor and sweetness. Some products, particularly the more processed options, have bitter aftertastes. If you prefer a very sweet alternative to sugar, stevia or monk fruit is sweeter than regular sugar. Maple syrup, honey, and molasses have distinct individual flavors, whereas coconut sugar tends to taste very similar to white sugar with a hint of coconut.

Health Benefits: Some sugar substitutes contain health benefits such as antioxidants and minerals. Consider these benefits as an added bonus, but also weigh the overall implications of increased dietary sugar—or sugar alternative—consumption.

Health Concerns: Sugar substitutes can be controversial, and research varies despite many substitutes being considered "safe" by the FDA. When choosing a sugar substitute, consider the different evidence available on a particular substance. For example, it's important to note that large portions of sugar alcohols may cause digestive distress such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. If that's your preferred sugar substitute, stick with small amounts.

What Experts Say

"When choosing a sugar substitute, it's important to think about the product's impact on blood sugar and insulin. Maple syrup and honey are two natural options, but keep in mind that they also impact insulin and blood sugar. These products should be used moderately and considered in your overall sugar allotment for the day in accordance with the WHO and AHA sugar guidelines. If the goal is to have little or no effect on blood sugar and insulin, erythritol, monk fruit, and stevia are great choices." — Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I am not always comfortable recommending sugar substitutes. I frequently recommend natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup, but understand that these higher-carbohydrate, higher-calorie options may not work for all individuals. After spending time reviewing the most current clinical research and looking at multiple products, however, I came up with a list of products that I would recommend to someone looking to use a sugar substitute.

Note that the USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that added sugars be limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day. I believe the sugar substitutes in the round-up are made by trusted brands are composed of high-quality ingredients. "Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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