6 Sugar Substitutes to Try

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According to Merriam-Webster, sugar is “a sweet crystallizable material” that's “important as a source of dietary carbohydrate." Sugar offers very little in the way of nutritional value, with limited amounts of vitamins or minerals, depending on the type of sugar you choose. However, it does provide energy in the form of carbohydrates.

There are a variety of reasons an individual may be looking for a sugar alternative, from doctor-advised diets to personal preference. Aside from reducing sugar intake by using lower calorie or calorie-free sugar replacements, there are also some alternative sugars that come from sources other than sugar cane. Though these are still considered to be sugars, they are provided here as options other than traditional white sugar from sugar canes.

Before you begin replacing some of the sugar in your diet, it's wise to be aware of the possible alternatives.

How Results May be Affected

Using a sugar alternative in your baked goods may result in some differences:

  • Lighter in color
  • Different cooking time
  • Change in texture
  • Aftertaste
  • Decreased volume

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol commonly found in fruits and vegetables. With 40% fewer calories than regular sugar and no fructose, it contains 2.4 calories per gram. Like regular sugar, xylitol is white and granulated and dissolves in liquid.

Xylitol can be used in baking or other recipes in a 1:1 ratio, meaning cup for cup or tablespoon for tablespoon, xylitol can replace sugar. Since xylitol is not sugar, you may find that the results of your baking or other recipes will not be quite the same. Xylitol may provide less browning, with different resulting texture or moistness to your finished goods.

Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is extracted from a dried melon and is 150 times sweeter than sugar but contains zero calories and zero carbs. Monk fruit does not contain any nutritional value. You may find a detectable aftertaste when using monk fruit sweetener in place of sugar.

As a sugar replacement, monk fruit can often be used in a 1:1 ratio, cup for cup, tablespoon for tablespoon. Some brands need to be used in a 2:1 ratio where sugar half as sweet as monk fruit, so you'll need to use half as much. Keep in mind this removes volume and may change the results of your baked goods. You may wish to add other components of your recipe to make up for this.

To make up for the lost volume in your goods, you can add egg whites, yogurt, apple sauce, mashed bananas, pumpkin, or other fruit purees.

Stevia

Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and contains 3 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon. However, stevia is considered a calorie-free sugar substitute. Stevia is often sold as a white powder but can also be found as a liquid in dropper form.

One cup of sugar can be replaced by 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of pure stevia powder (or 18 to 24 packets) because stevia is 50 to 350 times sweeter than regular sugar. Since you will need to use much less stevia than sugar, baking or cooking with stevia reduces the volume of your goods and may change results.

Stevia has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina to sweeten teas such as maté.

Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is considered virtually calorie-free. It is made from fermented wheat or starch and is 70% as sweet as sugar with 0.24 calories per gram—6% of the calories of sugar.

Since erythritol is less sweet than sugar, you'll need to use 1 1/3 cups of erythritol for each cup of sugar in a recipe. You may wish to experiment with this, using more or less as per your tastes. Replacing sugar with erythritol will add bulk to your recipe, so you may need to use more liquid to make up for it.

Humans don't have the enzymes needed to digest erythritol, so it is absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted through urine. For this reason, it doesn't raise blood sugar levels.

Date Sugar

Granulated date sugar comes from dehydrated pitted dates that are then pressed. It is sweet with a gritty texture due to leftover fiber. Date sugar may provide a different flavor than plain white sugar, as it's more similar to brown sugar with a deeper, richer taste profile.

Date sugar contains trace vitamins and minerals, and fiber but not in high enough quantities to be considered a good nutritional source of any nutrients. Date sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugars, raising blood sugar more slowly.

You may replace regular sugar with date sugar in a 1:1 ratio, although date sugar may taste sweeter than regular sugar. For this reason, you might want to try using 2/3 date sugar for every 1 cup of sugar. Experiment to see what works best for your tastes.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is another 1:1 ratio replacement for regular white or brown sugar and has a light caramel flavor. Coconut sugar, like date sugar, has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.

Coconut sugar contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, and sodium and has antioxidant properties.

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8 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.
  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Sugar.

  2. Xylitol sweetener, xylitol. USDA MyFoodData. May 12 2021.

  3. Monk fruit sweetener. USDA MyFoodData. June 8, 2020.

  4. Sugar substitute, stevia, powder. USDA FoodData Central. October 30, 2020.

  5. Samuel P, Ayoob KT, Magnuson BA, et al. Stevia leaf to stevia sweetener: exploring its science, benefits, and future potential. The Journal of Nutrition. 2018;148(7):1186S-1205S. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy102

  6. Erythritol, natural sweetener erythritol. USDA FoodData Central. April 27, 2021

  7. Alalwan TA, Perna S, Mandeel QA, et al. Effects of daily low-dose date consumption on glycemic control, lipid profile, and quality of life in adults with pre- and type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):217. doi:10.3390/nu12010217

  8. Asghar MT, Yusof YA, Mokhtar MN, et al. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) sap as a potential source of sugar: Antioxidant and nutritional propertiesFood Sci Nutr. 2019;8(4):1777-1787. Published 2019 Sep 30. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1191