Stevia comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana bush, native to South America. It contains no calories and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia looks like a white powder or available in drops. Some sports drink and soda companies add it to their products.
Pros: Stevia is 100% natural and may have disease-preventing potential. A 2017 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that it could prevent metabolic syndrome and related conditions. It may also help lower high blood pressure.
Cons: Stevia can possibly lower blood pressure too much. It may interact with certain medications. There is also ongoing research around naturally occurring compounds in stevia and whether they can potentially cause cancers and genetic mutations.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol often used as a no-calorie sweetener for gums, mints, candy, and even some toothpaste.
Pros: Xylitol has a very low GI (around 7 compared to 60 to 70 of table sugar). It can prevent tooth decay, reduce infections, and benefit gut health. Rat studies show potential for xylitol to prevent osteoporosis and support healthy skin aging.
Cons: Sugar alcohols pull water into your intestine and, when consumed in excess, can cause diarrhoea, bloating, and gas. Also, some xylitol comes from corn, which could be genetically modified. To be safe, look for a non-GMO claim or xylitol made from birch.
Ever tried to pour molasses out of its bottle? Dark, thick, and slow-moving, molasses is made by boiling down sugar cane. Food companies sometimes use it to flavour commercial bread, gingerbread cookies, and marinades.
Pros: Molasses, particularly blackstrap, contains antioxidants and several nutrients, including iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
Cons: Molasses is still high in sugar. It also has fewer consumer uses as a sweetener due to its distinct, sweet, dark taste. While this is perfect for gingerbread cookies, it’s not for a wide range of treats.
Yacon syrup comes from the yacon plant, native to the Andes. It resembles the sweet potato in its whole form. The manufacturing process is similar to that of maple syrup. It’s extracted from the plant’s leaves, filtered, and evaporated into a sweet syrup.
Pros: Yacon syrup may be beneficial for lowering blood sugar and has a potential application as a laxative.
Cons: Regular use may change your bowel habits, which may or may not be something you want. Yacon syrup is also a less common sweetener with fewer tried and true applications at home.
How do you make date sugar? By simply grinding whole dates into a powder.
Pros: Date sugar is a whole-food sweetener, made from dates themselves. And dates are naturally highly nutritious — rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, manganese, and copper. Date trees are pretty eco-friendly, living up to 150 years when nurtured appropriately.
Cons: Dates have a high GI. Date sugar doesn’t melt well, so it does have some limitations in terms of where you can use it. It also tends to be a more expensive option among sweeteners.
Date paste is far less processed than date sugar, easy to make at home, and can be used in recipes where date sugar doesn’t work. You can also buy whole pitted dates and blend them into the wet ingredients for baking and other applications.