Healthy Sugar Alternatives -
Coconut Sugar, Agave Nectar & more
Coconut sugar is a healthy low-glycemic sweetener. It has a nice flavor and is available either as nectar or in crystallized form. Coconut trees are tapped (like Maple trees) to draw out the sap. The saps rates about 35 on the Glycemic Index and is loaded with nutrients including minerals, 17 amino acids and more.
Coconut trees are a type of palm trees and the coconut is the fruit which this particular palm tree produces. About 85% of coconuts come from The Philippines and Indonesia with the remainder primarily coming from India and Sri Lanka. The coconut has been a source of food and medicine for thousands of years for folks living on the islands in the Pacific Ocean. Coconut trees can live up to a hundred years and produces coconuts and produces sap throughout it's lifespan.
Agave nectar is another popular sugar alternative. It comes from the blue agave plant in Mexico, the same plant from which tequila comes. Agave nectar is similar to honey and maple syrup but is generally much lower on the glycemic index, but be cautious because there are wide variations from company to company as to how the final product is produced, resulting in varying GI ratings. So it is advisable to see some lab results regarding testing for GI prior to selecting a product, especially if you are diabetic. That said, the better agave nectars are excellent in coffee or tea, on oatmeal, as a replacement for sugar in homemade ice cream etc. Be careful baking with it as it can easily develop a burnt taste if the oven is too hot. For baking, coconut sugar might be a better alternative.
Brown rice syrup
Rice syrup (or brown rice syrup) is a sweetener made by culturing rice with enzymes to break down the starches, straining off the liquid, and cooking it to the desired consistency. This syrup can be made into a rice syrup powder though an evaporation process. Diabetics should avoid this product because the glycemic index of brown rice syrup is not known, since apparently no manufacturers have published test results indicating a GI rating. But since all of the components of rice syrup (maltose, glucose, and maltotriose) have Glycemic Index ratings which are higher than table sugar, the combination of those components probably have a higher GI than regular table sugar.
Fructose is no better than white table sugar. See article here titled 'About Fructose – Does Fruit Juice Make You Fat'.
It has more calories and carbohydrates than white table sugar. Many believe raw honey has medicinal benefits. It is certainly delicious and a great soothing agent for a sore throat but… it will spike your blood sugar, so it is not diabetic friendly.
Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates and rates zero on the glycemic index, so it is diabetic friendly. Stevia is made from an extract of the stevia rebaudiana plant.
Real maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. It's delicious and loaded with minerals and antioxidants but unfortunately, it rates high on the glycemic index.
Raw Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Organic Sugar
Don't be fooled by the marketing! It may look a little different (darker) but in your blood stream; it is the same as plain old white table sugar. The processing methods may vary somewhat from refined white sugar but regarding blood sugar levels and blood sugar spikes, it is no better than white table sugar.
Xylitol is a low calories sugar alcohol which is absorbed by the body more slowly than sugar, so it doesn’t contribute to spiking blood sugar levels in the body. As with many other sugar alcohols, it can cause temporary gastrointestinal side effects in some people, such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.