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Sugars Best to Worst (Part 2)


Sugars Best to Worst — Part 2

First, where you can buy natural sweeteners online – that link goes to the kind I use most, but also good is local maple syrup or raw honey (click those links if you can’t find a local source). :)

To continue from part 1, Sugars – the good, the bad & the disgusting, I’m going to add a best to worst list of sweeteners here. If you think I missed something, let me know and I’ll add it or modify this list…

(UPDATE: check out this newer post: Sugar Addiction Help: My Easy Tips for How to Curb a Sweet Tooth — Plus How I Lost 10#)

These are in order from best choices to the worst choices:

  1. No sugar is best, and only small amounts of natural sugars. (Hopefully someday I’ll get there!)
  2. Stevia, rapadura, sucanat, maple syrup, maple sugar, raw local honey (if you can’t find a local source you can get raw honey here), palm or coconut sugar, molasses, dates – these are all the least refined, the most natural, and contain the most nutrients – scroll down at that link for a comparison chart of the nutrient content in sugars. (Also, more info below about some of these natural sweeteners.)
  3. Turbinado, organic regular cane sugar (this one is a little better because organic has no GMOs from the sugar beets), evaporated cane juice.
  4. Avoid if at all possible: Regular refined white table sugar or brown sugar (see above about GMOs) – refined sugars have no nutrients left in them at all…
  5. Avoid for sure: high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, xylitol, erythritol, artificial sugars (Splenda/Aspartame, Nutrasweet, etc. – it’s better to use small amounts of real sweeteners above than to use these fake sugars!)

What I’ve learned:

Other information on sweeteners:

  • More info on these natural sweeteners:
    • Molasses is approximately 65 percent as sweet as sugar and can be used in both cooking and baking. Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese and copper, and also contains iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin B6.
    • Maple syrup is most widely known as a topping for pancakes and waffles, but it’s also a natural sweetener that can be used in baking and is a good source of magnesium and zinc. Maple syrup is about 60 percent as sweet as sugar. Maple syrup can cause blood sugar levels to rise, so those with diabetes should use it sparingly. Read more about Maple syrup.
    • Raw Honey is a natural sweetener that has powerful disease-protecting antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Honey is 25 to 50 percent sweeter than sugar and can be used in cooking, baking, and beverages. As with maple syrup, honey can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and should be used sparingly by those with diabetes. (Note: Do not give honey to children under one year of age as it may put younger children at risk for botulism.) Source
    • Muscovado – I haven’t used this but heard it is wonderful.


  1. Hey Kelly –
    I’ve been having fun reading about your exploits here in CA… Glad you’re enjoying our weather – and the food! Great, isn’t it? :) Best of luck in your travels.


  2. Hi Kellie,
    I was just wondering if what you said about it being better to use small amounts of real sweeteners above than to use these fake sugars, would apply to those with insulin resistance, diabetes etc? I’m just really struggling with this and don’t know which is worse, sugar or fake sugar, as I’m always told sugar is the problem for these conditions. So, if I have one home baked treat a week, do I go with sugar, or erythritol etc?

  3. First, I would like to repsond to the last comment. Definitely should avoid anything artificial whether you are diabetic or not. Lean more toward the items listed on #2 whenever possible. I love this whole list. Really explains to people all the differences. My preference for cooking or baking and other uses is organic maple syrup(local), raw honey(local), and agave nectar!!

  4. Hi, Kelly!

    I am confused why you listed Rapadura in #2 and evaporated cane juice in #3. I have always thought these are the same. Sally Fallon calls them the same in Nourishing Traditions on page 536. Well, she says Rapadura is “dehydrated cane sugar juice” which I thought meant “evaporated cane juice”. Thanks if you can clarify this for me.


    Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS

  5. And thanks for sharing the link to Passionate Homemaking regarding the difference between Rapadura and Sucanat ~ I was avoiding Sucanat because in NT doesn’t recommend it, but now it appears that they consider it the same as Rapadura. Good to know!


    Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS

  6. Thanks for clarifying that. I have been putting a small amount of brown sugar in my boy’s oatmeal in the morning. Now I know better and will stop!

    I was reading in the Rookie Tips about leaving oatmeal out overnight and it made me wonder if the milk/yogurt is in it and left unrefrigerated overnight, won’t it become rancid?

    Are there any restaurants in Western Michigan like Grace? We don’t eat out much because I don’t know a restaurant that uses fresh foods. Good job eating the oyster.

  7. Hello! I added my post to the list. I wrote about what happens when my raw milk sours. I made a cake with it! I’ll have a few more posts about what to do with soured milk in the next few days as I use up more soured milk.


  8. Really well-explained post. I think my first goal needs to be cutting and then eliminating the sugar I put in my tea and coffee. Well, first I’ll cut the coffee habit (it usually takes me just a couple days to switch completely to tea).


  9. Thanks for all the info. It is definitely confusing and I’m working on cleaning out the last of my white sugar and just bought my first pack of palm sugar and rapadura.

    I haven’t always loved the taste of stevia either, but I actually just used it in my lemon coconut rice pudding (link above) and thought it worked well to add just what I needed – a little bit of sweetness. Now I’m using Truvia brand, which I know is not stevia in it’s most natural form (green liquid I hear) but at least it’s a start!


    • Truvia is stevia added to xylitol, a sugar alcohol. It is better than Splenda for sure. Some people are sensitive to sugar alcohols. I have to keep them to a very small amount or they cause stomach issues. A friend of mine had to stop using Truvia because it gave her headaches. For pure stevia I like the brands NuNaturals or Sooo Sweet. Both are pure stevia with a nice clean sweet taste and no after taste. NuNaturals also makes a stevia sweetener called MoreFiber which is stevia added to fiber so it measures like sugar. It’s good in muffins or pancakes, etc. Not great in recipes calling for creaming sugar with butter, like some cakes and cookies.

  10. Great post! I’m blogging today about how to encourage water kefir grains to multiply (using “good” sugars helps immensely)–water kefir is a fantastic real food that is not only tasty but has significant probiotic benefits.


  11. Hi Kate, I agree with Cathy, except for the agave nectar part. Only one baked treat a week? That’s pretty good if you ask me. Be sure to make it with lots of healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, and eggs, etc.), as Sally says (see part 1).

    Wardeh, look at the link above where it says “Most nutrients” (under #2) and that shows you the differences in nutrients.

    Teena, if you’re using pasteurized milk, it’s best not to leave that out overnight (it doesn’t still have the good bacteria that raw milk does), but if you use yogurt or kefir to soak your oatmeal, then it won’t spoil – it will only give it a slightly sour taste, but pleasantly so.

    To find a restaurant near us like Grace, basically you just have to go to the higher end restaurants. It’s still good to ask questions there, though, if you’re wondering about something specific. We LOVE Reds. They cook from scratch, make their own stock, etc. Although I’m sure every single thing isn’t all sparkly because I see the Sysco trucks there. I like to tell myself it’s just dropping off non-food items!

    Rosy, that looks good. After meeting Jack at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, I’m SO ready to figure out how to make my own sourdough bread!

    Thanks for joining in everyone! :)


  12. Good list! I have tried and tried to limit treats with sugar in them for my son to once a week…alas, I have failed, but I know I am doing better than most. Some days he eats no sugar at all, which is more than I can say for most kids we know. :)

    I used Stevia in my coconut flour cupcakes that I made for Valentine’s Day this year. In any basic recipe, you can use approximately 1/4 teaspoon of Stevia, which is what I used, and they came out great. I also made homemade frosting with just organic strawberries, melted grass-fed butter, and a bit of powdered sugar. It was heavenly!

    My featured post is about nutrition and allergies. I do a new post most week days, but today’s was about fighting back pain naturally (which is not food related), so I contributed this one from last Thursday. My site is dedicated to nutrition through whole, traditional foods, sustainable living, and alternatives in health and medicine. Cheers!

    Raine Saunders

  13. It’s a shame, because I just barely bought some agave and xylitol (a few months ago) and right after I bought it was when I started reading bad things about them.

    Oh well, I can get sucanat for like $2.00 a pound or something, which doesn’t seem bad to me.

  14. Hi Kelly ~ I couldn’t find anywhere on your blog to enable emailing you directly so I thought here’s better than anything.
    First off I see my daughter Paula ( gluten / thyroid issues ) is listed above under the Mr. Linky.
    I am working on but won’t be ready to set public yet a sister blog to my main blog.. I am planning to keep my current just as it is. But I want to have a linked over blog that is strictly geared towards Nourishing Health / Organic gardening, CSA’s and so forth.
    I’ll be entering all my own info researched, learned, applied and add in links of others geared to the particular posting of the day.
    I particularly like your site and Cheeseslave’s ( whom I’ll write also ) and many others…..and would like to ask your permission to quote you from time to time and link you into the postings when it pertains to what I am posting ?
    Have a wonderful day……Lord Bless and hope your not swimming in rain like we are! Pamela
    I’ll watch for your response on here.


  15. Teena,
    I am from West Michigan, too, and besides Red’s in Rockford, I have heard people talk about: the Real Food Cafe , Bistro Bellavita, Rose’s on Reeds Lake, Blue Water Grille, and some around Cherry Street (Marie Catrib’s). Many of these at least use local, some organic food. You can call around and discover that many small places, especially in town, have some good options for us! Have fun researching and trying out new places!

  16. In regards to whether small amounts of xylitol should be used in gum and toothpaste, the question may be what the alternatives are. In a lot of cases, the sweeteners used in gum and toothpaste are artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and aspertame. There is some research to support the antibacterial qualities of xylitol in helping prevent tooth decay, so personally, I would err in the direction of xylitol for toothpaste and gum (if you are a sucker for some chewing gum like I am), if that is what the alternatives are. Of course, there may be a better one out there….

  17. My favorite subject (again) eegads, I need to get off this stuff! Totally agree with the sweeteners you suggest and will be posting about the cons of agave nectar soon as well. Question – have you baked with coconut/palm sugar? I just bought some – it has almost an ‘airy’ consistency so I’m wondering how it will hold up.

  18. Also…for Raine – did you use liquid or powdered stevia? The green powder is so nasty I just cannot embrace it; the white is OK, and the liquid is supposed to be as refined as white sugar…?

  19. I find it interesting that there is negative being said about agave nectar. I have read at great length about it and find it to be very much a decent replacement for sugar.

  20. I hope this isn’t a stupid question but what is wrong with xylitol? I have never used it before but I recently took my 2 yod to a chiropractor who is knowledgeable of NT and Weston Price. My 2 yod has intestinal ringworm (it’s not Candida which was a shocker since that is my issue). This doctor told me that coconut oil (yummy!!!) and xylitol are anti-fungal and that I should use the xylitol instead of stevia. I bought some and have been using it just a bit. I was nervous about using it though. I try to stay away from things that might be more man made and xylitol fit into that category for me. I just don’t know much about it. Of course, I have also been using agave for a LONG time as a recommendation from my naturopath because it doesn’t feed Candida. All I can say is that I stopped using it earlier this week and I am going through a major sugar crash right now. Stevia has been my saving grace in this area (not to mention lots of prayer.) So, could you point me in the right direction to find some good info on xylitol? I don’t want to give it to my 2 yod if it’s not good for him but if it does have anti-fungal properties will they outweigh the bad sides? Thank you for all the info. I am new to your blog but I love it. God Bless.



  21. A good gum alternative that uses only natural sweetners is Glee Gum. It is really good, but you may want to call if you are doing the no GMO thing. They do use corn syrup as a candy coating I think… Or glucose…I can’t remeber now.

  22. I know that Trader Joe’s sells Glee Gum, and just a few months ago, someone from Trader Joe’s in Ann Arbor told me that their whole store is non-GMO. Now, I don’t know if that is a fact or not, something to look into a bit more….

  23. Sue, I was talking with Ann Marie about TJ’s the other day, and we’re wondering how they can say they’re ALL no-GMO, when we’ve seen items there with Canola oil…?

    Cathy, have you looked over the links in this post about Agave Nectar?

    Karen, I just ordered palm sugar from the buying club – I’ve heard of others having great luck with it and can’t wait to try it.

    Other Karen, check out the link in this post about xylitol to read more. :)

  24. Paula, it’s something she bought. I don’t know the difference between evaporated and not – all I know is that when I checked my buying club to find it, they had the organic evaporated palm sugar, so that’s what I got!

    What you did sounds fine to me, though. Try reading the link I added above to Kimi Harris’ post – she has more on palm sugar at her blog, actually that’s where I first heard of it. She can also tell you there about how to replace it for regular sugar – I’m pretty sure it’s 1 to 1, but not positive and I have to get the kids in bed and can’t look now!

  25. Paula, Kimi is “the nourishing gourmet” – I didn’t mention that when I said to read more at the link to Kim’s blog!

  26. I have had good results with stevia ( the white powder) when using it in baking and in combination with a small amount of another sweetener like honey. They seem to play off one another much better than by itself. It does take a little getting used to the flavor, which seems chemical-like to me. My kids love adding the flavored stevia liquid in their raw whole milk since I do not get them chocolate milk, particularly the chocolate and butterscotch flavors. This week my rhubarb is coming in and I made a great dessert with it using pretty much stevia and honey. It was a crust with flour, butter and rapadura topped with a rhubard sauce made of cooked down rhubard thickened with nonGMO corn starch, 1/3 c honey and some stevia powder to taste. On top of the rhubarb sauce I made a simple vanilla pudding ( Betty Crocker cookbook) with milk, eggs, corn starch, flavored stevia liquid and stevia powder. I loved and every one else seemed to like it as well since it only lasted 2 days!

    I use stevia powder exclusively to sweeten my homemade yogurt as well. This is a good choice for diabetics!

  27. Kelly, why would you say to avoid erythritol, which is probably the healthiest sweetening option of all those listed? With diabetes and insulin resistance on the rise, our bodies don’t need carbohydrate-laden sweeteners. Erythritol and stevia are the only natural sweeteners with zero blood sugar impact, which is probably the most important aspect for overall health. The scientific evidence says there’s nothing natural about consuming concentrated sources of carbohydrates. Paleolithic man had no access to boiled saps, evaporated cane juice crystals, and very limited access to honeycomb. The human body is not designed to deal with massive amounts of carbohydrates contained in ANY sweetener, natural or refined. I’m not sure what your issue is with erythritol, found in fruits and in our bodies. It could seriously save a generation of children from being obese if it replaced the sweeteners in our food! I don’t want to take you off my blog roll, but I’d like to know on what scientific studies you base your opinions.

  28. Anthony, did you read the post I linked to on xylitol/erythritol in the above post? It would be good if you could pop over there and share your opinions so that readers hear both sides.


  29. If it’s darker (and hasn’t been made to just *look* darker), then it may be less refined, which is better.

  30. My husband is the Molasses King. He uses it to sweeten his coffee. We’ve almost come to blows when I want to use what little we have left for baking. I use molasses in dark breads and granola. That is, when I can pry the bottle out of my husband’s hands :)

  31. I really like stevia for sweetening beverages like hot chocolate and smoothies. I’ve also been using it to make ice cream. I mostly use this recipe from the Nourishing Gourmet:
    I substitute stevia for all of the coconut sugar. It works really well because you can taste it before you put it into your ice cream maker; I just keep adding stevia and tasting until it’s sweet enough. I haven’t had a problem with the stevia aftertaste; I think maybe the chocolate helps balance it out? The ice cream does, however, become VERY hard in the freezer; we deal with this by planning ahead and taking it out about an hour before we want to eat it, lol.

  32. I use stevia in small amounts to bring the sweetness level up a little to meet the desires of my kids (& myself!) & they never notice. I’ll use succanat in baking but cut out a cup of the sugar & replace w/ a small amount of stevia without any problem & I live at 8600′ where baking anything is a challenge! I’ll make jello with organic juice & gelatin & add just a touch of stevia to make it taste like a treat. I’ll make fermented gingerale & add a touch of stevia to make the flavor match what my palate expects (I use the recipe from Nourishing Traditions but I skip the salt & usually use lemon juice instead of lime since I usually have them on hand. Recently I’ve started adding a touch of pomegranite juice & the pink color is enough to entice my daughter!) I would avoid “Truvia” as I looked at the ingredient list & it did not look good. Stevia can be purchased online pretty inexpensively. Amazon had packets for a $30/1000 (may have gone up) & this site is the cheapest I’ve found & they also have some fun, organic flavors to experiment with: It’s $36/lb which should last for a very long time. Make fruit, juice & yogurt popsicles with just a dash of stevia to take it up a notch &/or add flavoring from the above site to add variety. I find the powder dissolves very quickly in liquids & purchasing the liquid stevia is unneccessary. There was an article in the Weston A Price journal a few months ago about the horrors of xylitol so I pitched mine (it is refined chemically from wood!). We do avoid gum but I am going to look into the Glee Gum that was suggested. As for toothpaste, just make your own! It is surprisingly simple & I find it to be very rewarding. You can buy reusable tubes at REI or I use stevia instead of xylitol, my recipe is a combination of a recipe I found online + the ingredients off of a very expensive tube of paste from Young Living. Not 100% sure if stevia is antibacterial but for sure does not encourage bacterial growth. Here is the basic recipe I use. For kids I use orange essential oil & up the stevia a bit so it is sweeter:

    6 T or 4 oz baking soda
    1t xanthan gum
    1/16 t stevia
    COMBINE dry ingredients then add:
    4T vegetable glycerin (a clear, slightly sweet binder available @ healthfood store)
    approx 10-20 drops of essential oil of choice (many are antibacterial)

    We have used this exclusively for about a year & have been very happy. It does tend to separate a bit & just needs a quick stir to recombine.

  33. Wow, it never ceases to amaze me!!! I have never heard of making your own toothpaste! I make so many other things; I suppose anything can be made from scratch….the way things were made before commercial production…..:) Thanks for this information, Cass!
    Sue E.

  34. Hi Kelly!
    Could you clarify something for me, please? I’ve been buying organic jams sweeted with concentrated fruit juice, thinking I was choosing the best option. I suppose this would pretty much be fructose as the sweetener, then. Would it be better to buy the jams sweetened with evap cane sugar instead? I’m going to try my own jams sometime, but I’m not qutie there yet – one step at a time!

  35. Amy,
    You’ve got me thinking now…I’d never thought about that, but I guess you would be right. The kind we have is sweetened with sugar, but I don’t remember what kind. Sorry I’m not more help.

  36. Hi Kelly. What do you think about sorghum? I used this last week in soaked oatmeal recipe and was happily surprised at how sweet it was. It tasted so good, it then made me wonder if it’s very “healthy”. LOL. What do you think?

    • Hmmm, I don’t know. I’ll put this question up on my Facebook page and see what we can find out. :)

      • I love Facebook! Here are a couple helpful comments so far:

        “WAPF gives it the greenlight.”

        “Tastes like really strong molasses…not a fan of the flavor but is supposed to be high in good for you minerals.”

        • Oooh, here’s another good response: “Sally Fallon said its okay, but its actually really hard to digest and many people with gluten sensitivities have trouble with it. She didn’t sound very fond of it. This was a question asked when she went on The Underground Wellness Show (BlogTalk Radio) several months ago.”

            • Here’s more, this one from Kristen (Food Renegade):

              “I wouldn’t use sorghum as a gluten-free grain (it’s rather hard to digest), but it makes a great natural sweetener. Sorghum syrup (or sorghum molasses), like maple syrup, can be made in your own kitchen although most folks at least use animal power (i.e. mules or horses) to mill larger quantities at once. It predates sugar for use in the American South, and features heavily in lots of old southern recipes.”

  37. I originally tried baking using a combo of erythritol and stevia extract powder. I Have been slowing moving everything over to being sweetened with just the stevia and have had really great success. I’ve many lots of different baked goods and even homemade ice cream turns out fantastic!

  38. I have been using stevia for years now. It’s great for sweetening smoothies, yogurt, tea, etc. For baking I have been using MoreFiber, a stevia/fiber blend that works better than straight stevia for baking. I will often times use half MoreFiber and half muscovado, honey, or another unrefined sweetener, depending on the recipe. Works especially well in muffins and sweet breads.

  39. I ordered a new product the other day called “whey low”. Will you look it up and tell me what you think about it? It looks great from the information I read about it. Here’s the link:


    • I have been using Whey-Low for about a year now. It tastes more like sugar than anything I have ever tried. It is great in baking. I especially like the maple flavor. My family uses the brown sugar or the maple Whey Low on their oatmeal. I still stick with stevia mostly since Whey Low is still sugar, albeit lactose and sucrose. While it is supposed to be much lower in calories, it does still cause a blood sugar reaction, although supposedly much less than regular table sugar. It’s also more expensive then regular sugar, but I don’t bake as much now that my kids are grown, and they have sales if you get on their mailing list. I think you will like it.

        • If you go to the Whey Low web site it will tell you what it’s made out of. Here is the link: They have two different sugars, one that is their “regular” which is milk sugar (aka lactose), fructose and sucrose. Then there is a “diabetic” sugar which I believe is only fructose and lactose, and has an even lower glycemic index, but is harder to bake with according to the site. They claim that “regular” Whey Low has 1/4 the calories of table sugar, a very low glycemic index, and according the them, although it does contain some fructose, since it is combined with sucrose and lactose it does not contribute to higher triglycerides. So I guess it just boils down to if you believe their claims. They list many medical studies on the site. If you have a minute or two check it out. I use it sparingly and it does work really well for baking.

    • I’ve heard good things about it but haven’t done much looking into it or experimented with it hardly at all – it’s pricey.

    • I use brown rice syrup on occasion. It is like honey or maple syrup, only it is not as sweet and is a more complex carbohydrate so it is absorbed more slowly than honey or maple syrup. I use it a couple times of year when my husband insists on a Christmas pecan pie and I use it, along with coconut sap, instead of corn syrup in the pie. It’s not something I would use every day. Recently there have been some issues with organic brown rice syrup being produced in the US having toxic levels of arsenic a well!

  40. have a really hard time with Stevia (as far as i’m familiar with it) but absolutely enjoy/relish it in one treat on a warm Summer day, namely a tall glass of fresh made lemonade:
    ~ squeeze enough fresh lemon to taste, add clean water, sweeten with stevia to taste, pour over a couple of ice cubes (don’t like it too cold, just a bit cooled), add sprig of mint ~ refreshing and delicious!

    Have heard that adding a little rosewater is very tasty as well, have not tried that yet.

  41. It is silly to say that some sugars “have GMOs” or “have no GMOS.”
    Sugar is pure sucrose. Since it is purified and recrystallized, it is a single compound containing no proteins which could be genetically modified. It is just sugar, no matter from cane or beets.
    And there is absolutely no scientific evidence that GM crops are any less healthy than conventional crops. In fact, every major scientific organization in the world has concluded that GM crops are no more dangerous than conventional ones. Here’s a list of their statements (and links)

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