12 Ways to Substitute Refined White Sugar

12 Ways to Substitute Refined Sugar

12 Ways to Substitute Refined Sugar

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of…

The little girls (and boys too) are now grown ups in a world that demonises sugar – refined white sugar. From food addiction, tooth decay and obesity to heart disease and diabetics, table sugar gets the rap sheet for causing a host of lifestyle illnesses.

Sugar is an addiction, you reach for a cake when you’re celebrating, drown your sorrow in a tub of ice cream, or enjoy a rich, creamy smoothie for its energy boost. Sugar whether in granulated form or fine grained version – castor or icing – improves dough elasticity, provides stability to egg-based desserts, and adds rich colour, flavour and texture to baked foods. 

Sweet taste is something that we can not resist – and if the sweetness is coming from a real natural source it is also something you shouldn’t deprive your body of. The problem starts when you have too much of table sugar which is highly processed, devoid of nutrients and contains 396 calories per 100gm.  Use this guide as a starting point if you’re looking for better and natural alternatives to refined sugar.

100% natural and minimally processed plant-based sugar substitutes 

1. Raw Honey

honey-cook

This fruit nectar with nourishing and healing properties has been used by mankind for millennia.  Honey has high fructose levels (53%) but also contains minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, trace enzymes and amino acids.

What to know:

  • Honey doesn’t spoil and promotes growth of good gut bacteria
  • According to Ayurvedic principles, honey turns toxic when heated
  • As long as you don’t heat it along with ghee, it isn’t toxic

Calories and culinary use:

  • Add to marinades and slaws, drizzle over pancakes and fruit salads, and use in various raw desserts including ice cream
  • 100 gm of honey contains 304 calories
  • 75gm (19 teaspoons) equals 100gm (26 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • Use ¾ cup raw honey for every cup of white white/brown sugar
  • When you bake with honey, reduce liquid content by ¼ cup and oven temperature by 25°F/7°C to prevent excess browning

2. Maple Syrup

maple-syrup-pancake

Image source: totoro_friend

Collected from sap of maple trees, pure maple syrup  is ⅔ sucrose and ⅓ fructose. It contains good levels of zinc, manganese and natural phenols.

What to know:

  • Fewer blood sugar spikes as glycemic index (GI) is 54
  • Can cause acne when consumed in excess

Calories and culinary use:

  • Dark syrup is perfect for baked and other desserts, while lighter ones are better for direct use in fruit salads, teas, and on pancakes, waffles or breakfast cereals. Use can use it as glaze on meat
  • 100gm of pure maple syrup contains 260 calories while maple sugar crystals have 354 calories
  • 75gm (19 teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • Reduce liquid content by 3 tablespoons for 1 cup of syrup, and reduce oven temperature by 25°F/7°C to prevent excess browning while baking

3. Date Sugar

dates-sugar-substitute

Image source: Mark Fischer

Date sugar is made from dehydrated and ground dates. It is rich in vitamins, fiber, iron, folate, potassium, calcium and antioxidants.

What to know:

  • Dates sugar has more antioxidants than most other sweeteners
  • It has high fructose content

Calories and culinary use:

  • Date sugar is a better alternative for brown sugar (than white) due to its clumpy texture. Use it in any recipe that calls for brown sugar
  • 100 gm of dates contains 271calories
  • 66gm (18½ teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • Use ⅔ cup date sugar syrup for every cup of white /brown sugar

4. Stevia

stevia-for-sugar

Image source:Hebam

This low-calorie, natural sweetener is extracted from leaves of stevia rebaudiana plant cultivated in South America. While it’s 30 times sweeter than refined sugar, it has near-zero calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.

What to know:

  • Stevia can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation
  • Some extracts have a bitter aftertaste

Calories and culinary use:

  • The liquid extract is better than capsule or powder as a sugar substitute in cooking and baking. Make sweet breads, buns, cookies, brownies, and cakes, add to green smoothies, or use in beverages.
  • 100gm of green stevia contains less than 20 calories
  • 50gm (12½ teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white sugar and contains 304 calories.
  • When you use stevia powder for baking, increase liquid or baking soda content, or add an extra egg to retain moistness. Reduce oven temperature by 25°F/7°C to prevent excess browning

5. Lo Han Guo/Monkfruit

Luo Han Guo

Image source: Norman Tsai

This sweetener is extracted from “longevity fruit” native to Southern China and cultivated in mountain fields of Guangxi Province. Research studies confirm nutritional properties of this natural sugar which is said to be 300 times sweeter than refined sugar.

What to know:

  • Doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes or aggravate yeast infection
  • Hard to find and expensive

Calories and culinary use:

  • Use this low-calorie sweetener in liquid or powder form (pure extract) for baking, confections, desserts, ice cream and sweet sauces in same proportion as Stevia. It is much easier to use and comes with no aftertaste
  • 100gm of liquid extract or powder contains less than 50 calories
  • 8-10gm (3-4 teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white sugar

 6. Coconut Palm Sugar/Gula Kelapa

coconut-sugar-Gula-kelapa

Image source: Edi Wibowo

The natural sugar is made from flowers of coconut palm tree. Coconut sugar is ⅔ sucrose with 40-50% fructose and 5-10% glucose content. It has trace minerals like calcium, zinc and potassium, chloride, sulphur, Vitamin C, polyphenols and antioxidants, and it undergoes minimal processing.

What to know: 

  • Contains fiber called inulin with lowers glucose absorption and GI of 35
  • Not much better than table sugar on the fructose content

Calories and culinary use:

  • Use in traditional Asian desserts, sauces and curries. Use granules as a substitute for sugar, raw cane sugar or palm sugar.
  • 100gm of coconut sugar contains 354 calories
  • 100gm (25 teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white sugar
  • Substitute it in 1:1 ratio

7. Molasses/Treacle

molasses-for-sugar

Image source: Natalie Tsang

The gooey and thick molasses is a by-product of sugar making process. Treacle contains nutrients like iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, calcium, and potassium. Opt for blackstrap molasses rather than the regular one.

What to know: 

  • Gives relief from menstruation problems 
  • High in fructose

Calories and culinary use:

  • Best suited for baking buns, bread, cookies, biscuits and cakes. Drizzle over food or glaze meats
  • 100gm of blackstrap molasses contains 290 calories
  • 133gm (37¾ teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • Substitute in 1:1 ratio or use ½ molasses and ½ other sweetener for table sugar
  • When you bake with blackstrap molasses, add an extra ½ teaspoon of baking soda, and reduce liquid content by ⅓ cup

8. Whole/Raw Cane Sugar (Jaggery/ Piloncillo/ Panela/Panocha)

healthhy-sugar-7

Raw cane sugar is derived from sugarcane using non-centrifugal process. As sugar cane undergoes minimal processing, this concentrated product retains essential minerals, particularly iron and vitamins.  Depending on cane variety, this sugar alternative can range from dark brown to golden brown shades and can vary in levels of sweetness.

What to know:

  • Use as a digestive and cleansing agent
  • May not be suitable for diabetics due to high sucrose and calorie content

Calories and culinary use:

  • Bake buns, cookies, biscuits and cakes. A good substitute for brown sugar and molasses. Use in various traditional desserts from Asia and South America
  • 100gm of jaggery contains around 367 calories while panela has around 312 calories
  • 133gm (37¾ teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • For baking, substitute panela (rapadura) in 1:1 ratio, use dark colour jaggery in ¾:1 ratio and light coloured jaggery in 1:1 ratio for white or brown sugar

9. Rice Sugar Syrup

rice sugar syrup

Image source: knitsteel

This sugar syrup is derived by cooking brown rice and adding natural enzymes to it. The natural sweetener is gluten-free and contains thiamine, niacin and vitamins including B6 and K.

What to know:

  • Contains no fructose
  • Not suitable for diabetics due to high GI of 98

Calories and culinary use:

  • Use in curries, sauces, chutneys, smoothies, traditional Asian dishes and baked foods including muffins
  • 100gm of rice sugar contains 320 calories
  • 125gm (30 teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of regular sugar
  • For baking, reduce liquid content by 2 tablespoons and oven temperature by 25°F/7°C

10. Yacon Syrup

    yacon-for-sugar

                               Image source: Nushub

This sweetening agent is extracted from tuberous roots of yacon plant. It is 2 times sweeter than regular sugar and doesn’t raise blood sugar level.

What to know:

  • Yacon promotes heart and liver health and aids weight loss by curbing appetite
  • Some people may be allergic to yacon. It can cause diarrhoea and flatulence for those who are sensitive to yacon

Calories and culinary use:

  • Use as a substitute for both white and brown sugar in baking, cooking and beverages. Use in any recipe that calls for molasses
  • 100 gm of yacon syrup contains 133 calories
  • 75gm (18¾ teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white sugar
  • Use ¾ cup syrup for every cup of white/brown sugar and in 1:1 ratio for molasses in baking

Chemically processed sugars

11. Brown Sugar

brown-sugar

Pure brown sugar is extracted from the refining process of sugarcane or sugar beet and has slightly lower calorie content compared to white sugar. While purer brown sugar contains more of molasses, regular variety has only 10% as it is made by adding sugar cane or beet molasses to white sugar crystals.

What to know:

  • Slightly better than white sugar
  • Regular brown sugar has very little trace nutrients

Calories and culinary use:

  • Bake anything from buns and breads to cookies and cakes. Add to beverages and smoothies, use in other desserts for less sweetness. Good for marinades but not ideal for sweet sauces
  • 100gm of brown sugar contains 377 calories
  • 112gm (28 teaspoons) equals 100gm (25 teaspoons) of white sugar
  • Use 1 cup packed brown sugar for every cup of white while baking

12. Agave Syrup

agave-syrup-for-sugar

This syrup is made from the sap extracted from core (Pina) of Agave plant and is 1½ times sweeter than table sugar. Commercially available syrups are highly processed like refined sugar and contain almost 90% fructose.

What to know:

  • Low glycemic index in pure agave syrup
  • High levels of saponins (it increases blood flow and lower blood pressure)

Calories and culinary use:

  • Use in baking, add to marinades and sauces, drizzle over pancakes and waffles, or use in no-bake desserts
  • 100 gm of brown sugar contains 449 calories
  • 75gm (19 teaspoons) equals 100gm (26 teaspoons) of white/brown sugar
  • Use ¾ cup agave syrup for every cup of white white/brown sugar
  • When you bake with agave, reduce liquid content by ¼ cup and oven temperature by 25°F/7°C to prevent excess browning

Remember that even if you use natural substitutes, sugary foods should be consumed in moderation. Indulge your sweet tooth but not at the cost of your health. Which of these sugar alternatives do you use or plan to use?

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