Are Natural Sweeteners Considered Added Sugars?

The Truth About Natural Sweeteners
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Looking for all-natural alternatives to regular old sugar? You’re not alone: Sugar substitutes are a hot topic! I’m Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien, and I’m here with the 411 on natural sweeteners, including my favorite natural no-calorie sweetener!

Cane Sugar

Of all the alternatives to traditional sugar, the cane variety is the most similar: It’s basically less processed white sugar. Because it goes through less chemical processing, organic cane sugar is usually considered more natural than refined white sugar.

It also tends to have a slightly darker color. (But it’s different from brown sugar, which is just refined white sugar with molasses added.) Cane sugar has around 45 calories per tablespoon, just like that white sugar sitting in your cabinet.

What About Agave Syrup?

Agave syrup is another sweetener that’s often considered more natural than refined white sugar. Also known as agave nectar, it comes from the agave plant—though it does go through some processing before it reaches the bottle on store shelves. Agave syrup has about 60 calories per tablespoon, as compared to 45 calories in the same amount of refined or cane sugar. But it’s sweeter than regular sugar: It only takes about 2/3 cup agave syrup to equal the sweetness in a cup of regular sugar. This means the same amount of sweetness will cost you the same amount of calories. So, why pick agave over refined sugar? Some people prefer it because it has a lower glycemic index, and consuming foods with high glycemic indexes has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Bottom Line

Refined white sugar, cane sugar, and agave syrup are all added sugars. And eating too much added sugar of any kind can be harmful to your health. According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons.

Organic cane sugar and agave syrup definitely count toward those totals. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake or want to cut down sugar from your daily diet, natural no-calorie sweeteners like stevia can be a good option.

Unlike the others we've been talking about, stevia is virtually calorie-free. And unlike sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Equal), it's completely natural. For these reasons, I think it's the best sugar substitute around: It's good for weight management and cuts down on the health risks that come with too much added sugar. My go-to brand is Truvia, a stevia-based sweetener that tastes very similar to sugar. I use it in drinks, oatmeal, and even dessert recipes. More on those below!

And if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally occurring sugar, go for fresh fruit! They're healthy and great for weight loss.

Need Some Recipe Inspiration?

Here's a Hungry Girl recipes made with natural no-calorie sweetener:

  • Peanut Butter Blondies: These things are amazing. You'd never guess from the taste, but they're made with chickpeas! You can even use stevia-sweetened chocolate chips to really keep the sugar to a minimum. 

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