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Alternative Sugars 101: A Complete Guide

Alternative sugars offer a way to enjoy sweets without the negative effects of refined sugar.

Reducing your sugar intake promotes healthy aging.

Excessive sugar intake is linked to health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

But let’s face it, sometimes you need some sweetness! This is where alternative sugars come in.

Let’s dive into the three main categories of these sugar alternatives, their benefits, and potential side effects.

1. Novel Sweeteners

Novel sweeteners fall somewhere between artificial and natural sweeteners.

Also known as “plant-derived noncaloric sweeteners”, they are derived from refined plants.

Novel sweeteners are very low in calories or calorie-free and do not impact blood sugars.

They are sweet, sometimes even sweeter than traditional sugar.

Examples of Novel Sweeteners

  1. Stevia (Truvia)
  2. Monk Fruit
  3. Allulose

Benefits of Novel Sweeteners

  1. Little to no calories
  2. Minimal impact on blood sugar
  3. Do not contribute to tooth decay and may promote oral health
  4. Derived from natural sources.
  5. Heat stable; can be used in cooking and baking

Side Effects/Drawbacks of Novel Sweeteners

  1. Potential for gastrointestinal discomfort (bloating, gas, diarrhea)
  2. Some have a distinct aftertaste or flavor
  3. More expensive than sugar and other artificial sweeteners

Do you want to dig deeper into novel sweeteners?

Check out our posts – Allulose vs Monk Fruit: Which is Better? and Stevia vs. Monk Fruit: What’s Right for You?

2. Sugar Alcohol as an Alternative Sugar

Also known as polyols, sugar alcohols have characteristics of both sugar and alcohol.

Sugar alcohols occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables.

They can also be manufactured for sugar-free and reduced-calorie foods and beverages.

Examples of Sugar Alcohols

  1. Erythritol
  2. Maltitol
  3. Sorbitol
  4. Xylitol
  5. Isomalt
  6. Mannitol

Benefits of Sugar Alcohols

  1. Low in calories
  2. Minimal impact on blood sugar
  3. Do not contribute to tooth decay

Sugar Alcohol Side Effects

  1. Large quantities can lead to digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  2. Excessive sugar alcohol intake can have a laxative effect.

Are you curious how novel sweeteners and sugar alcohols compare? Check out our post – Allulose vs Erythritol: A Sweet Comparison.

Alternative Sugars; a complete guide; agedefyingdietitian.com

3. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes used in diet and sugar-free products.

They are significantly sweeter than sugar and a small amount is needed to achieve desired sweetness.

Examples of Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
  2. Sucralose (Splenda)
  3. Acesulfame K
  4. Neotame
  5. Advantame
  6. Saccharin

Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Provide sweetness without calories.
  2. Do not raise blood sugar levels.
  3. Do not contribute to tooth decay.

Artificial Sweetener Drawbacks/Concerns

  1. Some individuals report an aftertaste.
  2. The FDA deems artificial sweeteners as safe, however, they have been the subject of health concerns and controversy. Early studies on animals suggested a link between these alternative sugars and cancer risk. Additional research has found these sweeteners to be safe.

Which Alternative Sugar is Right for You?

Ultimately the choice between alternative sugars is a personal one.

Use the comparison chart below to find the best option for you!

FeatureNovel Sweeteners Sugar AlcoholsArtificial Sweeteners
SourceNatural PlantsCombination of sugar and alcoholCreated in a lab
CaloriesVery low or calorie-freeLower than sugar; may have caloriesCalorie-free
Impact on Blood GlucoseMinimal to nonePotential for a slight increaseNo impact
Natural vs ArtificialConsidered more natural than artificial sweetenersNatural; some processing involvedArtificial
TastePossible bitter or licorice aftertaste (varies by sweetener) Potential for a cooling aftertasteNo aftertaste
SafetyGenerally recognized as safe (GRAS) by FDAGenerally recognized as safe (GRAS) by FDAGenerally recognized as safe (GRAS) by FDA
Cooking May not brown like sugar (varies by sweetener)Similar to sugar; may affect the textureNot ideal for high-heat cooking
ExamplesStevia, Monk Fruit, AlluloseXylitol, Erythritol, MaltitolAspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin
Alternative Sugar Comparison Table

Alternative Sugars in Cooking and Baking

Baking with alternative sugars offers many possibilities to enjoy foods without added sugar.

Success comes from using recipes specifically designed for alternative sugars. ,

You may also need to adjust sweetness levels and techniques like adding moisture or incorporating molasses for browning.

You can successfully integrate alternative sugars into your culinary creations, achieving tasty, healthier results.


Alternative sugars offer health benefits that support wellness and healthy aging.

There are many options available from stevia to sugar alcohols to artificial sweeteners.

By understanding the benefits and limitations of alternative sugars, you can make informed choices that support your health goals.

Hungry for More?

Are you interested in more information on nutrition for healthy aging?

Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s Blog for more healthy aging content!

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