Natural Sweeteners with Added Nutritional Value

With so many different sweeteners available, how do you decide which one to use? I prefer a natural sweetener with some added nutritional value. I use the sweetener to replace processed, non-nutritive, refined sugar. It’s highly recommended to decrease your intake of refined sugar because it can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases. Excess intake of fructose, in particular, overloads the liver, forcing it to turn fructose into fat. Fructose also negatively effects our hunger hormones, is highly addictive for many people, and increases the risk of gaining weight. Keep in mind, limiting fructose intake does NOT apply to fruit. It’s almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.

Here's a helpful list of great natural sweeteners, the added nutrition each provides, and some suggested uses for each. 

Organic Fruit

Fun Fact: The vibrant color of fruit are due to phytonutrients, beneficial compounds that promote healthy aging and reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and more.

Fruit’s Health Benefits:

  • High in fiber which slows the overall digestion process, helping prevent increases in blood sugar.
  • High water content which provides a feeling of fullness.
  • Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
  • Low in calories
  • Full of phytonutrients, which reduce risk of diseases.

Fruit’s Best Uses:

  • Options and uses are immense, which is why we love this natural sweetener!
  • Eat with a meal or as a snack, add fruit to smoothies, add to hot and cold cereal

Yacon (Yuh-cone)

Fun Fact: Known as the “Peruvian Ground Apple.” The yacón’s sweet, crispy tuberous root is described as a cross between an apple and a melon, or similar to a sweet jicama.

  • About half as sweet as honey or maple syrup.
  • Has been used for hundreds of years by people indigenous to the Andes mountains.

Yacon’s Health Benefits:

  • Low in calories
  • A low glycemic natural sweetener with unique properties.
  • High in FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides), a sugar your body can’t absorbed.
  • Great source of inulin, a type of fiber that slows absorption, resulting in a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Inulin is considered a prebiotic to promote healthy gut flora, essential for good digestion.
  • Promotes a healthy digestive tract and helps increase the amount of good bacteria in your intestines

Yacon’s Best Uses:

  • Commonly available as a syrup and powder
  • A more delicate molasses flavor.
  • Use in smoothies, on roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, atop pancakes or waffles, or in raw food treats. It’s very versatile.

Green-leaf Stevia

  • An Herb available in powder, tincture, or whole plant form. Grow your own stevia!
  • The green leaf is better than the white powder.
  • 300x as sweet as sucrose
  • Zero calories

Green-leaf Stevia’s Health Benefits:

  • Doesn’t promote dental cavities.
  • Doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.
  • An excellent choice for diabetics, people with sugar intolerances or weight issues, or for those who want to avoid excess calories.

Green-leaf Stevia’s Best Uses:

  • Convenient to use in tea, coffee, sweets, and smoothies.

Maple Syrup  

  • Sucrose is the predominant sugar at 60%.

Maple Syrup’s Health Benefits:

  • Excellent source of manganese.
  • Good source of zinc, which supports the immune system.
  • Choose darker syrups because they contain more antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

Maple Syrup's Best Uses:

  • Sweeten baked goods, plain yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, or a smoothie.
  • Add to salad dressings, sauces, on roasted meat.

Coconut Palm Sugar

  • Contains 70-80% sucrose
  • Much lower in fructose, which you want to limit, than other sweeteners.

Coconut Palm Sugar’s Health Benefits:

  • Contains several minerals, including iron, calcium, and zinc.
  • Contains antioxidants.
  • High in inulin, a type of fiber that slows absorption, resulting in a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.

Coconut Palm Sugar's Best Uses:

  • Fabulous taste, similar to brown sugar.
  • Texture makes a nice replacement for traditional sugar.
  • Great to use for cooking and baking.
  • Commonly used to sweeten Asian dishes, sauces and beverages.

Raw Honey

Fun Fact: Honey is the ONLY food source produced by an insect that humans eat.

Raw Honey’s Health Benefits:

  • Buy local whenever possible.
  • Rich in enzymes, antioxidants and minerals
  • Some antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
  • When choosing raw honey, the darker the color the better—means it’s higher in antioxidants.

Raw Honey's Best Uses:

  • Stir into hot beverages.
  • Sweeten yogurt, dips, dressings, and smoothies.

Manuka Honey

Fun Fact: Manuka honey is thicker and less sweet compared to raw honey. There are also slight taste differences between manuka honey brands, depending on where the manuka honey has been farmed, soil type, and other environmental factors. 

Manuka Honey’s Health Benefits:

  • It’s a healing food!
  • The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect.
  • Promotes wound healing
  • Fights bad bacteria and infections, eczema, acne, and a sore throat.
  • Anitmicrobial and antiviral properties.

Manuka Honey’s Best Uses:

  • Stir into hot beverages.
  • Apply topically to the skin for infections, bites, and cuts.
  • Take a spoonful to soothe the throat and digestive tract.
  • For general health, eat as you would any other honey products.


  • Choose the dark and blackstrap varieties; these are highest in antioxidants.

Molasses Health Benefits:

  • High in antioxidants when compared to other sweeteners.
  • Helps with digestion.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron and calcium.

Molasses Best Uses:

  • Sweeter than sugar so you'll need less.
  • Used in baking


Dates Health Benefits:

  • A whole food!
  • A great source of fiber, which helps with digestion.
  • High in antioxidants when compared to other sweeteners.
  • Don’t dramatically increase blood sugar levels.
  • Contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

Dates Best Uses:

  • Excellent in baking, smoothies, mixed into trail mix
  • Use to calm a craving or provide an energy boost.
  • Another option is date sugar, which is simply ground up, dried dates.

Lucuma Powder

Fun Fact: Lucuma is the most popular ice cream flavor in the Andes of South America.

  • Made from the lucuma fruit, which is native to Peru, Chile and Equador.
  • Has a mild, maple-like flavor with a smooth texture.

Lucuma's Health Benefits:

  • A low-glycemic food.
  • Provides 14 essential trace elements, including potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and skin-repair effects on human skin.
  • Don’t dramatically increase blood sugar levels (low glycemic).

Lucuma's Best Uses:

  • Use as a flour in pies, cakes, pastries, and food bars.
  • Add to smoothies, energy drinks, and nut milk.  

Remember, as with all sugar-based sweeteners, if you’re going to eat it, do so in moderation.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



Fructose and Health issues:

Adverse Metabolic effects of fructose:

Insulin resistance and cancer:

Fructose and Hunger hormones:

Sugar is Addicting:

High fructose corn syrup may cause obesity:

Antioxidants in sweeteners:

Manuka Honey:

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