Sweetener and natural sugar: know the options and benefits

For some people, living without sugar in food can seem practically impossible, since it is present in several recipes and drinks consumed on a daily basis.

Even with the warning of several experts on the problems that excessive consumption of sugary foods can cause, such as cavities, obesity , diabetes , among others, it is a difficult task to get it out of the routine.

With that in mind, healthier options have been marketed as a way to help those who love to consume sweetened desserts and drinks, but want to reduce the damage to health. These options are called natural sweeteners.

So, learn a little more about these products and know if replacing conventional sugar with them can bring benefits

What is a natural sweetener?

There are several possibilities for natural sweeteners or sugar to replace refined sugar.

Natural sweetener or sweetener is a product made from the extraction of plants, fruits and vegetables. It manages to provide sweetness to several recipes with some advantages in relation to the consumption of cane sugar (refined).

The main one is the presence of nutrients such as minerals, vitamins , fibers, among others (which vary according to the option) in its composition.

Thus, it is generally preferable to use natural sweeteners in the routine than white table sugar (sucrose), which undergoes a long industrial process and consequently has no significant nutritional value.

In general, they contain calories that will vary depending on the plant, vegetable or fruit used. However, the amount is usually less compared to refined sugar, and may be a less caloric option.

Some options may have a lower amount of carbohydrates than regular sugar. Adding to the nutrients, it is a good option to include in the diet in a balanced way.

There are different presentations, such as powder or liquid, so you can put it in the coffee or the recipe. But it is worth paying attention to the quantity, as some are equivalent to the sweetness of sugar while others can be 3000 times sweeter.

But it is worth remembering that, however natural they are, it is necessary to maintain moderation in the same way, because everything in excess is bad. Before making the switch, it is always worthwhile to consult nutrition experts, who will guide you in general care.

What are the best sweeteners and natural sugars?

The biggest advantage of natural sweeteners is the nutritional value, which is higher compared to refined sugar.

We can consider the best natural sweeteners to be those that go through the least possible industrialization process, and consequently conserve a good part of their nutrients and have a low glycemic index.

This index corresponds to the value that measures the speed of the release of glucose into the blood after consumption of foods containing sugar

In this way, natural sweeteners help those who need to be careful with sugar consumption to keep the glycemic index stable, such as people who have type 2 diabetes.

In addition, some contain few calories, helping those on a diet to lose weight.

In general, we can conclude that the “best” option of natural sweetener for each person will vary according to the need (be it nutritional or health).

Some of the alternatives (along with the price *) available are:

* Prices consulted in January 2021. Prices may change.

Brown sugar

Brown sugar, although similar to normal sugar (since both come from sugar cane), has a darker color (brown) and superior nutritional value, which makes it a healthier option.

This is because this sweetener does not go through the refinement process (responsible for the loss of sugar nutrients). Therefore, it contains minerals that benefit health, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and zinc.

The average value is R $ 10 * (500g) and the product is easy to find in markets and stores. See his nutritional table:

The amount 100g
Calories 377
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 97,33g
Calcium 85mg
Potassium 133mg
Magnesium 29mg
Ferro 1,91mg
Sodium 39mg
Zinc 0,18mg

Raw sugar

Demerara sugar, unlike brown sugar, undergoes a refinement process, but in a lighter way, making its color lighter (beige) and its grains larger.

Thus, it contains a greater amount of nutrients, being more advantageous to include in the routine than ordinary sugar.

The average price of the sweetener demerara is R $ 7 * in markets and health food stores. See the nutritional table:

The amount 1 teaspoon (5mg)
Calories 20
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 5g

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is made with the sap extracted from the coconut palm flower, which is heated at high temperatures to dehydrate it and turn into sweet crystals.

Although it contains calories similar to refined white sugar, coconut sugar has a higher concentration of nutrients, especially B vitamins , which are important for the proper functioning of the body.

Coconut sugar is sold on average for an approximate price of R $ 20 * (500g). And the nutritional table is:

The amount 1 teaspoon (5g)
Calories 19
Total fat 0
Carbohydrates 5g
Sodium 6,5mg

Apple Sugar

Apple sugar is a more recent option available on the market. To do this, you have to beat the apples with water until a puree is formed, which is then dehydrated.

Among the advantages of this sweetener are its low glycemic index, the amount of calories (only 16 per gram) and the concentration of vitamins (such as those of the B complex) and mineral salts such as iron and phosphorus.

In addition, the product is rich in fiber, making it necessary to use only 3 spoons to obtain sufficient daily amount of this nutrient for the body.

Its price usually varies between R $ 20 to R $ 50 * according to the quantity present in the packaging. See nutritional information:

The amount 1 teaspoon (5g)
Calories 10
Total fat 0
Carbohydrates 2,5g
Soluble fibers 2.4g

Cane molasses

The molasses is a byproduct from sugar cane which has many minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sodium) and vitamins B2 and B6 in its composition.

Thus, it promotes health benefits and can help prevent diseases such as anemia – in just 100g, it contains 39% of the recommended daily iron value.

Cane molasses is one of the most accessible and easy to find options and its price is between R $ 10 and R $ 20 * (depending on the brand and quantity).

The amount 100g
Calories 1245
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 76.6g
Soluble fibers 0,2g
Vitamin B2 0,1mg
Vitamin B6 0,2mg
Calcium 102,1mg
Ferro 5,4mg
Magnesium 2.6mg
Potassium 395,1mg
Match 73.6mg
Sodium 4.0mg

Mel

The honey bee provides several benefits to the body due to the high concentrations of enzymes, B vitamins and trace elements (that assist in metabolic actions in the body) present in the composition.

Some of them, for example, are the relief of viral and bacterial infections, the increase in immunity and the protection of the heart.

However, honey will only promote these benefits if it is organic (without adding substances) and consumed in moderation.

The value of this option of natural sweetener varies between R $ 20 and R $ 40 *. Nutritional information is:

The amount 100g
Calories 304
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 82g
Vitamin B2 0,038mg
Vitamin B3 0,121mg
Vitamin B6 0,024mg
Calcium 6mg
Ferro 0,42mg
Magnesium 2mg
Potassium 52mg
Match 4mg

Maple syrup

Also known as maple syrup ( syrup maples ), maple syrup is extracted from the sap flowing in maple trees located in the United States and Canada.

It is collected through a hole made in the tree so that the sap spills into a container, then it is boiled causing the water to evaporate, leaving only a thick and very sweet syrup.

Maple syrup is a very nutritious option, as it is rich in antioxidants and mineral salts such as potassium, zinc, iron, manganese and calcium.

However, it is necessary to pay attention to the amount consumed, as it contains a high rate of sucrose (two thirds).

In addition, it is necessary to pay attention to the product label at the time of purchase, as the manufacturer can add other substances to the product, changing its healthy composition. The price is usually between R $ 50 to R $ 90 *.

See the nutritional table:

The amount 100g
Calories 260
Total fat 0,1g
Carbohydrates 67g
Calcium 102mg
Potassium 212mg
Magnesium 21mg
Ferro 0,1mg

Stevia

The natural sweetener for stevia is made from a plant native to south america, known as stevia rebaudiana.

It is one of the most commercialized products when it comes to natural sweetener, as it is easy to preserve (resisting high or low temperatures), does not contain calories and has the capacity to sweeten 300 times more than sugar.

Its average price is R $ 13 * (100 mL) and can be found in physical stores or online, such as the Consulta Remédios platform.

The amount 1 teaspoon (4 drops)
Calories 0
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 0g

Agave broth

The agave syrup gets its name because it is produced with nectar extracted from the blue agave (or tequilana agave), a plant native to mexico that is used in the manufacture of tequila.

This plant has the appearance of a cactus and is rich in mineral salts (iron, calcium, zinc, potassium and magnesium), being a very nutritious option to replace refined sugar.

Another advantage is that agave broth has fructose (sugar predominant in fruits and plants) in its composition, managing to sweeten recipes and desserts up to 50% more than conventional sugar.

This natural sweetener is sold in health food stores and supermarkets and costs an average of R $ 30 *.

The amount 100g
Calories 310
Total fat 0,45g
Carbohydrates 76.4g
C vitamin 17mg
Vitamin B1 0,12mg
Vitamin B2 0,16mg
Vitamin B3 0,69mg
Vitamin B6 0,23mg
Calcium 1mg
Magnesium 1mg
Match 1mg
Potassium 4mg
Zinc 0,01mg

Taumatina

Unlike other sugars, thaumatin sweetener is a protein and not a carbohydrate. It is obtained through a tropical African plant called Thaumatococcus danielli.

It is usually used in the composition of other sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol, as it is considered a flavor enhancer.

In addition, it is capable of sweetening between 1600 and 2000 times more than refined sugar and contains no calories, making it a good alternative for weight loss.

Its price varies between R $ 10 (60 mL) and R $ 18 (100 mL) *.

Quantity (erythritol + thaumatin) 10g
Calories 16
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 9g

Xilitol

Xylitol is an alcohol molecule extracted from fructose (or glucose) present in vegetable fibers, such as corn and also from some fruits and mushrooms.

It contains approximately 2.5 calories per gram and has the same sweetening power as normal sugar, and can be used in the production of drinks and desserts.

However, it is ideal to consume a maximum of 15mg (per body kilo), as xylitol can deregulate the intestine and cause diarrhea.

The xylitol sweetener can be found costing around R $ 20 to R $ 30 * in pharmacies, supermarkets, health food stores and online businesses.

The amount 5g
Calories 12
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 5g

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a polyalcohol obtained by hydrogenating glucose. It has half the sweetening power of ordinary sugar, but it is a less caloric option (about 2.6 calories per gram) and can be a beneficial option for those who want to lose weight.

However, the sorbitol sweetener has a laxative effect (when consumed in an amount greater than 50g), due to the attraction it causes water to the large intestine. Therefore, it is necessary to be careful with the doses used on a daily basis.

The product can be used in confectionery, food production (candies, chewing gum, etc.) and also in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry.

It costs an average of R $ 30 *. Nutritional information is:

The amount 100g
Calories 235
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 98g

Erythritol

Similar to sorbitol, erythritol is also a polyalcohol collected from fruits such as grapes, melons and pears, from some species of mushrooms and also from fermented foods such as wine, cheese and soy sauce.

It has zero calories, being widely used in the manufacture of food products that are classified as light (they have a reduced value of some component such as sugar, fat or salt in the formulation).

Erythritol is easily digested by the body and usually does not affect blood glucose levels, benefiting people with diabetes.

Its price varies according to the type (liquid, powder or crystallized) and quantity and can cost between R $ 15 to R $ 40 *.

The amount 100g
Calories 0
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 100g

Maltitol

The natural sweetener made with maltitol (which also belongs to the polyalcohols family) has reduced calories and can sweeten up to 90% just like artificial sweeteners.

In addition, maltitol is classified as a non-cariogenic sweetener, that is, it does not cause the appearance of tooth decay. That is why it is used in the production of sweets such as candies, chewing gum, chewing gum and ice cream items.

It is sold in some supermarkets, health food stores and online platforms, and costs an average of R $ 40 *.

The amount 100g
Calories 240
Total fat 0g
Carbohydrates 98g

Which is the healthiest?

Regardless of the option chosen, what matters is to consume in moderation.

Talking about health goes far beyond the exchange of sugar or sweetener. But, considering only this product, it is possible to say that the most advantageous option is the one that includes nutrients for use and is adequate to the objectives of each person.

For example, those who need to reduce caloric intake may find benefits in options that have little energy value.

Someone with diabetes, on the other hand, can have advantages when using low carbohydrate or dietary options, as soon as this facilitates glycemic control.

Now, people who want to consume a nutrient-rich sweetener can opt for some products that retain vitamins and minerals.

However, what really matters is careful consumption and moderation. Combined with an adequate routine, natural options replace sugar and help to complement nutritional intake.

Is natural sweetener better for health?

In general, when compared to the consumption of refined sugar (which is low in nutrients and contains a high index of calories and carbohydrates), sugar or natural sweetener has health benefits.

Among the benefits to the organism that can be mentioned are:

  • Bowel function: apple sugar and coconut sugar are rich in fiber that facilitate intestinal transit and help people who are constipated;
  • Antioxidant action: both honey and maple syrup contain high antioxidant potential, helping to fight free radicals on cells;
  • Prevention of osteoporosis: sugar cane molasses contains mineral salts such as calcium and phosphate, helping in the development and healing of bones. In addition, xylitol helps with calcium absorption and is also beneficial for maintaining healthy bones;
  • Improves the immune system: due to the antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties of honey, its use promotes the increase of immunity and the prevention of infections;
  • Preventing the appearance of cavities: sweeteners made with polyalcoholes such as   xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, maltitol are non-cariogenic, that is, they do not cause the appearance of cavities.

However, these benefits will only be provided if the use of natural sweeteners in the diet is moderate, as excessive consumption can have bad health consequences.


Having a lighter and more natural diet is a way of taking care of your health. For this, there are several options that are increasingly accessible and well known. Among them, sugars and natural sweeteners.

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