We can all agree that there are numerous benefits to drinking coffee. Perhaps this is the reason why most people are ditching other breakfast options for the sake of their morning joe. That said, experts advise you to steer away from table sugar for added benefits. This is especially the case if you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or drop some pounds. There is a variety of natural and artificial sweeteners that you can use to spruce up your coffee. But which of them all is the healthy alternative to sugar in coffee? Let us find out.
In the following we want to discuss the healthy natural sugar substitutes that you can use in your coffee. We hope to comprehensively analyze the benefits and risks of using each of these sweeteners. At the close we will state the healthy alternative to sugar in coffee. Keep reading as we explore these sugar substitutes.
Natural Healthy Alternatives To Sugar In Coffee
There are plenty of natural sugar substitutes that you can use in your coffee. The question of which is the healthiest amongst all is still up for debate. This is because each of these sweeteners has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is a list of natural sweeteners that you can go through with your nutritionist to help determine the healthiest to use in your coffee:
Honey is one of the best natural sweeteners that you can use instead of sugar in your coffee. Most people use it in their smoothies or marinades but have not thought of adding it to their coffee.
Experts acknowledge that it is an excellent sugar substitute in coffee, as its flavor is as sweet as that of sugar (9). However, you might wish to use less of it than table sugar due to its strong flavor.
Benefits And Risks Of Adding Honey To Coffee
Like any other sweetener, honey comes with its pros and cons. Here are a few advantages of using honey as a natural sugar alternative:
High Nutritional Value
Honey contains antioxidants, flavonoids, phenolics, and vitamins E and C (11). All these vitamins, compounds, and minerals help the body perform various functions, although most of them are present in small amounts.
One tablespoon of honey contains only 64 calories (9). This is actually more calories than a tablespoon of table sugar, but most people tend to use less honey due to its strong flavor and sweetness. Honey could therefore be an excellent substitute for table sugar, of which the average American consumes 270 of their calories daily (18).
Decreasing The Duration Of Diarrhea
If you are experiencing diarrhea, skip the coffee because caffeine can worsen your symptoms, but honey can be used as part of an electrolyte-containing drink (9). The sugar in the honey improves the absorption of electrolytes and fluid and if the diarrhea happens to be bacterial, honey’s antimicrobial properties may be helpful.
Honey can also help with weight control due to its low calories when compared to other added sugars. While it doesn’t have fewer calories per se, its strong sweet flavor often means that you need to use less than you would other types of sugar. Weight loss helps decrease the risk factors of increased body weight, including increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure (9).
Preventing Acid Reflux
It has been suggested that consuming honey may also reduce acid reflux by coating the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Acid reflux refers to the upward flow of undigested food and stomach acid from the stomach into the esophagus (9). Reduced risk of acid reflux ultimately reduces the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can cause heartburn and inflammation (9).
Relieving Colds And Flus
Honey is also deemed a natural cough remedy, which might be an effective cough and flu treatment for both children and adults (10).
Despite honey being deemed to have the following benefits, it is also associated with various risks. According to Medical News Today, these risks include (9):
- Overconsumption. Remember that honey is still a form of sugar and contains calories. Make sure you consume it in moderation to avoid going on a calorie surplus and affecting your weight loss efforts.
- Unsafe for infants. Honey is not recommended for infants below one year as it contains botulinum endospores. These result in botulism, a severe food poisoning condition in young children that may cause paralysis (9).
Stevia also rates among the recommended sugar alternatives. This natural sweetener is 200 or 300 times sweeter than table sugar (17). It can be classified under the zero-calorie sugar alternatives due to its low calories per serving (17). This makes stevia an excellent sugar alternative if you are drinking coffee for weight loss.
Benefits And Risks Of Stevia
Stevia contains virtually no added sugars or calories. Their absence reduces the risk of high blood glucose levels that may result in weight gain.
Various studies indicate that stevia consumption by people with type 2 diabetes has minimal to no effect on their blood glucose or insulin response (17). This means that consuming stevia in place of sugar may help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels.
Reduced Blood Pressure
Limited evidence suggests that stevia may contain cardiotonic properties that can potentially normalize blood pressure. These properties might also help in regulating the heartbeat (17).
Although stevia has been linked to the above health benefits, recent research indicates that stevia poses a danger to health. It is believed to pose the following risks:
Stevia products that contain sugar alcohol may result in several gastrointestinal problems. It may result in nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and bloating (17).
Kidney And Cardiovascular Problems
Consumption of crude stevia or stevia leaves has been linked to heart and kidney problems (16). However, research is still lacking to validate these claims. To avoid potentially getting these health problems, the FDA recommends you stick to using only purified stevia, best known as stevioside (16). It is the only FDA-approved form of stevia.
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You have probably used maple syrup in your pancakes. But have you tried it in your coffee? It turns out it is another excellent sugar alternative. It is pretty similar to honey but differs in its benefits and risks.
Make sure you read the labels of your maple syrup to validate that you are purchasing one with low traces of diluted fructose corn syrup. Opt for the one containing sucrose, organic acids, oligosaccharides, amino acids, polysaccharides, minerals, and vitamins (7).
Benefits And Risks Of Using Maple Syrup As A Sugar Alternative
Maple syrup has a lot to offer if consumed in coffee. Some of these health benefits include:
Lowering The Cholesterol Levels
WebMD acknowledges that maple syrup consumption has been found in animal studies to help lower cholesterol levels and potentially prevent liver inflammation (15).
Improving Brain Health
Emerging evidence suggests that maple syrup intake might help with improving brain health. That said, research is being conducted to find out how its intake is linked to better brain health (15).
Prevention Of Manganese Deficiency
Maple syrup is rich in manganese. The high manganese content helps prevent manganese deficiency, which may result in abnormal skeletal development and decreased capacity to heal from wounds (15).
Increased Antibiotic Efficacy
Medical News Today also reports on one study which suggests that maple syrup extract may boost the effectiveness of antibiotics (14).
Like with the other discussed natural sweeteners, maple syrup also has its cons. Most of the health risks associated with maple syrup come from its high sugar content. It causes the following health risks:
- Calorie Surplus. This is a risk to weight watchers who are desperately trying to shed pounds. One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 52 calories (15). If you eat too much maple syrup, you risk going on a calorie surplus, which compromises weight loss.
- Diabetes Complications. This sweetener contains carbs in the form of sugar without any fiber content. When ingested, it affects your insulin and blood sugar levels, which is a problem for those with insulin resistance or diabetes (15).
- Tooth Decay. The high sugar concentration in this sweetener is food for bacteria in your mouth, ultimately leading to tooth decay and dental cavities (15).
Coconut sugar is an example of a plant-based natural sugar alternative (2). It is obtained from the sap of coconut palm. Although it highly resembles unprocessed raw sugar, coconut sugar tends to have more natural contents (6).
Benefits And Risks Of Using Coconut Sugar As A Sugar Alternative
Coconut sugar consumption can help you reap a load of health benefits. However, this is only if you consume the sweetener in moderation. Overconsumption of coconut sugar may offset the following health benefits:
- Reduced Hypoglycemia Risk
Coconut sugar can help spike your blood glucose levels, which helps prevent or address hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (5). Hypoglycemia can make you nauseous, dizzy, extra hungry, sweaty, and shaky (5). In severe cases, this condition can also cause seizures and coma (5). Since coconut sugar helps spike your blood glucose and energy levels, it reduces your hypoglycemia risk (5).
It is critical to understand that coconut sugar is not a nutritional wonder or magical sweetener without any risks. It may also pose several dangers to health, some of which include:
- High-Calorie Intake. Coconut sugar is high in carbs and calories. These are the two greatest enemies of weight loss. One hundred grams of this sweetener contains 100 g of carbs, 75 g of which are sugars, and 375 calories (6). Seek nutritional advice if you are looking for a sugar alternative for coffee that may aid in weight loss.
- High Blood Glucose Levels. Coconut sugar may also affect your blood glucose levels, especially if not taken in moderation. Stick to consuming six to nine teaspoons per day of coconut sugar or any other type of added sugar to avoid these health dangers (6).
Agave syrup or agave nectar is another natural sweetener often used as an alternative to sugar in coffee. It is obtained from the blue agave plant, better known as the maguey or the century plant (1). Agave nectar is much sweeter than table sugar. One serving or one tablespoon of light agave nectar contains 16 grams of sugar and 60 calories (1).
Benefits And Risks Of Using Agave Nectar Instead Of Sugar In Coffee
You can attain several health benefits from using agave syrup or nectar in your coffee instead of sugar. These include:
Decreasing The Glycemic Index (GI)
Table sugar contains mainly sucrose, which can impact blood sugar in a way that is harmful to those who have diabetes. In light of this, such individuals are advised to ditch table sugar and other added sugars where possible (13).
A good alternative for such individuals is agave syrup. It has a lower glycemic index than table sugar, which helps in controlling blood sugar (1). Stable blood sugar levels are significant for individuals with diabetes.
Agave nectar contains a small amount of vitamin B-6, which plays a crucial role in metabolism. It is mainly concerned with the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins (1).
Improving Heart Health
The vitamin B-6 in agave nectar can also help in improving heart health. It helps lower your homocysteine levels, which protect you against strokes and heart diseases (1).
Reduced Depression Levels
Agave syrup also contains small amounts of folate and vitamin K. These two have a vast array of mental health benefits. WebMD acknowledges that the two have been associated with reduced depression risk (1).
Dextrose refers to a simple type of sugar that is obtained from corn. It has many uses, and one of them is that it is used as a sweetener (8). Substituting table sugar with dextrose has several health benefits, some of which include:
- Treating Low Blood Sugar. Low blood sugar is also known as hypoglycemia. It is characterized by fatigue, irregular or fast heartbeats, irritability, hunger, pale skin, sweating, and shakiness (12). Treating low blood sugar is important because if it worsens, it can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, and death (12).
- Treating Dehydration. Medical News Today acknowledges that doctors often opt to use dextrose-containing solutions when they are treating dehydration.
- Nutritional Benefits. Dextrose is the carbohydrate component of parenteral nutrition (PN), which is used to provide nutrition to those who cannot eat, digest, or absorb nutrients through the GI tract (8).
Dextrose can pose a danger to your health if you consume too much of it. Remember that it contains simple sugars that are broken down and stored as fat when consumed in excess (12). This increases the risk of weight gain, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, low energy, acne, and other skin problems (8).
Can You Use Artificial Sweeteners As Sugar Alternatives In Coffee?
Artificial sweeteners are used in various food products, including baked goods like cakes and soft drinks. Following this, you might be wondering if these sugar substitutes can, in turn, be used in coffee.
According to Mayo Clinic, these sweeteners can be used in coffee, mainly because of their low calories (3). Some artificial sweeteners like sucralose have been determined to be sweeter than table sugar but contain fewer calories (4).
The best move is to sit with a professional and get guidance on the best possible artificial sugar alternative. Go through the artificial sweeteners list with your nutritionist and let them break them down for you for more insight.
Which Is The Best Sugar Substitute To Use In Coffee?
There are numerous sweeteners you can use to replace table sugar in your coffee. Each of these sweeteners comes with its pros and cons. The fact each sweetener poses various health risks makes it challenging to name the best sugar substitute.
Again, each sweetener promises various health benefits. You may have different goals, which may be the opposite of the named ‘best’ sugar alternative promises. Talk to a professional for more guidance on determining the best sweetener that aligns with your goals.
The Bottom Line
Which is the healthy alternative to sugar in coffee? Some may argue it is any natural sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, dextrose, or stevia. Others may say it is an artificial sweetener such as sucralose, as long as it is used in moderation. Experts acknowledge that each sweetener has its benefits and risks. The healthiest sugar substitute has the fewest risks and helps you meet your health and fitness goals.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Agave: Are There Health Benefits? (2020, webmd.com)
- Are natural sugar alternatives healthier? (2019, healthharvard.edu)
- Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Artificial sweeteners: ‘Sweet taste in itself’ may affect metabolism (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Coconut Sugar: Are There Health Benefits? (2020, webmd.com)
- Coconut sugar: Is it good for you? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Effect of dark-colored maple syrup on cell proliferation of human gastrointestinal cancer cell (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Everything you need to know about dextrose (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Everything you need to know about honey (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Feasibility Study: Honey for Treatment of Cough in Children (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Honey Has Variety of Health Benefits (2000, webmd.com)
- Hypoglycemia (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Is agave syrup the best sweetener for diabetes? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Maple syrup extract boosts antibiotics, may ward off ‘superbugs’ (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Maple Syrup: Is It Good for You? (2020, webmd.com)
- Stevia (2020, webmd.com)
- What is stevia? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What is the impact of eating too much sugar? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)