The Healthiest Sweetener

Healthy Natural Sweeteners For A Healthy Lifestyle DietBy: Michael Greger, MD. Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Now there are sweeteners that do have some nutrition. This new article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association measured the antioxidant content of a whole list. Which is healthier? In alphabetical order: Agave nectar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, date sugar, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, raw cane sugar, plain old sugar sugar, or turbinado sugar.

Two actually have some significant nutrition, but the rest are pretty much a wash. Let’s start filling this in. Should we start with an easy one to launch us off? Table sugar versus raw, pure organic agave nectar. Which is worse? Does sugar have less nutrition? Or does agave nectar have less nutrition? Or do they both have the same? Remember how I asked if we should start out with an easy one? Well I guess the answer is no. They have exactly the same nutrition, which is to say basically none. Sugar is here, agave is here. Each with a completely pitiful two micromoles of plasma ferric acid reducing ability, which is essentially zero antioxidant power. There’s one sweetener with even less though. Now all these down at that end are basically just empty calories, but out of curiosity, what has even less nutrition than sugar?

Ten left to choose from. Which one is all the way down at the end? Do you think molasses is least healthy? Brown rice syrup? Corn syrup? Date sugar? Dark brown? Light brown? Maple? Honey? Raw case? Turbinado?
Now we knew corn syrup was here—same as sugar, remember?
They’re all empty calories, but brown rice syrup measured out as the emptiest.

Which is worse? Honey??? Maple syrup??? Or the same???
Well they can’t be the same, right? There aren’t two bars left the same size. Both still just sugar, but honey beats out maple syrup.

In fact all these down here are basically just sugar, whether dark, light, raw, or turbinado. There are only two health promoting sweeteners, only two sweeteners that are actually good for you—molasses and date sugar. They’re both good, but out of curiosity which one falls to second place. Do you think molasses is less healthy than date sugar? Or does date sugar fall to second-place?

The healthiest sweetener on the planet is, date sugar. Date sugar is not sugar, it’s just whole dried dates pulverized into powder. As the only whole food up there, no wonder it’s number one. It’s the only thing I ever use in baking. Because it’s a whole plant food it has fiber, though, so there is a thickening effect, which is great for smoothies or hot chocolate, but what if you want to sweeten your tea or coffee? You don’t exactly want thick tea. Now you could add sugar, but then you’re adding empty calories, and if you drink as much tea as you really should, that can add up.

Doctor’s Note

For some of the most recent videos on dates:
How to Reach the Antioxidant RDA
Spicing Up DNA Protection

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on sweeteners. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledgeIs There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener?, and Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

Photo Source: Robins Key

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.:

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

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  1. Where does stevia fall in the mix?


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