5 Natural Best Sugar Substitutes for Managing Blood Sugar and Reducing Inflammation

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Whether you need to balance your blood sugar, calm inflammation, are trying to lose weight, or just cut out sugar for your health, finding the best sugar substitute is going to be a really crucial thing to keep you on track.

As a former sugar addict, I can testify that beginning an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle by cutting out sugar and trying to find the best sugar substitute can be super hard when you imagine all the sweets you now CAN’T have.

5 best sugar substitutes for diabetics to manage blood sugar and reduce inflammation

But the truth is, there are a ton of things you can still enjoy, and sweets you can have when eating an anti-inflammatory diet. The trick is to use the right sweeteners.

Different sugar substitutes and how to choose the best one based on your health goals

One of the first things we do when shifting into an anti-inflammatory diet is cutting out sugar and refined carbs. This is because sugar drives inflammation and blood sugar spikes, and both of those things lead to insulin resistance.

The problem with going sugar-free is that there are so many different alternatives, and marketing by the companies that make them can create a lot of confusion about what the best options might be.

So we’re gonna cover :

  • Natural sweeteners
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar-free natural sweeteners
  • Which would be your best option in going sugar-free that will help you reach your health goals
  • Give recommendations on favorite brands and where to find them

Natural sweeteners

When it comes to sugar substitutes that are considered natural, these options usually come into play when people are looking for unrefined options other than regular sugar.

Natural unrefined sweeteners can include:

  • honey,
  • pure maple syrup,
  • coconut sugar,
  • and agave.
natural sweeteners in bowls on a table including honey, coconut sugar, and maple syrup

And, in fact, these can be really popular ingredients used in a Paleo diet, which is based on whole foods.

The problem with these sweeteners is that they’re STILL sugar.

So for someone who needs precise blood sugar management, and for a reduction in chronic inflammation, getting rid of all added sugars—even those that are unrefined—is going to be really important.

Another aspect to this is that there are a lot of people who do emotional eating and are hooked on sweets, and it’s really easy to convince yourself that you can still eat those types of foods and recipes that use natural sugars just because it’s unrefined.

Keeping yourself stuck on those added sugars – even when they’re natural and unrefined—is a critical mistake that’s keeping yourself locked in that emotional eating cycle.

Laura @ TRUEWELL
woman emotional eating sugar

So my recommendation for these sweeteners is to cut them out, especially when you’re first trying to start a sugar-free diet, so that your body and your brain can reset itself to not have cravings for it.

If you find that you’re in that spot where you feel like you can’t quit eating sugar and refined carbs, CLICK HERE for more resources on breaking free from emotional eating and sugar.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are created in a lab, and they date back to the 70s and some are more recent.

The problems with these types of sweeteners is that they:

  1. Disrupt your gut bacteria
  2. Can disrupt insulin signaling and increase the chances of insulin resistance
  3. Some have been connected with certain types of cancers.

The gut bacteria piece is really important because 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut, and your gut also produces about 95% of the serotonin in your body, which is one of the main neurotransmitters related to anxiety and depression.

Gut bacteria also play a role in insulin resistance and become really important for anyone with conditions like prediabetes, diabetes, and PCOS, just to name a few.

Other conditions like autoimmune conditions and other inflammatory conditions rely on gut health as well, because leaky gut allows proteins, toxins, and bacteria to get through that gut barrier, which worsens those conditions.

Some studies have also shown that eating artificial sweeteners can impair the body’s ability to recognize when it truly needs insulin. So if your body is pumping out insulin when you don’t need it, it pulls down blood sugar levels too low, then the body tries to compensate for that, and not only are you on a blood sugar rollercoaster, but that additional insulin is telling your body to store fat.

artificial sweetener packets in a jar

You can recognize artificial sweeteners in a couple of different ways.

When you go into a restaurant or coffee shop, they’re the pink, blue, and yellow packets.

The names for artificial sweeteners are:

  • Sucralose, which goes under the brand name Splenda for the most part-and uses the yellow packet;
  • Aspartame and/or Acesulfame potassium/ Ace K are under the brand names Nutrisweet or Equal and are in the blue packet;
  • Saccharine, which goes under the brand name Sweet & Low, and is in the pink packet.

Get familiar with these names because so many sugar-free products use these sweeteners in them, and once you can recognize these names, you’ll know which of those foods and drinks to avoid.

Natural zero-calorie sweeteners

1. Stevia

Stevia, derived from the leaves of the Stevia plant, is a popular natural sweetener known for its zero-calorie and zero-glycemic impact.

It’s from 200-350x sweeter than sugar but it can have a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I personally don’t mind it, but it can taste a lot like the aftertaste that a diet soft drink would have.

stevia sugar substitute in a bowl with a stevia plant

You can get stevia in liquid form, which usually has an alcohol or glycerine base, or in powdered form. The powdered form is where this gets a bit tricky because a really common powder base is dextrin, which is a sugar.

So if you opt for powdered stevia, find one that is either mixed with erythritol, or in the pure powdered form (links for my faves are below).

2. Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is another sweetener that comes from a plant—it’s from a fruit that’s native to southern China. Monk fruit is about 100-250 times sweeter than sugar.

Studies are showing that monk fruit has antioxidants that support reduced inflammation and anti-cancer properties. It also is a mild antihistamine.

The flavor of monk fruit is far less bitter than stevia, and monk fruit is great for baking.

It can also be found in liquid and powder form, but the powder form is often a blend with erythritol (links for my faves are below).

monk fruit sugar substitute for diabetics

3. Allulose

Allulose is a newer sugar substitute that is found in some fruits and corn. It’s only about 70% as sweet as sugar and has around 10% of the calories of the same measurement of table sugar.

Allulose bakes and freezes like sugar, but keep in mind that unless the package says it’s a cup-for-cup equivalent to substitute for sugar, you may have to do some calculations to substitute it.

Allulose does not have an impact on blood sugar and can also be found in liquid, powder, and granulated forms—but remember that it does still have calories (links for my faves are below).

4. Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols don’t actually contain sugar or alcohol. But they are becoming more popular because they don’t have the bitter aftertaste that other sugar substitutes do.

They have only about half the calories of sugar and they don’t absorb well in the intestines, meaning they don’t contribute to the same amount of carbohydrates that sugar would in the same amount.

The most popular types are erythritol and xylitol. (Links for my faves are below).

spoon of sugar

A) Erythritol

Erythritol has gained attention in the last few years because it’s being mixed with many other natural sugar substitutes. This helps with flavor profile and the ability to measure it cup for cup as you would sugar.

Erythritol has a cooling sensation besides tasting a lot like sugar. But it can cause stomach upset for people with GI issues.

B) Xylitol

Xylitol is another sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, but is produced commercially from corn cob and birch bark. The sweetness is similar to sugar, but contains 40% less calories than sugar and gives an extremely small blood glucose response.

Xylitol has been shown to have a lot of health benefits, including having anti-inflammatory effects, possibly preventing ear infections, and is an amazing sweetener for gum and foods because it can help prevent tooth decay.

And in recent years is being used in neti pots and nasal spray because it can help break up mucous and has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.

The downside of xylitol is that it can cause GI disturbances and it’s extremely toxic to dogs.

What’s the best sugar substitute option?

So, overall, before making recommendations, I want to emphasize that there is still a LOT of research to be done on all of these alternatives.

From the studies we have so far, I recommend staying away from the artificial sweeteners altogether. These are your yellow, pink, and blue packets and those names that we talked about associated with them.

For the natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, I also recommend getting away from those as well because of the blood sugar spikes and inflammation that those can still cause. Those are all STILL SUGAR.

And then in the natural sugar-free options, take these ideas into consideration when choosing…

1-Choosing based on taste:

First, I’d recommend that you try a few and experiment with the taste, and with adding them to different types of things. Like maybe you experiment with adding it into a pitcher of tea, your coffee, maybe a vinaigrette, and then also try baking with it.

Come at it from an experimental frame of mind.

woman drinking tea with sugar substitute

2- Choosing based on conditions:

If you’re dealing with a condition like IBS, IBD, or other GI conditions—including leaky gut or autoimmune issues, the sugar alcohol options may not be the best option for you. You can always try just a little and see how it affects you and then go from there.

If you have allergies, monk fruit may be your best option.

And if you have frequent sinus or ear infections or oral infections, xylitol may be your best option.

3- Choosing based on cost:

Some of these can be much more expensive than others.

One trick I use on this front is if I find something that’s more expensive but that I really like, it gives me more incentive to wean myself back from it. And in the case of weaning off of sugar and sweets, this is a good tactic to help with that.

Check out all the links below for more resources and where to find these, let me know in the comments what other questions you have about going sugar-free!

*These links may be affiliate links, meaning if you click through I may get a small portion of the proceeds, with no extra cost to you.

Best Tasting Stevia

So when we’re talking best stevia brand, specifically for flavor, this is a tough one. This is because everyone’s tastes are so completely different, you really won’t know until you TRY them!

Here’s why–stevia is a liquid from the stevia leaf, so they need to either add it to a liquid carrier, or make it into powdered form. In a liquid carrier, this can be alcohol or glycerine. This is the brand that I use, and it’s a larger bottle, so it lasts a long time and sweetens my coffee every morning, sugar-free and carb-free!: 👇

Natrisweet Liquid Stevia Drops

Natrasweet Liquid Stevia Drops

This post may have affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases at no extra charge to you.

EXPLORE ALL LIQUID STEVIA OPTIONS HERE!

In powdered form, usually this sometimes means adding raw stevia to a powder or granulated base. Sometimes this is maltodextrin, sometimes it’s erythritol.

This makes it in powdered form in a volume so you can measure it cup for cup when doing low carb baking or keto baking.

Like I mentioned before, you want to stay away from the ones with dextrin or maltodextrin. This is a sugar, even though it’s a small amount. But it’s usually from GMO corn, which is coated in toxic chemicals.

If you want powdered stevia that’s pure with no fillers, I recommend these brands:

Pyure:

Pyure Liquid Stevia

Pyure Liquid Stevia

Bulk Supplements:

Bulk Supplements Pure Stevia Powder

Bulk Supplements Pure Stevia Powder

Better Stevia:

Better Stevia Pure Powdered Stevia

Better Stevia Pure Powdered Stevia

For Stevia mixed with erythritol, I recommend:

Truvia:

Splenda (the brand name has now begun making stevia/erythritol blends that do NOT contain sucralose):

Splenda Stevia Sweetener

Splenda Stevia Sweetener

EXPLORE ALL POWDERED STEVIA HERE!

Stevia on the go

One last word about stevia– I love it because it’s also made in little packets (like ones on the restaurant tables) that are super convenient to carry in your purse and use when going out to eat! JUST KNOW—the ones made with erythritol do NOT dissolve very well in cold beverages. So you may have to stir for a bit.

I keep them in my purse at all times and use them instead of the awful artificial sweeteners when I’m out.

Happy Belly (Amazon’s brand):

Happy Belly Stevia Packets

Happy Belly Stevia Packets

Nativo:

Nativo Stevia Packets

Nativo Stevia Packets

EXPLORE ALL STEVIA PACKETS AND BRANDS HERE!

Erythritol:

If you’re totally fine on sugar alcohols, erythritol can be purchased in bulk packages, or as brand names that have different flavorings added.

I personally like the Swerve brand because it includes inulin, which is a prebiotic that feeds our good gut bacteria.

The brand Swerve offers one that is a white sugar substitute, one that is a powdered sugar substitute, and another that’s a brown sugar substitute.

Here’s where to buy Swerve sweetener: sometimes the local grocery store will have it, or you can find it here: 👇

Swerve Granular

Swerve Granular Sweetener

Swerve Brown

Swerve Brown Sugar Sweetener

Swerve Confectioners Sweetener

Swerve Confectioners Sweetener

EXPLORE ALL ERYTHRITOL OPTIONS HERE!

Xylitol

The other recommended sugar alcohol is xylitol. This one has health benefits, but can be much harder on the GI tract. It’s different for everyone.

Now Foods Xylitol:

Now Foods Xylitol

Now Foods Xylitol

Monk Fruit

Next is monk fruit. It can be hard to find monk fruit on its own. The liquid drops are awesome for sweetening beverages, especially on the go. I don’t recommend the Splenda brand for this because of the preservatives they add. Instead I recommend this brand: 👇

SubSugar Liquid Monk Fruit

SubSugar Liquid Monk Fruit

EXPLORE ALL LIQUID MONK FRUIT EXTRACTS

In powdered form, it is usually either mixed with erythritol or maltodextrin. Like mentioned before, the maltodextrin or dextrose is made from GMO corn, and is still a sugar. So I recommend staying away from those.

There are a ton of different brands of powdered monk fruit, so again–your best bet is to maybe look at reviews online and see what resonates with you, in addition to what properties you’re looking for, and then of those find the one that tastes best to you and your family.

Here are some powdered pure monk fruit options:

Durelife Organic Monk Fruit Powder

Durelife Organic Monk Fruit Powder

Natrisweet Monk Fruit Extract Powder

Natrisweet Monk Fruit Extract Powder

The next option would be monk fruit that is granulated with erythritol:

EXPLORE ALL POWDERED MONK FRUIT HERE!

Allulose

Allulose is the newest of all the sweeteners I recommend. It’s about 70% as sweet as sugar, so even though you can find it on its own, it is normally blended with a sweetener that is much sweeter than sugar to be able to get that cup per cup same measurement as sugar for recipes.

Here are my recommendations for pure allulose:

Durelife Pure Allulose

Durelife Pure Allulose

FitLane Nutrition Pure Allulose

FitLane Nutrition Pure Allulose

Natural sweetener BLENDS:

One cool thing that food manufacturers have found is that blending some of these sweeteners can cut the unfavorable flavors and make the blend taste way more like regular sugar.

It also helps that the ratio of sweetness is different for those sweeteners as well so that they can mix it to be cup-for-cup measurements of what regular sugar would be in recipes.

If you’re ok with erythritol (you don’t experience any GI effects), try out some of the erythritol and monk fruit or stevia blends. It’s also great to try out the allulose blends as well and find the one that works best for you and your family.

Here are some of my favorites that we use:

Lakanto Monk Fruit Blend

Lakanto Monk Fruit Blend

Durelife Monkfruit Blend

Durelife Monkfruit Blend

In the Raw All Purpose Sweetener Blend

In the Raw All Purpose Sweetener Blend

Let me know in the comments which one/s are your favorite!

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5 best sugar substitutes for managing blood sugar and reducing inflammation
Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Laura is a Nutrition Specialist and Certified Health Coach with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her goal is to help women reverse prediabetes by balancing blood sugar and reducing inflammation with a personalized Anti-Inflammatory Diet + Lifestyle.

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