Type: Natural substitute Pros: Sugar-free and non-caloric, made from the leaves of the stevia plant. “If you’re comparing caloric and non-caloric sweeteners, stevia comes out on top. It doesn’t raise blood sugar and it’s natural and beneficial in reasonable amounts. It’s bio-active, so it could have some anti-inflammatory compounds and can also help you cut calories,” says St. Pierre. Cons: There’s a minor aftertaste that can take getting used to and overusing it could cause you to develop more of a taste for sweets.
Type: An even blend of fructose and glucose Pros: “Honey’s calling card is that it has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, which is why it can also be used as a cough suppressant or sore throat soother. Manuka and other high-grade honeys often contain more beneficial properties—and overall honey is more of an actual food than sugar,” says St. Pierre. Cons: It’s high in calories and carbs.
Type: Mostly sucrose with some nutrients Pros: This one gets positive marks. It’s made from the sap of coconut trees and is less processed because the sap is extracted and then placed in heat to dry, leaving it with a more natural brownish colour like raw sugar. It can also contain trace amounts of minerals like magnesium, potassium, and inulin, a prebiotic fibre. Cons: It’s still a high-calorie sweetener and causes advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which gradually lead to a break down in your collagen.
RAW CANE SUGAR
Type: Sucrose Pros: Extracted from the sugarcane plant and not refined. Also called turbinado sugar, it may come in the form of cane juice, which is often used to sweeten non-dairy milks like almond, hemp, and cashew and in many healthier baking options. This raw form of sugar is somewhat less processed than table sugar. It still retains some of the molasses and moisture from the plant so technically you’re consuming less sugar and calories per serving, making it healthier, St. Pierre says. Cons: That’s mostly irrelevant in the big picture. It’s not like you’re eating the actual plant.
Type: More fructose than glucose (it can be up to 90% fructose) Pros: Fans like the syrupy flavour. It mixes well with tequila, making it a mainstay in artisanal margaritas. Cons: It’s touted as having a lower glycemic index but this can be misleading. That may be beneficial if someone has diabetes, but not so much if you don’t, warns St. Pierre.
Type: Sucrose Pros: Some of the molasses leftover from the refining process is added back into the sugar after processing, which provides a darker colour and a minor amount of trace nutrients. Cons: Not enough nutrients remain to be of benefit.
GRANULATED WHITE SUGAR
Type: Sucrose Pros: Made from either sugar cane or sugar beets, it offers the mildest flavour, melts and blends easily into beverages, warm or cold, and is ideal for baking. Cons: Best known as table sugar and the most common, it is also the most chemically processed and refined of the bunch.