All about sugar: part one

sugarOne of the most confusing things about trying to start eating healthier is sugar. There are so many different kinds out there! How do you know what’s good, what’s bad, and how to use it? I’ll try to touch on all of this little by little and let you know what I’ve learned. And I by no means am an expert in all things sugar. While I love it (a bit to much!) I have not tried all the natural sugar options out there! And there is so much research, so many opinions, I almost feel very uninformed when it comes to this topic. But I also know a lot of you out there are struggling with knowing what to use just like I have!

I’ll go through some of the most popular options out there real quick.

The Horrible-

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Corn Syrup
  • Artificial Sweeteners (like nutrasweet and aspartame)

The One Step above bad-

  • White Sugar
  • Dark and light brown sugar (just white sugar with molasses added back in)

The Still Not Great-

  • Organic regular sugar
  • Turbinado
  • Evaporated Cane Juice

The Good, Natural ‘least refined’ Sugars

  • Raw honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Rapadura and Sucanat
  • Stevia
  • Molasses

And while this is by no means a complete list, but I hope it gives you some insight on what you should be looking for in the stores!

Questions? Comments? What sweeteners do you love and use?

About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Thanks for the list – I’m just learning about this stuff right now. So what would I do if I was baking and it called for sugar?

    donielle Reply:

    @Gillian, Right now I use either all sucanat or 1/2 sucanat and 1/2 evaporated cane juice. I also substitute honey or maple syrup as well though not at a complete 1:1 ratio, just a bit less.

  2. You didn’t go into the great debate about agave nectar. How disappointing. ;-( Not like it couldn’t be a whole post by itself. I still like the stuff though.

    donielle Reply:

    @Dawn, I know! I couldn’t decide where to put it! One day I might tackle it. :-)

  3. I agree with Dawn, I think agave nectar is one of my favorite sweeteners to use. Unfortunately the cost is a bit of a deterrent, but I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to use as much as I would regular sugar. My fall-back tends to be evaporated cane juice. I’d love to know why you ranked some items the way you did… do you speak some from personal preference or are there any links re: the choices you could share?

    Thanks so much for an informative post! :-)

    donielle Reply:

    @Faith, I’ll work on it and maybe post group by group!

  4. Ah yes. Bad ol sugar. I use regular sugar in my “dessert” baking, but for everything else (granola bars, etc.) I use natural sweeteners (apple sauce, honey, brown rice syrup). It would be interesting to look at which “good for you” sugars keep your blood sugar levels more steady as well….I know not all of them do.

  5. My husband and I recently decided to give up white sugar as much as we possibly could (we’ve already been trying to avoid HFCS for awhile), but I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg for a more natural sugar. But we made the leap. We now use real maple syrup and honey. Oh and I was SUPER blessed to find out our store carries a store-brand organic dehydrated cane juice sugar. That made my WEEK when hubby told me that (he works there)!!

    I wasn’t aware that brown sugar was white sugar with molasses added in, though. That is really disappointing. Oh well … guess I’ll just have to get some molasses. 😀

    Thanks for this post!

  6. I love your list. It sure does make everything easier to understand when it’s laid out simply like that!

    We currently use raw honey, real maple syrup, Sucanat, and Sucanat with Honey for the majority of our sweetening. I will admit to still using the refined white sugar in DH’s tea and lemonade though. He’s just not ready to give it up there yet. We’re getting there, just with lots of baby steps!

  7. Thanks for the list :) I just wanted to point out that Stevia is not technically a sugar. It is a sweet herb, but it has no sugars in it. Pretty cool :)

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    donielle Reply:

    @Emily, How very right you are. Most just ask about it in the same breath as sugar because it’s used as a sweetener and I knew if I didn’t include it, people would ask! :-)

  8. I also found coconut nectar crystals work REALLY well when substituting for sugar in baking. The best blueberry muffins I have ever made was using that. Tastes kinda like brown sugar, but not quite as sweet.

    Also, I read some about agave nectar. If it isn’t clear, then there was probably stuff added to it. The good raw stuff is as clear as water.

  9. Where would raw sugar fall in your categories?

    donielle Reply:

    @Sugar Mommy {name is no indication of where I stand on the sugar debate…I have 4 naturally sweet kids. :) }, I’ll have to look into that one a bit more, but off the top of my head, I’d say somewhere between white sugar and sucanat.


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