The Sweet Truth: Sweeteners

You’ve probably heard the buzz about the benefits of swapping high fructose corn syrup and white table sugar for “natural” sweeteners, but are they really healthier? The answer is yes…and no.

All caloric sweeteners including agave, honey, and maple syrup contain approximately 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon and 15-20 calories. While some may enter the blood stream more slowly and be less processed, they still raise blood sugar and are not a free pass to over indulge.

According to the American Heart Association, men should have no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day and women no more than 6 teaspoons per day. Given that the average American eats 22 teaspoons a day, it’s important to take a closer look at the type and amount of sugar in your diet.


Agave is lower on the glycemic index than white, refined sugar, but not by much. Since it’s sweeter than white sugar, less can be used to sweeten your foods. That’s good news considering it also contains more calories.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar provides a popular caramel-like flavor along with a small amount of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous, but not nearly enough to significantly contribute to your health and offset its ability to spike your blood sugar.


Molasses does contain some iron and calcium, setting it apart from the rest, but this should be seen as a bonus resource rather than a preferred source for getting in these important minerals.


Honey has some antibacterial benefits for boosting immunity and has slightly more calories (6) per teaspoon than most of the other natural sweeteners.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup contains some zinc and manganese and is lower on the glycemic index than white refined sugar.

Sarah Mattison Berndt, MS, RD, CD
Owner Fit Fresh Cuisine & Hybrid Athletic Club

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