Nutritional Benefits of Natural Sweeteners

The less a sweetner is processed, the more nutrients it will contain

Credit: Flickr /Lance McCord

Natural sweetners are a good alternative to white sugar, and many contain nutrients

Natural-source sweeteners, whether made from sugar cane or plants such as agave or maple, offer different nutritional benefits

As a general rule, the less the sugar source is processed, the more nutrients it will contain.

Nutrients in Sweetners

  • Blackstrap molasses contains a significant amount of nutrients, while Sucanat, turbinado sugar and evaporated cane juice contain only small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  • Honey is rich in antioxidants and contains a little calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and B vitamins.
  • Maple and agave nectar syrup also contain some nutrients. However, agave contains a whopping 90% fructose compared to 55% found in high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Stevia, an alternative natural-source sweetener derived from the leaves of a South American plant, is 250 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, allowing it to sweeten foods and beverages without providing added calories or carbohydrates. 

Sweetness and calories among other sugar choices don’t vary significantly. Products derived from sugar cane supply about 30 calories for every 2 tsp. (10 mL). Agave nectar, brown rice syrup, honey and maple syrup provide 40 to 45 calories per 2 tsp. (10 mL) serving. 

Regardless of the source, sugar is sugar and no single sweetener provides a significant amount of nutrients, so limit all sugar and sweet treats.

A general recommendation is to allow children to have real sugar in moderation instead of artificial sweeteners. For food safety reasons, infants should not be given honey until at least 
12 months of age.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.