What Are Plant Based Sweeteners?
Plant-based sweeteners have been used for over 3,000 years all throughout the world from southeast Asia to the Philippines to China. The natural sweeteners are commonly used to flavor drinks, improve the taste of food, and hide the taste of other not so pleasant tasting items.
Plant-based sweeteners have not only been used to sweeten beverages and other foods but also to help with numerous health conditions, especially illness relating to the digestive system or a decreased immune system. Studies conducted in 2010 by Journal Appetite indicate that many artificial sweeteners showed signs of eating disorders and cholesterol-related complications, while users of plant-based sweeteners showed no signs of these complications.
There are numerous plant based sweeteners that are actually good for you. These plant-based sweeteners have very few calories or none at all. Here are some of our favorite plant-based sweeteners and why we recommend them.
Stevia is one of the most popular and widely used plant-based sweeteners. Stevia comes from the leaves of the plant called Stevia rebaudiana. The stevia plant is commonly found in South America. The leaves of the stevia plant have been used for thousands of years in Brazil and Paraguay for medicine and for tea. Stevia was named by the Spanish Botanist and Physician Petrus Stevus. It has only been since the 1970’s though that the plant was made for commercial use. The Japanese were the first to produce the stevia extra for use in soft drinks and foods. Today, Japan is the largest consumer of stevia.
In the 1980s, the United States began using stevia as a non-caloric and natural sweetener for weight loss blends. Today, the United States stands tall as one of the top five countries with the highest stevia consumption according to the Food and Drug Association.
Powdered stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than common table sugar. A pinch of stevia is all it takes to sweeten your favorite beverage or dessert. Studies have shown the stevia has many positive health benefits:
- Stevia can lower high blood pressure by 6-14%. (1, 2, 3)
- Stevia has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in those with diabetes (4)
- Stevia can improve insulin sensitivity. Which is great news for those who require extra insulin (5)
- Stevia can reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) (6)
- Stevia can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries
Monk fruit is a tropical melon that has been grown in Asia for hundreds of years. Monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than regular table sugar. It is a common sweetener in Chia and parts of Asia.
Monk fruit has been used both as a plant-based sweetener, but also as a medicinal remedy for a wide variety of diseases. The fruit is filled with numerous antioxidants, vitamins, and organic compounds.
Monk fruit is approximately 5 centimeters wide and has a sweet edible pulp on the inside, with a bitter outer rind. The fruit is attached to the plant via long tendrils, as this plant is actually a vine.
Monk fruit is exponentially sweeter than sugar, with high concentrations of fructose and glucose.
In addition to Monk Fruit’s sweetening abilities, it has numerous other benefits.
- Allergy Relief. When our body experiences an allergy we release mast cells that contain a number of chemicals, one of them being histamine. Histamine causes reactions such as inflammation, irritation and coughing Monk fruit has been shown to prevent the activity of these mast cells, by reducing the histamine and eliminating the allergy. It has also been connected to reducing asthmatic reactions – which can be lifesaving to many.
- Cancer Prevention: Studies showing Monk Fruit’s effect on cancer cells has been absolutely incredible. Especially with skin cancer, the unique antioxidant properties of the glycosides and sapoins can help prevent the spread of these deadly cancer cells. It can also help neutralize the free radicals that are created by the body. It’s interesting to note that the complex sugars of Monk Fruit have been associated with a lower risk of cancer.
- Anti-Aging: And interesting find is that there’s more centenarians per capita in areas where monk fruit naturally grows. In other words, people who regularly consume and use Monk Fruit live longer. The antioxidant property of the fruit has a positive effect on the “breaking down” of the body. Which makes it a powerful anti-aging compound.
- Diabetes: Plant based sweeteners do not cause the same fluctuations as regular table sugar. Therefore, they are a positive alternative to those dealing with fluctuations and the negative effects of these.
- Weight Loss: High sugar intake has been directly linked to obesity in numerous different studies. Weight loss programs can be both expensive and challenging for many people. But Monk Fruit can prove an extremely sweet alternative. They combine the best of both worlds for those trying to lose weight without losing out on taste.
According to Dr. Ron Fessenden, M.D. M.P.H. the average American consume over 150 pounds of regular table sugar, plus an additional 62 pounds of high fructose corn syrup every year. On the other hand – the average American consume just one pound of honey per year.
Raw Honey is the preferred sweetener for many people. Even though it’s not a plant based sweetener, it’s about as natural as one can possibly find. Raw honey has been used for more than 4000 years. Since 2000 BC raw honey has been used to sweeten foods and also for medicinal purposes.
A study done by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that honey contains a prebiotic that nourishes gut flora. It was also shown that honey contained enzymes, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and polyphenols.
Raw honey is called a “function food”, which means that it is a natural food that contains health benefits. Raw honey contains natural antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and selenium. The vitamins in honey include Vitamin B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin. If people were to swab out refined sugar for raw honey the health benefits seen were exponential.
One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, but it only has a glycemic load of about 10 for that one tablespoon. That means that it has a little less of a glycemic effect than a banana. Raw honey also does not cause a sugar spike and raise insulin levels like refined sugar.
In addition to raw honey’s taste, there are numerous additional benefits we enjoy:
Aid Healing: Bandages infused with honey have been shown to aid healing. Peter Charles Molan at the University of Waikato, New Zealand found that raw honey reacts with the body to make hydrogen peroxide. This creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria to thrive in.
Less weight gain: Research has shown that replacing honey with sugar results in less weight gain and lower blood sugar levels.
Energy: Raw honey is filled with natural energy producers, B Vitamins. Honey also contains energy in the form of liver glycogen which makes it an ideal form of energy for the morning and also a pre- and post-exercise energy source.
Antioxidants: honey contains numerous different antioxidants and flavonoids that help keep the body healthy. Pinostrobin helps with the enzyme activity while the high antioxidant organic acids help keep the slightly alkaline pH in the body. Pinocembrin is an antioxidant flavonoid thought to be unique to honey while the amino acids found in honey are the body’s building blocks of protein.
Restful Sleep: Honey promotes restful sleep since it slowly releases the glycogen needed for essential body functions during sleep. When honey is added to milk and taken before bedtime it can help the body release melatonin which promotes deep sleep.
Date sugar looks and tastes more like regular table sugar. Although it is much less processed than table sugar. Date sugar is made from dried dates and is one of our favorite plant-based sweeteners.
Researchers from Virginia Tech’s Biochemistry Department ranked 12 of the most popular sweeteners and found that date sugar was the sweetener with the highest antioxidant value. This might not be surprising since date sugar is simply dried dates pulverized into a powder. But it beat out every other form.
Date sugar is very sweet. It clumps and doesn’t melt though so it can’t be used in all of the ways that regular table sugar is used. Still though, it can be substituted easily in recipes that call for brown sugar.
Date sugar can be found quite easily at your local health food store at or Amazon.com
Another one of our favorite plant-based sweeteners is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, comes from the coconut palm tree. Coconut sugar is made by cutting the flower of the coconut palm and then the liquid sap is collected. The sap is placed under heat until most of the water has evaporated. The final product is coconut sugar, which looks like light brown cane sugar.
Coconut sugar contains a lot of it’s nutrients as it is processed. The most concentrated minerals in coconut sugar are iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. Coconut sugar also contains some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols, and antioxidants.
Coconut sugar also contains a fiber called inulin, which may help slow down glucose absorption. This would be the reason too why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
Coconut sugar does still contain calories and a decent amount of sucrose. So coconut sugar is best to use sparingly. It is “less bad” than regular sugar, but it is not something we would recommend using every day.
Coconut sugar can be found at your local health food store or at Amazon.com
Plant-based sweeteners are a great replacement for common table sugar. Many of them do not contain any calories and have a very minimal effect on blood sugar levels. Which is a positive for anyone trying to maintain or lose weight, or for those needing to watch their blood sugar levels.
Brilliant Ways™ is committed to using only the highest quality products available. Our products that have a flavor are only sweetened with plant-based sweeteners. In our Skinny Greens™ product, we use only stevia, monk fruit, natural pineapple & spearmint extract. To learn more about Skinny Greens™ and all of the Brilliant Ways™ products visit www.BrilliantWays.com