The Scoop on Natural Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners can help you satisfy sweet cravings and control your diabetes. Here’s how to choose one that’s right for you.

Rita Ross
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What it is: This sweetener comes from the leaves of a South American plant; its leaves look similar to mint, and it has a slight licorice flavor.
How to use it: Stevia is popular for baking and for sprinkling in coffee, or on oatmeal or berries. One teaspoon of liquid stevia equals about one cup of sugar. (It’s also available in powder, granules, even sprays.)
How it affects blood sugar: Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, yet it’s virtually calorie-free and just a little goes a long way. Plus, a recent study in the journal Appetite found it results in lower blood sugar levels and less insulin usage than table sugar.
Health bonus! Stevia leaves contain minerals including magnesium potassium, zinc and niacin. Stevia also appears to help tame unwanted growth of yeast in the body.

What it is: Like sorbitol, xylitol is a form of sugar alcohol; it’s found in the fiber of fruits like strawberries and plums, and vegetables, such as mushrooms, cauliflower and corn. The purest forms come from birch trees.
How to use: Xylitol can be used one-to-one in substituting for sugar in recipes. It’s also available in crystalline form. It has 2.4 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for sugar.
How it affects blood sugar: Since xylitol is slowly absorbed, it helps you dodge blood sugar spikes.
Health bonus! It helps boost absorption of calcium and B vitamins and may help fight tooth decay.

April 2013