Natural Sweeteners

20 12 2012

I don’t know about you, but all the sweetener choices are confusing me. Which ones are the healthiest choices?


Agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) comes from a cactus-like plant found in Mexico, which is also used to make tequila. The Aztecs used the liquid from the agave plant to flavor foods, considering it a gift from the gods. Now, it is considered a healthier choice as a sweetener with many beneficial properties. Agave is low on the glycemic index, making it a better choice for diabetics. But, as with any sweetener, agave should be consumed in moderation.

Agave is said to be similar in taste to honey and does not have the aftertaste found with artificial sweeteners. It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so less is needed to achieve the same sweetness. Agave is about 60 calories per tablespoon.


The chicory plant is a hardy perennial common in North American and in Europe. It has purplish-blue flowers that open and closes at the exact same time each day. Chicory leaves are also known as endive, frisee, escarole or radicchio and the roots are used to make “chicory”.  Studies have shown that chicory may prevent constipation and has been reported to help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon.  Like Agave, Chicory is very low on the glycemic index, making it less likely to raise blood sugar levels. Products sweetened with Chicory may contain other sweeteners as well. So, check the labels. This will affect the sweetness. Product calories vary also, depending on the amount of chicory. One chicory root has 43 calories, but some products may be calorie-free.


Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. The leaf of the plant contains the compounds that give its sweetness. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar with 0 calories per tablespoon and 0 carbohydrates. Stevia is zero on the glycemic index indicating it has not impact on blood sugar.

Monk fruit
Monk fruit is a type of small melon, cultivated for its sweet fruit and as an extracted sweetener. It is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of South East Asia and has been used as in traditional Chinese medicine. Its sweetness comes from antioxidants called mogrosides, found only in the monk fruit. Monk fruit is calorie-free, is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, and has a zero glycemic index.
I’ve read that the more sweet foods I eat, the more I will crave them. From personal experience, I know this to be true. So, although, these sweeteners may be healthier options, eating as little as possible or none, is still my goal.  But, when I do sweeten my iced tea, I will choose one of these natural sweeteners and use as little as possible.

Tammy’s Challenges

Mind: Listen to your body after eating. How do you feel? Does this food agree with you?

Body: Add 10 minutes to your cardio workout during the holiday season.

Soul: Smile at yourself everytime you look in the mirror. It will seem odd at first, but keep it up and learn to like what you see.

I would love to hear from you.  Contact me through email at and Facebook at TammYoga and Twitter @TammYoga.






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