Back in the day, your choices for sweetening your coffee were table sugar or saccharin (that was before we found out they’re bad for you). Today, sweeteners have exploded in a wide range of options from organic to lab-made.
When adding sweetness to your morning, why not add in a little nutrition? Increase your anti-oxidants while you’re at it? Or boost the sweetness without jacking up your blood sugar? Let’s look at some options.
Organic cane sugar
Organic sugar is dehydrated juice from sugar-cane plants grown without pesticides. It is less processed than standard table sugar, so it retains some of the nutrients of sugar cane, including amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that may help reverse cell damage.
Take it a step further with turbinado sugar, also called raw sugar, made from the initial pressings of the sugar cane. It undergoes very little processing—the liquid from the sugar cane is allowed to dry naturally, and the crystals maintain some of the moisture and much of the vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It also has fewer calories than granulated sugar.
Another great option for iced coffee and iced tea is liquid raw or turbinado sugar. One teaspoon is equivalent to one packet of sugar.
Stevia is an herb that’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has almost no calories, almost no carbohydrates, and measures 0 on the glycemic index, so it is safe for people who are diabetic. Herbalists say it eases some health conditions, and may even aid digestion. It does contain nutrients and minerals, but not in great enough quantity to count.
Stevia comes in powder, liquid, and tablet form. It is available mixed with other sweeteners or 100 percent pure. But be warned: if you use too much it can have a bitter aftertaste, and it gives some people bloating or nausea.
Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, is a small melon that has been dried and used in medicinal teas in southeast Asia for centuries. Monk fruit sweetener is made from the juice of the fruit. It is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains no calories or carbohydrates. It measures 0 on the glycemic index and is safe for diabetics.
Monk fruit comes in liquid, granulated, and powder form. It is often mixed with other sweeteners, so check the packaging for nutritional information. You might want to sample it before buying; some people don’t like the taste.
Honey is a natural sweetener made by honey bees. It is 80 percent fructose and glucose (from the nectar of flowers), 18 percent water, and 2 percent minerals, vitamins, pollen, and protein. Honey does not affect blood sugar levels as quickly or as much as granulated sugar, and it is rich in carbohydrates, making it great for instant energy but not great for diabetics. In addition to providing minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, it can also improve your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and triglyceride level.
The flavor and nutritional content of honey varies widely depending on the flowers that the bees snacked on. In general, raw honey is best, and darker honey has more nutrients than lighter honey.
Agave nectar is made from the core of the blue agave plant, the same plant from which tequila is made. It has about the same number of calories as honey but a much lower glycemic rating, so it does not spike your blood sugar. It has a small amount of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, plus some potassium and sodium. However, though it has a small effect on blood sugar, it is highly processed and contains a lot of fructose, which can be hard on your liver and contribute to weight gain.
Flavored syrups not only sweeten coffee, they vastly change the flavor of it. They make coffee so sweet and tasty that even non-coffee drinkers love it. They easily stir into either hot or iced coffee, and come in sugar-free varieties (sweetened with an artificial sweetener like Splenda).
A few examples of flavors that go well with coffee: