358 – Exploring the World of Natural Sweeteners

Consumers have more variety and choices to sweeten their foods

In this interview Neil E. Levin discusses the many different types of natural sweeteners and sugar alternatives. Neil explains the important distinctions between the many different classes of sweeteners and what makes each sweetener unique.

Here are some of the sweeteners we discuss:

  • Sugar (sucrose) – is sourced from sugar cane or from sugar beets
  • Forms of sugar: White sugar, brown sugar (light and dark), Sucanat® (from sugar cane juice), molasses
  • Other sugars: fructose, glucose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, lactose.
  • Liquid Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, rice syrup
  • Sugar alcohols: sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol
  • Plant sweeteners: stevia and monk fruit (luo han)

NOW® Sweetener Chart

NOW® handy sweetness chart makes it easy to compare the sweetness levels of various NOW® sweeteners compared to table sugar, as well as their glycemic impact. In this table you’ll find two different glycemic measurements – glycemic index and glycemic impact.

Glycemic index measures how different types of carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood glucose levels within two hours of ingestion. Low glycemic index is considered to be less than 55, medium falls between 56 and 69, and a high glycemic index is a rating of 70 or more.

Glycemic impact is a more consumer-friendly method of rating foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels, using low, medium and high to rate the overall glycemic impact of various foods. Source: NOW®

I counted up the various sweeteners we use in my home. We try to use the most nutritious sweetener depending of the application.  Sugar, dark brown sugar, crystalline fructose, honey, date sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup and even ripe bananas. I’m sure I missed some.

The point is this: There are many sweeteners to choose from. Use the best product for the application. We use crystalline fructose for homemade lemonade. We use dark brown sugar and ripe bananas for banana bread. We use honey on toast and in tea.  Maple syrup on pancakes etc.  Use a variety of natural products conscientiously as appropriate your health and lifestyle choices.

The second point is that if you are making foods from scratch, using nutritious ingredients then you will naturally and automatically reduce your consumption of sugar. It is the hidden and not so hidden sugar in processed foods and drinks that do us in. If you don’t consume these foods then your sugar consumption should go way down.

NOW® has over 40 sweeteners of the various types. In fact NOW® was one of the very early producers of stevia going back nearly 30 years. They have been in the forefront of stevia evolution. They produce Better Stevia® which has much less of the stevia aftertaste.

Monk Fruit (Luo Han)

One of the newest sweeteners from NOW® is Organic Monk fruit extract. Monk fruit is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and is considered a Zero-Calorie Sweetener

Naturally derived from the nectar of a small fruit that grows on vines in Asia, NOW® Real Food Monk Fruit Extract Organic Powder is 200X sweeter than sugar. Now, it’s available in a variety of forms and flavors to sweeten just about anything without the sugar-guilt or any unpleasant aftertaste.

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA

CLICK HERE for a link to all interviews with Neil E. Levin.

Neil E. Levin

Neil E. Levin is the Senior Nutrition Education Manager and a product formulator for NOW®. He is a board-certified clinical nutritionist with a diplomat in advanced nutritional laboratory assessment. The U.S. Natural Products Association (NPA) presented Neil its Industry Champion Award in 2008 for “people who have made notable individual contributions to the natural products industry above and beyond what is expected to achieve commercial success.” Neil’s interviews and articles are published in magazines and newspapers. He has been featured in many radio interviews and television news reports. Neil blogs at www.honestnutrition.com; is on Facebook (Honest Nutrition) and Twitter (neilelevin).


Since 1968 NOW® has been a leader in the natural products industry. Even when healthy foods and natural supplements weren’t mainstream, we’ve never wavered from our mission – to provide value in products and services that empower people to lead healthier lives.


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