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Calorie Count Blog

A Spoonful of Sugar

By +Carolyn Richardson on Jul 31, 2012 09:00 AM in Tips & Updates

If you prefer sugar in your coffee or oatmeal just isn’t right without a dash of brown sugar in your book, then so be it. No, you shouldn’t get more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 9 for men, and yes many of us get more than this through processed foods without even picking up a spoon or cracking open a packet. But we're not here to judge where your sugar calories come from, we’d just like to inform you of some of the natural sweeteners you  may or may not have noticed in ingredient lists. We’re not talking artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet N’ Low or Nutrisweet, we’re focusing on the sweeteners that are derived from plants and processed for us to spoon into our favorite foods. Here are some natural options to sweetness and how they stack up against sugar.

Sugar by a Different Name

No matter how you slice it, sugar is sugar. But if you check the many names it goes by, you’d think some didn’t come from the same source: sugar cane juice. The sugar most familiar to many is white granulated sugar. But a slightly less processed sugar, brown sugar seems like a healthier choice. Unrefined brown sugar goes by more obscure names such as muscavado, turbinado, piloncillo, or demerara. These have a richer taste, and while they do retain some of the minerals lost during regular sugar processing, any nutritional benefits are minuscule given that their use is in very small amounts. What’s more, unrefined brown sugar is still processed. Calorie wise, sugar has 15 calories per teaspoon and 45 per tablespoon. So you know molasses is a by-product of sugar processing, so despite it being less sweet, the calorie count is slightly higher than regular sugar at 60 calories a tablespoon.

Beet Sugar

You may have seen beet sugar listed on some products from health food stores, but it’s processing is similar to the way sugar cane is processed and when it comes to buying a bag of sugar, whether its from sugar cane or sugar beets source may not be discernable. The reason is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require sugar manufacturers to disclose whether sugar is from beets or sugar cane. Their website treats the two interchangeably saying, “Sucrose is obtained by crystallization from sugar cane or sugar beet juice that has been extracted by pressing or diffusion, then clarified and evaporated.”  


Honey packs 60 calories a tablespoon, but because it’s thicker and sweeter than regular sugar, it may go a little further in the way of adding flavor. A result of the difference of plants bees feed on, there are many flavors of honey such as clover, chestnut, orange blossom, wildflower, alfalfa, blueberry, and tupelo.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is one of the most expensive of sweeteners due to the limited availability of the maple tree sap, of which 80% comes from Canada, while the remaining is produced in the U.S. mostly in Vermont. The trees are tapped during a short two-month season and each gallon of pure maple syrup requires between 40 and 50 gallons of sap. On a separate note, you may be surprised to find out the syrup you use on your pancakes is nothing more than maple flavor and high fructose corn syrup. The calorie count of one teaspoon is 11 calories. Like honey, it is sweeter than regular sugar and because it is less refined, it does have small amounts of minerals and antioxidants that sugar does not.

Agave Nectar

Another sweetener is derived from the agave cactus plant and has a similar calorie count and appearance to honey. It’s said to be sweeter and more flavorful than regular sugar, but there’s not much else to this sweetener. While there is a general notion that it is healthier because of its lower glycemic index, this is due to the fact that it by nature is mostly fructose, not sucrose, and is thus metabolized differently than sucrose.

Your thoughts…

What sweeteners, if any, do you use or not use? Why or why not?


stevia, anyone? it's a plant I can grow in my garden (and indoors in a pot in the winter), and it works great in my coffee with a bit of non-fat milk.

when at all possible, i stay away from sugar of all processed forms as it exacerbates my eczema to a huge degree. ice cream at night (even three tablespoons) equals bad skin and inflammation in the morning. talk about an immediate reaction.

natural sugars occurring in fruit seem to be much easier on my skin. I'm going to have to assume that the same would be true for the rest of my body.

Sugar is a problem Some forms are digested in a better way than others, but all are ultimate lethal. Face the fact that it is bad for you and then, gradually if necessary, get off it. Looking for substitutes isn't the answer. The idea is to defeat your craving for it, which will never happens as longs as you keep finding new ways to get the sweet taste.

Ah, but for those of us with a sweet tooth the search for a natural, low-calorie sweetener will go on. Without sweet stuff I'm not sure life would be longer per se, but it would certainly feel like it...

I have tried stevia many times, and am currently trying to get used to it. I cannot have it my coffee - just too weird and slightly bitter. I put it in my green tea, which tastes weird anyway LOL.

While I have tried numerous options I recently Decided to adopt 3 policies.

1. Stick to raw time honored sweetners. Succanat, honey, maple syrup, stevia. Ocational molasses. 2. Try and fulfill sweet cravings only by use Of fruits and nataturally sweet plants Or seeds such as anise. 3. Reduce our sweet consumption by 3/4s

I have stopped using any sugar - almost! I use Stevia exclusively. 

I have been using the new light sugar by Domino - it is half regular sugar and half stevia.  It will help you get used to the taste of stevia if you are having a hard time switching.

I grew stevia this year also.  Do you dry the leaves and use them? Or do you use the root.


I LOVE STEVIA!  At first, I really didn't think much of it -- it's sweet, alright, but it has a faint bitterness that I found strange.  But, like every other taste I've had to "learn", I kept using it, and now, I really love it!

I don't like the taste of artificial sugar and heard that is not good for our brains. So I have reduce the amount of sugar I use to 1/2 tsp. I also try a sugar from India name jaggary which is full of vitamins and antioxidant.

I've been using Stevia for a few months now and I found that the taste is different between brands.  Keep trying until you find one that works for you.  Cutting out refined sugar has been fairly's the sugar in everything else

 I have taken my children and myself off sugar and have switched over to Stevia in the Raw.  We don't mind it at all.  It's sweet and makes things taste yummy.  The problem that every other thing on the planet is loaded with sugar.  It's so frustrating.   I wish there was an inexpensive way to be totally off sugar without having to make everything from scratch...(which I currently do).  I simply don't have the time to keep up with this.  I try making a lot at once and freezing things but I'm telling you...I'm about married to my kitchen.  It's getting tough to do as a widow who works...and who must solely take care of the children.

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