Let’s carefully look at four popular “healthy sugars” to determine whether they offer benefits or just hype.

Honey

“Honey also has trace elements in it — stuff that bees picked up while going from plant to plant,” writes Keith Kantor, Ph.D. “These will depend on region, so depending on the source of your honey it could have varying small amounts of minerals like zinc and selenium, as well as some vitamins. And because honey doesn’t break down in nature, it doesn’t contain preservatives or other additives.”

Quality and quantity matter here. For immune responses to mold and dust, organic honey can strengthen your immune system, but even then only about half a teaspoon can do the job.

coconut sugars photo

Photo by cheeseslave

Coconut Sugar

Compared with table and brown sugars, coconut sugar has impressive amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron as well as antioxidants.

Coconut sugar also contains good amounts of inulin, a type of dietary fiber you don’t digest in your upper gastrointestinal tract. Instead, inulin acts as a prebiotic, feeding your intestinal bifidobacteria (a probiotic).

Like honey, coconut sugar becomes dose dependent. A little provides some nutrients, but this is not a by-the-heaping-teaspoon type of sweetener, especially if you have blood sugar issues.

Agave

Why this sweetener still gets any “healthy” press is a testimony to its “triumph of marketing over science,” as Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., brilliantly says.

“Most agave ‘nectar’ or agave ‘syrup’ is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, and offering you metabolic misfortune in its place,” writes Dr. Joseph Mercola.

Steer far, far away from agave as a sweetener.

Yacón Syrup

Yacón syrup is derived from the yacón plant indigenous to the Andes mountains. The plant’s shape resembles a yam or sweet potato.

About 50 percent of Yacón syrup consists of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), or short chains of fructose molecules, which naturally occur in foods like onions and garlic. Like inulin (also found in Yacón), FOS is indigestible and performs as a prebiotic.

Despite that small study, I’m not so eager to jump on the Yacón syrup train. FOS and inulin benefits aside, its fructose makes Yacón syrup another dose-dependent sweetener. A little bit might provide benefits, but too much can provide a fructose overload. I definitely wouldn’t consider it a fat loss miracle sweetener.

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Photo by tellumo

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