10 best sweeteners for tea
Love to sweeten your tea, but don’t want to (or can’t) take basic table sugar with it?
Perhaps you are on a low-carb diet or want to reduce your sugar intake and switch to a healthier alternative.
Maybe you just are bored with the taste of table sugar (sucrose), and want to try something different.
Regardless of why you want to get away from table sugar, you don’t need it to enjoy sweetened tea. There are plenty of alternatives. Some of them are alternative types of sugar, while others are not sugar at all. Let’s check out the 10 best sweeteners for tea now!
Honey won't get you away from carbohydrates, and like sugar, it consists of fructose and glucose. Indeed, it mostly is a form of sugar. Nevertheless, it is an alternative to table sugar that is worth considering.
One great thing about honey is that it is natural, and a little bit goes a long way.
Another advantage is that your body may have an easier time digesting honey than table sugar.
Also, intriguingly enough, honey might have benefits for people with type 1 diabetes. Honey doesn’t cause a blood sugar spike like table sugar does because of how our body processes fructose. Fructose goes straight to the liver to be processed and does not make insulin spike.
Finally, even though honey consists mostly of sugar, it is not entirely sugar. There are some vitamins and minerals in honey, which can be beneficial to your health.
Many people also enjoy the taste of honey in tea, and may prefer it to the taste of tea that has been sweetened with table sugar.
- Honey includes some vitamins and minerals.
- Honey may be easier to digest than table sugar.
- The flavor of honey and its smooth texture are appealing.
- Honey may be a better option than sugar when it comes to glycemic effect.
- You only need a little bit of honey to confer considerable sweetness on a cup of tea
- Honey is still basically sugar, and as such, is high in carbohydrates.
- It can be expensive to buy high-quality honey.
Honey doesn’t work as an alternative to table sugar if your goal is to get away from sugar altogether. But if you just want a healthier kind of sugar and/or a different flavor, it can be a good option.
2. Maple Syrup
Just as honey is a delicious natural alternative to table sugar, so is maple syrup.
Around two-thirds of the volume of maple syrup is sucrose, so that means that you are still eating sugar when you eat maple syrup.
But like honey, maple syrup also includes some nutrients such as zinc and manganese. Along with healthy minerals, it is rich in antioxidants.
That being said, the antioxidant content is pretty low when you consider it with respect to the sucrose. You would have to eat an unhealthy amount of maple syrup to get a large serving of antioxidants.
There is another advantage that maple syrup can boast over table sugar as well, which is a lower glycemic index (around 54, as compared to 65).
So, while it will still raise your blood sugar, it may not spike it as rapidly as table sugar.
- Maple syrup is delicious, and can add flavor to your tea.
- There are some beneficial minerals and antioxidants in maple syrup.
- Maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than table sugar.
- Maple syrup still consists mostly of sugar, and thus is high in carbs and calories.
- The concentration of antioxidants in maple syrup is too low to get a significant benefit from consuming it.
As with honey, maple syrup is a type of sugar, so it will not get you away from carbohydrates or calories. Even so, just like with honey, you are at least getting a little extra nutrition. Plus, the lower glycemic index may be helpful.
3. Coconut Sugar
Another type of sugar you can use to sweeten your tea is “coconut sugar” or “coconut palm sugar.”
It is not “palm sugar,” which is something else altogether.
The granulated sugar has an appearance that is similar to raw sugar, but it is made by heating liquid sap from coconut palm trees.
Once again, you are still eating sugar, so this is not a way to avoid the drawbacks of high amounts of carbs or calories.
But you will be consuming some potassium, calcium, zinc and iron. With these minerals also are some antioxidants and polyphenols.
Once again, the concentration of these nutrients is low. So, their benefit is modest at best.
Furthermore, the inulin content of coconut sugar is the likely mechanism for its reduced glycemic index in comparison to regular sugar. Inulin is a type of fiber that helps support the healthy bacteria in our gut - known as a prebiotic. Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugar, which helps to avoid blood sugar spikes.
One last thing to know about coconut sugar is that there has been some dubious marketing around it in recent years.
An argument can be made that coconut sugar is superior to table sugar because of its extra nutritional content.
But you will sometimes see people saying that there is no fructose in coconut sugar, and that is simply not true. A significant amount of coconut sugar consists of fructose. Indeed, about 30-40% of it is comprised of it.
- Coconut sugar contains added nutrition, just like honey or maple syrup.
- The glycemic index of coconut sugar is superior to that of table sugar.
- Coconut sugar is still basically sugar, complete with the high carbs/calories table sugar contains.
- Some of the marketing language promoting coconut sugar may be misleading.
- The additional nutrition in coconut sugar is at a low concentration.
Coconut sugar is arguably better than table sugar because of the nutrients it contains. However, the benefit is a mild one, as coconut sugar is still equivalent to regular sugar.
Backstrap molasses is a sugar cane product, but it is one that has a lower amount of sugar in it than any other.
On top of that, you can get vitamin B6, iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium from eating molasses.
A single tablespoon of molasses contains:
- 4% of your daily recommended calcium.
- 5% of your daily recommended iron.
- 8% percent of your daily recommended potassium.
- 12% of your daily recommended magnesium.
- 5% of your daily recommended selenium.
- 5% of your daily recommended copper.
- 15% of your daily recommended manganese.
There is 11.1g of sugar in a tablespoon of molasses. The glycemic index is just 44.
- Molasses are a dense source for several essential nutrients. Even if all you eat is a tablespoon, you are getting a pretty high dose of minerals.
- The glycemic index for molasses is significantly lower than that of table sugar.
- Molasses still contains a high amount of sugar, so you have to moderate your intake of it.
You don’t have to eat heaps of molasses to get a suitable dose of potassium, iron, calcium, and other vital nutrients.
You’ll still be putting sugar in your tea, but you’ll get some substantial health benefits along the way.
So, if you are keen on sweetening your tea with some form of sugar, molasses is one of the best options out there.
5. Date Paste
Another idea for naturally sweetening your tea is to try adding date paste.
To make date paste, you need to remove the pits from dates and add them to a food processor along with some water.
Once you have processed the dates into a paste, you can store it in your refrigerator.
Dates are a great source of several key nutrients. One date contains:
- 2% of your daily recommended calcium.
- 3% of your daily recommended magnesium.
- 5% of your daily recommended potassium.
- 3% of your daily recommended vitamin B6.
- 2% of your daily recommended niacin.
- 2% of your daily recommended pantothenic acid.
- 4% of your daily recommended copper.
- 4% of your daily recommended manganese.
Additionally, there are healthy antioxidants in dates.
There are 16g of sugar in a date, 1.6g of which are healthy dietary fiber.
The glycemic index for dates depends on what type you use, but they can land anywhere in the range of 44-53 or thereabouts.
- Dates are delicious and rich in nutrition.
- Dates are still high in sugar, so they will still impact your caloric/carb intake.
- It can be hard to know what the glycemic index for the dates you are eating might be since there is a range.
- You need to make sure that you do a good job blending the dates or the paste could have a weird texture.
If you enjoy eating dates, you can blend them into a paste to use in your tea in lieu of table sugar.
Although the glycemic index has a range, on the lower side, it is a solid improvement over that of table sugar. Plus, you get some extra nutrition that you would not get from eating regular sugar.
Despite the unusual-sounding name, xylitol is an entirely natural sweetener. Indeed, it is derived from plants, and is a sugar alcohol.
Research suggests that those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic might benefit from replacing table sugar with xylitol.
According to this study, “xylitol can be a better sweetener than sucrose to maintain diabetes-related parameters at a physiologically safer and stable condition.”
Interestingly, xylitol also appears to have benefits for oral hygiene. It can help fight harmful bacteria, and can even do so without harming beneficial bacteria.
Another really amazing potential benefit of xylitol is in preventing certain types of infections.
Here is a study where researchers found that “there is fair evidence to show that a daily dose 8.4 g of xylitol (two pieces of chewing gum, five times a day after meals for at least five minutes) can prevent acute middle ear infection (acute otitis media (AOM)) in children without acute upper respiratory infections attending day care centres.”
Along with all of these benefits, xylitol is significantly lower in calories than regular sugar.
Does xylitol have any drawbacks? Xylitol can act as a laxative. So, if you are constipated, that could be a plus. But if you are not, and you are highly sensitive to the laxative effects, that could cause some issues.
While some people do not like xylitol because of digestive effects, many people have zero digestive symptoms from eating it.
Another potential problem with xylitol isn’t with xylitol itself, but where it sometimes comes from.
Xylitol may be made from corn or corn cobs.
Corn, too, is not unhealthy by default, but the way it is grown often is.
This vegetable is particularly notorious for being sprayed with Roundup, which is carcinogenic.
Is there any Roundup in xylitol? Research is needed to determine whether any of it remains in the finished product or not.
If you want to avoid this issue altogether, check the xylitol source before choosing a brand, and go with that that comes from birch.
- Xylitol is an entirely natural sweetener that is much lower in calories than conventional sugar.
- If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, you can eat xylitol without endangering your health.
- Xylitol has benefits for oral health and may help protect your teeth and gums.
- Consuming xylitol may help to prevent certain types of infections.
- Xylitol may cause digestive issues for some people, namely by acting as a laxative.
- Sometimes xylitol is derived from corn or corn cobs, which raises a concern regarding the possible presence of Roundup.
As long as you are purchasing xylitol that comes from a healthy source (i.e. birch, not corn grown with Roundup), it can be one of the best sweeteners to use in your tea. It is low in calories, safe for those with diabetes, and may have additional benefits for your health.
Another sugar alcohol that is similar to xylitol, Erythritol is made using either corn or wheat starch.
Its flavor is comparable to that of stevia, but sweeter. Indeed, some people also draw comparisons directly to table sugar in terms of taste.
While xylitol is low in calories (a gram contains 2.4 calories), erythritol is even lower in calories, with just 0.24 calories per gram.
As with xylitol, erythritol can cause digestive issues for some people, but many people can enjoy it without these side effects.
It is another good option for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes since it does not alter blood sugar. It also has no negative impact on any other aspect of cardiovascular health.
It may even have cardiovascular health benefits. According to this study, "Erythritol consumption acutely improved small vessel endothelial function, and chronic treatment reduced central aortic stiffness. Erythritol may be a preferred sugar substitute for patients with diabetes mellitus.”
Also, like xylitol, erythritol can benefit more hygiene. Indeed, it may have an even more substantial protective effect than xylitol, according to this research.
- While erythritol is high in sweetness, it is almost calorie-free.
- Consuming erythritol has no impact on your insulin levels or blood glucose.
- Erythritol is even better for your dental health than xylitol.
- There may be cardiovascular benefits of eating erythritol, but research is still in the early stages.
- Erythritol derived from corn may be a concern because of the use of Roundup.
- Some people might experience digestive discomfort when using erythritol.
Erythritol, similar to xylitol, offers you a way to sweeten your tea without worrying about calories or blood sugar. It is also good for oral hygiene, and might have cardiovascular benefits, making it one of the best options on this list.
Also, note that some sweeteners consist of a combination of stevia and erythritol. The erythritol helps to balance out the bitterness in the stevia.
As you might have guessed from its name, sorbitol is yet another sugar alcohol you can consider using as a sweetener in your tea.
The calorie content of sorbitol is roughly a third of that of table sugar. It is a little bit less sweet than erythritol.
As is true with other sugar alcohols, digestive discomfort is possible for some people, but the majority can enjoy it without side effects.
- Sorbitol is lower in calories than table sugar, making it a healthier alternative.
- Some people may have digestive symptoms after consuming sorbitol.
Sorbitol is yet another sugar alcohol to consider as an alternative sweetener for your tea.
9. Yacón syrup
One of the lesser-known sweeteners that you can add to your tea is yacón syrup, made from an extract from the yacón plant’s roots.
The use of yacón syrup as a sweetener dates back centuries. Today, it is most prevalent in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.
Wondering how yacón syrup tastes? The flavor is comparable to honey or maple syrup. Some people say that it has a caramel-y taste.
While there is some fructose in yacón syrup, it is relatively low in sugar and calories, and has a glycemic index of around 40-44.
There is some research that suggests that consuming this syrup can increase satiety, and potentially help decrease body weight, body mass index and waist circumference.
- Yacón syrup’s lower sugar and calorie content and glycemic index make it preferable to table sugar.
- Some research indicates that there may be some benefits for weight loss associated with eating yacón syrup.
- In some countries, you may have difficulty locating this syrup.
- The syrup does have some fructose in it.
While yacón syrup will not fully get you away from fructose, it may still be an excellent alternative to regular table sugar. The biggest drawback is that you may not find any for sale where you live.
One more sweetener you can use in your tea as an alternative to table sugar is stevia
This extract comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Its history of use dates back centuries among indigenous peoples of South America.
The glycoside compounds in stevia are incredibly sweet. As such, just a tiny bit of stevia can provide you with sweetness that is comparable to a much more considerable amount of sugar.
Popularized in Japan in the 70s, stevia is now available globally in supermarkets.
Stevia is virtually calorie-free, and actually provides you with a little bit of protein, crude fiber and ash.
Research shows that regular stevia use may lead to significant improvements concerning blood pressure.
The study linked above also notes benefits for heart health.
Here is some research that shows that you might be able to reduce your oxidized LDL cholesterol levels with stevia.
That means that if you are looking for a sugar alternative to prevent diabetes or avoid making it worse, stevia may be one of your ideal options.
Additionally, stevia may help fight inflammation.
So, are there any negatives that go with stevia?
Some people don’t like stevia’s flavor because it has a bitter edge, despite being a sweetener.
The trick to dealing with this is usually to make sure you aren’t using too much, which is a common beginner’s mistake. Use less than you think you might need to start, and check your tea. Once it is sweet enough, stop. If you keep adding more, you’ll taste the bitterness.
You will also likely find that over time, you get used to the different taste of stevia, and soon don’t notice it much.
The other thing to be wary of is products on the shelves that pose as pure stevia, but actually contain unwanted additives. Others may have been put through an excessive amount of processing.
Go for a stevia extract or green leaf product, and do your research on different brands before you make your selection.
- Stevia contains almost no calories.
- This all-natural sweetener may have benefits for blood sugar, cholesterol, heart health and inflammation.
- A tiny bit of stevia goes a long way. So, while a container of stevia may look expensive, you will discover it can be cost-effective.
- Stevia lacks the possible digestive side effects that are common with sugar alcohols.
- Stevia has taste, which is both sweet and bitter. The bitterness becomes most apparent if you use too much.
- You may need to do some research to find a pure stevia product that hasn’t been processed questionably..
For many people, stevia is the ideal answer for finding an alternative sweetener for tea and coffee. It boasts many benefits and very few potential drawbacks. Once you locate a high-quality stevia product, you probably won’t find yourself missing sugar anytime soon.
You Don’t Need Table Sugar to Sweeten Your Tea
As you can see, there are many different options for sweetening your tea that go beyond regular table sugar.
Whether your goal is to switch to something more flavorful than table sugar, try something that includes additional nutrients, or get away from sugar of any variety, you have multiple options to consider.
Any of these ten best sweeteners for tea can provide you with a satisfying, sweet taste that you love, enhancing every cup.