Coffee has become one of the most popular beverages in the world, with 50% of the American population drinking it daily. However, the bitter taste of coffee can be off-putting for some people, which is why many opt to add sugar.
While adding sugar is the most common way to sweeten coffee, sugar also brings with it a host of health concerns. Sugar is high in calories and can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
Fortunately, there are many ways to sweeten coffee without using sugar. Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives that will still give you that sweet coffee fix without all the health concerns.
Coffee and Sugar: At a Glance
Before we dive into the alternatives, let’s take a quick look at coffee and sugar and why you might want to consider giving up the sweet stuff.
Coffee naturally has some bitter flavor notes because of the compounds that give it its unique flavor. These compounds, known as coffee oils, are soluble in water, which is why we can extract them when making coffee.
The coffee oils comprise several different molecules, including coffee acids. The most common coffee acid is chlorogenic acid, which is responsible for the bitter taste of coffee.
Why Avoid Sugar?
Sugar is added to coffee to offset the bitterness and give it a sweet flavor. However, refined sugar is also high in calories and has been linked to a number of health concerns, including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
Studies have shown that regularly consuming sugar-sweetened beverages can increase your risk of these health conditions. For example, one study found that people who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day had a roughly 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t drink any sugary drinks.
The following table breaks down the sugar content of a cup of coffee with and without white sugar:
|Nutrients||Coffee With Sugar||Coffee Without Sugar|
|Calories||29 Kcal||2 Kcal|
As you can see, adding processed sugar to your coffee can significantly increase the number of calories you’re consuming. And while sugar doesn’t contain any fat, it can contribute to weight gain if you consume too much of it.
The 10 Best Alternatives to Sugar in Coffee
So, what are the best alternatives to sugar in coffee? Let’s take a look at a few of them.
When it comes to alternatives to sugar in coffee, honey is one of the best. Honey is a natural sweetener that is high in antioxidants and has a host of other health benefits.
One of the reasons honey makes such a great alternative to sugar is because it is an antimicrobial agent. This means that it can help kill bacteria and viruses in the body. In fact, honey has been shown to be effective against a wide range of bacteria, including E. coli and MRSA.
Honey is also high in antioxidants, which can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Honey also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is thought to play a role in many chronic diseases, so reducing inflammation can benefit your health.
Benefits aside, the naturally sweet taste of honey makes it a great alternative to sugar in coffee. And because honey is sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it to achieve the same level of sweetness.
Maple syrup is another natural sweetener that you can use in coffee instead of sugar. Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees and is a source of several vitamins and minerals, including calcium and potassium.
Like honey, maple syrup is also high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, maple syrup contains compounds that can help boost brain function and memory.
Maple syrup is also a good source of manganese, a mineral that plays a role in bone health, energy production, and antioxidant defense.
The sweet taste of maple syrup makes it an excellent alternative to sugar in coffee. Although it is a bit more expensive than sugar, the health benefits of maple syrup make it worth the extra cost. Make sure to always pick the maple syrup that is not diluted with high fructose corn syrup.
Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that comes from the stevia plant and is often used as a sugar substitute. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar but contains virtually no calories. Additionally, stevia has been shown to have a number of health benefits.
For example, stevia has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This is important because high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, stevia has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These effects are thought to be due, in part, to the fact that stevia contains antioxidants.
The taste of stevia can be a bit off-putting for some people. However, it is generally well-tolerated and considered safe for most people to consume.
Vanilla extract is another sugar substitute. Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol, which extracts the flavor from the beans. The resulting liquid is then concentrated and bottled.
Vanilla extract has a sweet, rich flavor that can help mask the bitterness of coffee. Additionally, vanilla extract contains antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. This means that it can help reduce inflammation and protect against damage caused by free radicals.
Being a staple flavor in many desserts, it’s no surprise that vanilla extract can help make coffee taste sweeter. However, because vanilla extract is a concentrated flavor, it’s important to use it sparingly. A little goes a long way with this one.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been used for centuries in both cooking and traditional medicine. Cinnamon has a sweet, warm flavor that can help mask the bitterness of coffee. Additionally, cinnamon contains antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-lowering effects.
One study found that cinnamon was able to significantly lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. This is done by imitating insulin’s ability to move sugar into the cells, where it can be used for energy.
Cinnamon can also help reduce inflammation in the body. This is important because chronic inflammation has been linked to several diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
While the flavor of cinnamon may remind you of fall and winter, it’s actually a great addition to coffee all year round. Adding a dash of cinnamon to your coffee can help enhance the flavor and aroma while providing some health benefits.
Agave nectar or syrup is another popular alternative to sugar in coffee. Agave is made from the sap of the agave plant and has a consistency similar to honey.
Agave is a high-fructose sweetener, which means it’s sweeter than sugar but contains fewer calories. Additionally, this caramel aftertaste has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
While agave may be a healthier alternative to sugar, people with fructose sensitivity should avoid it. Additionally, agave is still a source of sugar, so it’s best to use it in moderation.
To sweeten your coffee with agave, simply add a few drops to taste. Start with a small amount and increase it until you achieve the desired sweetness.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Unsweetened cocoa powder is an excellent option if you’re looking for a way to sweeten coffee without sugar. Cocoa powder is made from the beans of the cocoa tree and is rich in antioxidants, minerals, and fiber.
Cocoa powder can help improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow. The flavonoids in cocoa powder have also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve brain function.
Additionally, like honey, cocoa powder is a natural source of antioxidants. These compounds can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Since unsweetened cocoa powder is, well, unsweetened, it won’t add any sugar to your coffee. However, the cocoa flavor will add a richness and depth of flavor to your coffee that sugar simply can’t match.
Add a spoonful of cocoa powder to your coffee and enjoy the sweetness and health benefits it provides.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative to milk in your coffee that’ll also help cut down on sugar, consider using plant-based milk. Plant-based milk is made from various sources, including almonds, cashews, soy, rice, and coconuts.
Plant-based milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and it’s also low in calories and fat. Plus, many types of plant-based milk are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.
When it comes to sweetness, plant-based milk can vary. Some brands of plant-based milk, like almond milk, are unsweetened. Others, like soy milk, are sweetened with sugar or other sweeteners.
All in all, with a nutty or creamy flavor, plant-based milk makes a great alternative to cow’s milk in coffee. Just be sure to check the label to make sure you’re not getting too much sugar.
Coconut has become a universal health food in recent years, be it coconut cream, milk, oil, or water. Coconut sugar is another product made from this versatile fruit that can be used as a sugar alternative.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree and has a sweetness and flavor similar to brown sugar. However, it’s lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar, meaning it won’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Coconut sugar also contains a few nutrients that regular sugar doesn’t have, including iron, zinc, and calcium. Additionally, it’s a good source of fiber, which can help improve digestion.
To use coconut sugar in coffee, simply add a spoonful to taste. Coconut sugar can also be used in baking or to sweeten other beverages.
Jaggery is a type of unrefined sugar made from the sap of various sugarcane plants, such as date palms, sorghum, or sugar beet. Jaggery has a deep brown color and a thick, sticky consistency.
This sugar alternative is rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Additionally, jaggery contains antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.
Jaggery has a strong, molasses-like flavor that can be overwhelming if you’re not used to it. However, when used in small amounts, it can add a delicious depth of flavor to coffee.
To sweeten your coffee with jaggery, simply add a small piece to taste. You can also grate or powder the jaggery to make it easier to add to your coffee.
What is the Best Way To Sweeten Your Coffee Without Sugar?
As you can see, there are plenty of healthy and delicious options to choose from. And, of course, feel free to add a little milk or cream to round out the flavor. Simply experiment with different sugar alternatives until you find one that you like.
What About Artificial Sweeteners?
If you’re looking for a way to sweeten coffee without using sugar, you may be tempted to reach for artificial coffee sweeteners. After all, these sugar substitutes are often advertised as being calorie-free.
However, while artificial sweeteners may be calorie-free, they’re not necessarily healthy.
Some artificial sweeteners, like acesulfame-K and aspartame, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Additionally, these sweeteners can allegedly disrupt your gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and weight gain.
Many artificial sweeteners also have a bitter aftertaste that can ruin the flavor of your coffee. For this reason, it’s best to avoid them if possible.
There you have it, some best alternatives to sugar and ways that you can use to sweeten your coffee. So next time you’re looking for a way to cut down on sugar, be sure to give one of these options a try. Your taste buds (and your health) will thank you!