Helen Pensanti, M.D.

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Use Healthy Sweetners Instead of Sugar!!

Simple white sugar in our diet contributes to diabetes, cavities, obesity, depression, recurrent yeast infections, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, arthritis, immune system problems and even cancer.

A recent study by the American Heart Association now says that a high sugar diet contributes to an elevated risk of heart disease. It does this because sugar lowers HDL (good cholesterol) and may raise triglycerides.

As we all know sugar consumption is very high in America. The average is about 20 teaspoons a day. If you insist on continuing to use white sugar, you can simply use LESS of it. When baking cakes, cut sugar to ½ cup per cup of flour. For muffins, use 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of flour. For puddings, custards, and cooked fruits, decrease sugar by 1/3. To compensate for less sugar, add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Consider replacing chocolate with carob.


  1. STEVIA—Stevia is an herb native to Paraguay. It’s a great sweetener for hot or cold beverages. It can also be used in baking. It is very concentrated so not as much is needed in recipes as sugar. Stevia is sold as an herbal supplement in powder or liquid form. It is not FDA approved yet, but millions of people in Japan have had no ill effects for the past 30 years with the use of Stevia.
  2. XYLITOL—Xylitol is a white crystalline powder that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and human tissue. A commercial form is made from birch and other hardwood trees. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than sugar and actually inhibits the grown of bacteria that causes cavities. If you bake with Xylitol, substitute it for ½ the amount of sugar you would normally use. Do not use it to bake bread because yeast cannot metabolize it. A small percentage of people get diarrhea when they first start using Xylitol, but you can avoid this by phasing it gradually into your diet.
  3. SUCRALOSE—Sucralose is a white powder that is chemically derived from sugar. It is probably the most versatile alternative because it can be used “straight” in baking. Also the body does not recognize it as food, so it passes right out of your system in your urine, so it has essentially no calories. It does not cause cavities. Sucralose has been linked to toxicity in animal studies, but scientists say it is safe for humans.
  4. DATE SUGAR—Date sugar is a product that is derived from dehydrated dates. It is great for baking. Because it is a complex sugar, it does not cause the same spike in blood glucose that white sugar does. It also retains the vitamins, minerals and fiber that are stripped from refined sugar. However, it still raises blood sugar levels, is not low in calories, and does not dissolve well in drinks.
  5. BROWN RICE SYRUP—Brown rice syrup is a sugar made by culturing brown rice with enzymes to break down the starches, then straining off the liquid and cooking it. It is best used as a sweetener for beverages or wet desserts like puddings. Made of 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, 3% glucose, so more gradually absorbed into blood stream than white sugar. It is very moist, so not ideal for use in baking.
  6. HONEY—Honey is a whole food made by bees from flower nectar. It requires little or no refining, so contains vitamins and minerals not present in table sugar. Recent studies have shown it contains low to moderate levels of antioxidants-- the darker the honey, the higher the level of antioxidants. Unfortunately, it is not much better for you than sugar, and it actually has higher calories than sugar. The body metabolizes it in the same way. NEVER feed uncooked honey to infants under 12 months old. Their digestive systems are too immature to fight off the trace botulism spores that may be present.
  7. UNREFINED OR RAW SUGAR—Organically grown or dehydrated cane juice has not been stripped of vitamins or minerals. It is less likely to cause cavities. Though brown in color, it is not like refined brown sugar which is made by combining white refined sugar with molasses. Use in cooking exactly the way you would use white sugar. Unrefined raw sugar can cause the same rise in blood sugar as white sugar, so diabetics beware of it.

Since almost all of us love sweets, here is an idea for making healthier chocolate chip cookies from Dr. Ray Sahelian’s book, “The Stevia Cookbook.”


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon stevia powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, and set aside.

Place the egg, stevia, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or a mixer. Slowly add the butter, continuing to beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixtures, ½ cup at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Fold in the chocolate chips. For even less sugar intake, you can substitute ½ cup carob chips and ½ cup raisins if you so desire. Drop heaping teaspoons of batter on the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown. Yields about 4 dozen delicious cookies!

So as you can see there are ways to have your treats and still cut way down on your consumption of white sugar.


Helen Pensanti M.D.

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