If you have been diagnosed with NAFLD (fatty liver), you probably know by now that refined sugar aka white sugar is not good for your liver – and generally not good for your health. We have talked about the amount of added sugars one should consume per day, but since completely eliminating sugar from our diet is very difficult because, well, some things really need that added sweet taste, we have to look for better, healthier and safer alternatives to sugar. When it comes to fatty liver / NAFLS, the sugar alternatives that everybody recommends are honey and maple syrup, closely followed by Stevia. Finally, some also recommend Brown Sugar or Raw Sugar as a healthier alternative. In this article, we’re going to check them all out and see which of these fatty liver sugar alternatives are better for fatty liver.
Please note: This is not an article talking about diabetes-induced fatty liver / NAFLD. If you also have diabetes, make sure that you consult a doctor before making your choices!
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Honey
This is probably the most recommended sugar alternative and everybody loves it. But even though it is indeed a lot healthier than white sugar, have in mind that it does still pack a huge punch in terms of carbohydrates (sugar), so you still can’t have unlimited quantities of it. For example, if 100 grams of sugar have 100 grams of carbs, 100 grams of honey “only” have 82 grams of carbs. No matter how you put it, that is still a lot!
However, raw numbers are not everything that matters here! The sugar in honey is absorbed slower than the white sugar, so it doesn’t have an impact as big as sugar on the Glicemic Index, which is good. Also honey is considered sweeter than sugar, so for 100 grams of sugar, the equivalent in honey would be less. And since we should reduce the amount of sugar by as much as possible (up to the point where less would mean that we couldn’t eat the foods we’re adding the sugar alternatives too), we would indeed have a healthier option. Plus honey has also other nutrients, while white sugar is 100% carbs. Here are the stats according to Google:
However, there is one EXTREMELY IMPORTANT thing to know about honey: many people say that heating honey / cooking with honey makes the honey toxic. There are also many other people who claim that this is just a myth and completely untrue, but one other thing is certain: if you use honey at high temperatures, the other nutritional facts and enzymes are destroyed, so it is indeed best to use raw honey and low temperatures, even in your coffee or tea.
If you need some recommendations, you can go to Amazon and enjoy the best honey in my opinion (raw honey): Nature Nate’s honey (comes in a great package that makes it easy to use and has a great taste) or YS Organic Bee Farms – which has the advantage of also being organic, if you care about that.
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Maple Syrup
In my opinion, Maple Syrup is a bit better than Honey because of two main reasons: it has even fewer sugar/carbs than honey and it is considered heat stable by everybody. In terms of sugar, 100 grams of Maple Syrup have 67 grams of sugar while the same amount of white sugar has 100. So Maple Syrup has 15 grams less than honey, which already makes it a better choice in my opinion. It also has all the other good minerals and antioxidants that you might want – but you can check out the complete nutritional values below:
So Maple Syrup is indeed a healthier alternative than White Sugar (and in my opinion, considering carbs alone, better than honey) – make sure you use Grade B, darker Maple Syrup as it is considered to have more antioxidants and has a sweeter, stronger taste.
If you want my recommendations, I would always go for Canadian-made Maple Syrup, and organic, just to keep it as healthy as possible for our liver: Coombs Family Farms is my top choice, closely followed by Shady Maple Tree.
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Stevia
This is considered the miracle sweetener and it does pack a punch! 200 times sweeter than white sugar and containing ZERO calories and ZERO carbs, not that’s something that sounds too good to be true. But it is true and it seems that Stevia indeed can be considered a healthy, better alternative to white sugar. It’s true, some people complain that it leaves a slightly metallic aftertaste, but that’s something you can deal with (and not everybody feels that – for example, I don’t really get that metallic aftertaste).
The only potential problem with Stevia is that there are not a lot of studies around it. There are many questions regarding potential health problems it can cause if used in large quantities or for a long time, but right now there is no actual, factual proof (that I know of) suggesting that Stevia might be unhealthy. I personally recommend it and consider it the “wonder sweetener” so you should at least give it a try.
Have in mind that since Stevia is so incredibly sweet, you need to adapt all quantities when cooking or using it. It might also be a bit problematic with some recipes that use sugar since sugar also gives volume (basically, for 200 grams of sugar, you will only use 1 gram of Stevia), but you can win that volume back by adding extra low fat yogurt or whipped egg whites. There’s a solution to anything!
When purchasing Stevia, make sure that’s what you are getting. Many brands mix it with other artificial sweeteners (to actually make it less sweet), but that would be less healthy and not an option since artificial sweeteners are considered even more dangerous than white sugar. I would personally recommend stevia powder like Kiva Organic Stevia Powder (it’s not pure stevia, which is hard to find, but is mixed with Erythritol which is NOT an artificial sweetener) or sweet drops like Sweet Leaf Liquid Stevia (which comes with a variety of natural flavors added, like coconut, peppermint, vanilla, chocolate and so on).
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Brown Sugar
The easiest to find and my first choice after being diagnosed with NAFLD. Many still recommend it as a white sugar alternative, but the truth is that the differences between Brown Sugar and White Sugar are minimal even though if you have only the two to choose from, the Brown Sugar (or Raw Sugar as it is sometimes called) is not as bad. However, nutritionally, it’s almost the same thing: 100 grams Brown Sugar have 98 grams of carbs, while White Sugar has 100 and a glicemic index identical to that of White Sugar.
Here are the complete nutritional values, if you want to check them out and compare, according to Wikipedia:
So no, the difference is too small to actually consider Brown Sugar as a healthier alternative to white sugar. It is a bit less processed, but there are way better options out there, so I would personally not recommend it.
Sugar is bad when you suffer from a fatty liver and you should eat as little as possible, no matter if we’re talking about white sugar, honey, maple syrup or other alternatives. Carbs are bad because they turn into fat as well – but unfortunately we can’t completely eliminate them from our diet (and we should not). A varied diet is the secret here and I personally believe that the best possible choice would be to mix all the alternatives and use them combined: so have some Maple Syrup, Honey and Stevia.
If you are not at all worried about Stevia (and many people claim that there are no reasons to be worried), it is the wonder sweetener and indeed the best choice. But if you want to play as safe as possible, Maple Syrup comes first and Honey second. But since they all have different antioxidants and other goodies, it’s probably best to mix them, as I said: use Maple Syrup once, use Honey the next time and son on. A varied diet is what you need and you have some healthier options to achieve that!