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, even if you have no problems yet.
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 it to taste better, we have to look for healthier and safer alternatives to sugar. And this is what we’re going to talk about in today’s article.
I will mainly focus today on the main alternatives out there on the market (or at least the ones that I consider to be main alternatives to sugar when suffering from a fatty liver): honey, stevia, brown sugar and maple syrup.
When it comes to fatty liver / NAFLD, the sugar alternatives that everybody seems to recommend online are honey and maple syrup, with Stevia being on the rise in previous years.
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 (which basically becomes sugar in your body), 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 and even though you get 18% less carbs from it, it still can’t be consumed in excess.
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 a good thing.
Also, honey is considered sweeter than sugar, so for 100 grams of sugar, the equivalent in honey would be less, reducing the amount of carbs you consume even further.
And since we should reduce these amounts by as much as possible (ideally without any added sugar or alternatives), we would indeed have a healthier option if we simply switch from sugar to honey.
Plus honey has also other nutrients, while white sugar is 100% carbs. Here are their stats compared, according to Google data:
However, there is one EXTREMELY IMPORTANT thing to know about honey: many people say that heating honey or 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 elements and enzymes are destroyed, so it is indeed best to use raw honey at low temperatures, even in your coffee or tea. In other words – don’t boil it, just to keep it safe.
If you opt to switch from refined sugar to honey (this is what I personally did), try to have some other things in mind in order to make sure that you get all the possible benefits from it:
– use less honey than sugar and always work on reducing the amount. For example, when I switch I started adding half a teaspoon of honey in my sugar (as opposed to one full teaspoon of sugar), then reduced it until today when I only add just a bit, maybe a quarter of a teaspoon, if not less.
– use raw honey or organic honey or at least try to get it from trustworthy sources. It appears that much of the honey in stores is actually fake and made with sugar, and that’s exactly what you don’t need.
If you are looking for some recommendations in terms of what honey to buy, I have those for you as well, available on Amazon: Nature Nate’s honey (affiliate link), which is raw and unfiltered honey that comes in a great package that makes it easy to use and has a great taste or YS Organic Bee Farms (affiliate link) – which is both raw and organic.
If you don’t want to buy the recommended products, always try to look out for raw honey (since that’s not processed at all) and get it from a trustworthy brand or person.
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 carbs 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.
The only problem here is that it’s usually more expensive than honey and not everybody loves the taste – or the fact that it does leave an aftertaste in coffee for example, as opposed to honey which doesn’t.
Also, the same rules that go with honey apply here as well: make sure that you buy it from a trustworthy source in order to buy the real deal and not something processed and made with sugar.
Finally, make sure that you use less of it and reduce its usage to a minimum if you get it as your preferred alternative to sugar. I personally would switch to it instead of honey, but I live in a country in Europe where it’s difficult to find and very, very expensive.
If you need some recommendations or opinions on which are the best ones to get, I would always go for organic Canadian-made Maple Syrup, just to keep it as healthy as possible for our liver: Coombs Family Farms (affiliate link) is my top choice, closely followed by Prince & Spring (affiliate link).
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Stevia
This is considered the miracle sweetener and it does sound impressive when you read about it! Said to be 200 times sweeter than white sugar and containing ZERO calories and ZERO carbs, now that’s something that sounds too good to be true!
But it is true and it seems that Stevia indeed can be considered the best 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.
The only artificial sweeteners that are considered safer are the so called alcohol sugars (which don’t have any actual alcohol in them) such as Erythritol which is usually mixed with Stevia in store-brought products.
So always read the list of ingredients on your Stevia products and make sure that you get the real deal or something you’re happy with, all things considered.
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Brown Sugar
This is the easiest to find and my first choice after being diagnosed with NAFLD – back when I didn’t know as much as I do today about sugars and carbohydrates.
Many still recommend brown sugar as a healthier white sugar alternative, but the truth is that the differences between the two are minimal even though if you have only the two to choose from, Brown Sugar (Raw Sugar as it is sometimes called) is indeed slightly better.
However, nutritionally, it’s almost the same thing: 100 grams Brown Sugar have 98 grams of carbs, while White Sugar has 100.
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. Use honey, use maple syrup or Stevia instead if you really want to make a difference.
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 our body turns them into fat – 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 based on the situation: so have some Maple Syrup, Honey and Stevia around and use the latter for baking, and alternate honey and maple syrup based on what you’re trying to sweeten.
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 with something natural, Maple Syrup comes first and Honey second in my personal chart.
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!
And if you’re still looking for that diet, make sure to check out my recommended one, the one that helped me reverse my fatty liver!