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 it from our diet is very difficult because, well, some things really need it to taste better, we have to look for some sugar alternatives that are fatty liver friendly.
And this is what we’re going to talk about in today’s article: the most common sugar alternatives for fatty liver, like Stevia, Honey, Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar.
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, as well as other artificial sweeteners.
Finally, some people also recommend Brown Sugar (or Raw Sugar) as a healthier alternative.
In this article, we’re going to check them all out, one by one, 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. It is sweet, tastes good and is natural.
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 as those carbs turn into sugar and cause additional damage to your liver.
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.
In other words, it’s not a bomb that explodes instantly. Instead, it slowly drips into your blood stream, causing less damage and also helping you feel fuller for longer.
Also, honey is considered sweeter than sugar. This means that half a teaspoon of honey could be just as sweet as a full teaspoon of sugar.
These are just estimates, but good to know that you can still achieve the same amount of sweetness by using a lower quantity (which already has fewer carbs!)
All in all, honey is indeed a healthier alternative to sugar if you’re suffering from a fatty liver as it instantly allows you to cut the amount of carbs you consume.
Plus, honey also has 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 during during cooking, will make it toxic. There are even studies on the matter, so it’s best not to do it.
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 or cook 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 coffee (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:
- My all time favorite, 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 also raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized.
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 sugars/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.
This means that Maple Syrup has a lot less carbs than sugar (33), but also less than honey (15). This makes it a better choice, since we should always look at ways to keep the numbers as low as possible.
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 as little of it as possible 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 so I just use it sparingly.
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 (Amazon links below):
- Coombs Family Farms (affiliate link) is my top choice, closely followed by:
- Hidden Springs Organic Maple Syrup (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.
Raw Stevia or Stevia extract is pretty difficult to find, but that is what you need to consume. I feel that it does leave a taste of tea when using it, but it’s not too bad (especially if you use it to sweeten tea!)
Below is my go-to Stevia brand you can get from Amazon, followed by an alternative:
- Pure Stevia Powder (affiliate link) IMPORTANT: 1 spoon of this Stevia powder = 1 spoon of sugar!
- Now Stevia Powder (affiliate link) IMPORTANT: 1 tsp = 1/2 cup sugar!
Fatty liver sugar alternative: Brown Sugar
This is the easiest to find and it was 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 and stay away from both white sugar, as well as brown sugar (or raw sugar or whatever it is called).
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 have no problems with Stevia and its aftertaste (try it out first as not all people feel that aftertaste), then it could be considered the best option of them all, as it has 0 carbs and sugars.
But if you want to play as safe as possible with something natural, Maple Syrup comes first and Honey second in my personal chart.
Since these two 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 so on. A varied diet is what you need and you have some healthier options to achieve that!
We have already talked about another safe alternative to sugar in the article about erythritol and fatty liver – an in depth look that you should check out as well if you want another option to add to your list.
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!
I was diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014 and managed to reverse it by mid 2015. Since then, I’ve been studying NAFLD and I have decided to share everything I have learned over the years to help you reverse your condition.
I am also the admin of the Fatty Liver Support Group on Facebook and the Fatty Liver Subreddit.
25 thoughts on “Fatty Liver Sugar Alternatives: Are Honey, Maple Syrup, Stevia or Brown Sugar Better?”
I’m sorry, but your section on brown sugar is not only misleading, it is factually incorrect. Brown sugar (products sold in stores under the label “brown sugar”) is NOT the same thing as raw sugar or the brand name “Sugar in the Raw”. While those products do have a brownish color, products sold under the name “brown sugar” are nothing more than white refined sugar with molasses added for color and flavor. It is every bit as unhealthy as regular white table sugar, because that’s what it is with added molasses.
Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world and it is impossible for me to know how each company chooses to call sugars (and do so trying to mislead people into thinking that they are eating something else). The only way to be 100% sure that you are indeed buying what you are hoping you are is by reading the list of ingredients.
Regarding what I have said, Brown sugar is in my country and the countries that I have visited different than white sugar with added molasses… but in the end they are so similar that it’s best to choose one of the other alternatives 🙂
This was a great post.
About the previous comment, if a product is labeled brown sugar while it is white sugar with added molasses, it can be misleading. Buyers expect raw sugar when they see brown sugar. But this aside I think that the main ingredients of raw and brown sugar are molasses and sugar anyways. The amount of other ingredients it raw sugar doesn’t seem to be material. Though I read somewhere that it has chromium which is a necessary element.
How about coconut sugar?
Speaking of molasses, what is it’s impact to a fatty liver. Being a derivative of sugar but having more nutrition, I was wondering if it can be considered. I use it in coffee, cocoa, beans and certain teas because a little goes a long way in flavor.
Pure molases could be considered an alternative. As always, keep the quantities as low as possible when using it or any other sugar substitute.
Seeing a lot of cane sugar listed as an ingredient in drinks. Where does that fall in the danger zone? I was just diagnosed with fatty liver after a lifetime of living on Dr. Pepper. I am using iced tea with Stevia as a replacement, along with more water, but am curious about some of the “healthy” brands like Odwalla where I see cane sugar listed. Is this the enemy as well?
Unfortunately, there is almost no difference between cane sugar and regular sugar, so yes, it is unfortunately in the red zone.
I use a stevia erythritol blend, I am wondering if erythritol is bad for fatty liver disease because it is a sugar alcohol.
Although an “alcohol,” it doesn’t have anything in common with the alcohol that we’re not allowed to have. And yes, out of the sugar substitutes, the sugar alcohols (including erythritol) are considered safe.
I would still go with a pure stevia extract (if you check the ingredients on your product, you will probably see that it has less than 1% stevia and the rest erythritol)… but if that’s not available, this one should be good as well.
When Stevia became popular, I tried it and immediately experienced terrible intestinal discomfort. So it was crossed off my list. The sugar alcohols seem to be a good choice for many, but it should be noted that consumption of even a small amount can be lethal to dogs and cats. This is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Some people do not keep any sugar alcohols around the house for this very reason.
Maple syrup sounds about the best of the group. Organic syrup is very expensive but then again, if used sparingly it should be something to “invest” in.
What about coconut sugar? Many people are not even aware of its existence. It is made from the nectar of the coconut flower. The taste is similar to brown sugar and takes some getting used to in coffee. But I’ve been drinking coffee for quite a while with this sugar and have grown used to the taste.
A good summary of the “sugars”. It is always important to read labels and know exactly what we are eating. Thanks for the information.
Thanks for the additional details, Sharon! Very useful information. I don’t have pets that could be affected by the sugar alcohols, so I had no idea how much of a danger they pose to cats and dogs. Good to know!
I didn’t look into coconut sugar too much, to be honest, but I checked it now and it 94% of it is sugar… which is nowhere near maple syrup, but definitely better than sugar. And if it has some of that coconut flavor, I can see it improving the taste of many products you’d use it in.
None of them are good for your liver. Per my doctor, they are all high on the Glycemic Index. Stick to Stevia ONLY!
Anything ending in -ose is not good for the liver, except natural fructose in the whole fruit – not dried, etc.
Is xylitol ok for a fatty liver? My husband is a diabetic and just told he has a fatty liver. HELP! I need some tips!!
Yes, although erythritol or stevia might be better choices as they don’t come with the potential side effects xylitol does (which are minor anyway).
Thanks so much these were the answers i was looking for i wanted to ask,
is it better to get pure erythritol then stevia? because i heard stevia has that strange after taste so thats why im wanting to have pure erythritol, since i heard it doesnt have the bad after taste
I would love to hear your thoughts on two other natural sweeteners. 100% Pure Yacon Syrup and Monkfruit sweetener. I have used the Yacon Syrup and it’s great to sweeten tea or oatmeal. It’s similar in flavor to a maple syrup. It is very high in fiber so very little of it affects the blood sugars. You can read more about it here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-yacon-syrup-work#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
I have used Lakanto Monkfruit sweetener as well as a few products (like chocolate ships) made by Lakanto. I find the sweetener not as sweet as I would like… but I just use more of it… and the chocolate chips (while very expensive) were amazing! “Monk fruit and stevia are both no calorie sweeteners. They have zero impact on your blood sugar levels, and they possess similar health benefits. When choosing between monk fruit and stevia, you should also think about whether you’re allergic to any members of the gourd family of fruits.” I am not sure how to find out if either of these are safe for people with fatty liver so I would love your input.
I have limited knowledge about Monk fruit – I just heard about it, but never found it so simply skipped it. It’s the first time I hear about the Yakon syrup so unfortunately I can’t be of much help now.
I used Stevia extract for a short time until I learned that it could possibly be very bad for my kidneys. Is that true?
Apart from the random rumor about it, I found no studies to back up that claim.
I stopped using Stevia ( I used to use the pure form) it gave me really bad gut issues and triggered my IBS. I now use Simply Monk Fruit it has 25% Mongroside V and I have not had any problems. I researched the different monkfruit sweeteners and feel that one is the best and does not have additives.
The science seems to say other about Stevia. Interesting read …
I was diagnosed with NSFLD last fall. I also was pre-diabetic, have high cholesterol, and my WBC was a 4 (this is genetic, always low). This was after I had lost weight and have a normal BMI.
I tracked everything I ate before that blood test (for about 6 months), so when I looked back I saw that I was eating way too much sugar (hidden in yogurt and “healthy” breakfast bars). So, I cut way back on the sugar and replaced it with stevia (which I always used but I increased it).
My last blood test (after 3 months) showed good blood levels (no longer prediabetic), but my liver fat was higher and my WBC was even lower (a 2). Then I found this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7584803/
It turns out, in mice, stevia makes liver more fatty and (in female mice) it drastically lowered white blood cell counts. Exactly what I saw in my blood work. Strangely, there’s many articles saying that stevia reduced fatty liver, but I’m thinking there’s a mistake in that assertion.
I personally use Stevia regularly, without similar problems to those mentioned. It only proves that more studies need to be made – and on humans too – in order to draw a conclusion.
Either way, in your case, I would definitely stay away from Stevia at least for a few months to see if that’s indeed what’s causing the problems. Anything that harms you should be taken off the allowed list, even if it has the opposite effects on anybody else.