Fatty Liver Foods & Diet

Fatty Liver Sugar Alternatives: Are Honey, Maple Syrup, Stevia or Brown Sugar Better?

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:

fatty liver sugar alternatives 01 honey vs sugar

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:

fatty liver sugar alternatives 02 maple syrup

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:

fatty liver sugar alternatives 03 brown sugar

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.

Conclusion

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!

Lynn

After being diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014, I started doing serious research about it and I didn't stop until I reversed mine in just 1.5 years. I decided to share all my expertise and findings in these blog - all based on my personal experiences and tons of research. I also run a highly successful Fatty Liver-related Facebook Group (see the sidebar!) and moderate the Fatty Liver reddit.

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17 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. Pure molases could be considered an alternative. As always, keep the quantities as low as possible when using it or any other sugar substitute.

  4. 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?

    1. Unfortunately, there is almost no difference between cane sugar and regular sugar, so yes, it is unfortunately in the red zone.

  5. I use a stevia erythritol blend, I am wondering if erythritol is bad for fatty liver disease because it is a sugar alcohol.

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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).

      1. 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

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