Seasonal Secrets Part 1 | Better Sugar Alternatives

October 23, 2018
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

No matter what diet you’re on, it’s good to have safe sweets you can turn to when the cravings hit. No tricks, just treats that don’t add inches your belly and hips.

The research on sugar is crystal clear – it causes major diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and dementia. And if sugar is a nutritional bomb, then high fructose corn syrup is a nuclear weapon – in more ways than one. It raises blood pressure, damages the kidneys, increases inflammation, contains neurologically damaging mercury, and is cancer’s favorite food. Yikes.

As bad as these refined sugars are, artificial sweeteners – like aspartame and sucralose – are worse! And all sugar alcohols – even erythritol – damage your microbiome, from your mouth all the way to your intestines.

The good news is there are sweeteners that don’t raise insulin levels or pack on the pounds, and are actually beneficial to the healthy bacteria that make up our microbiome. When you use these healthy alternatives in recipes that contain essential fats that rev up your fat-burning metabolism, the delicious result is cravings satisfied – while still losing weight.

The great news is these sweeteners are all part of my Radical Metabolism plan! As an added bonus today, I’m sharing the recipe for my favorite energy boosting, slim-stimulating treat from the plan, that I even take with me when I’m traveling to avoid those out-to-eat temptations.

Stevia, the Wonder Herb

Stevia is a bushy shrub that’s part of the sunflower family. It’s native to North and South and America, but the leading exporter of stevia products is currently is China. This wonder herb contains no sugar or carbs, is a 0 on the glycemic index, and has little to no calories, plus studies show it does everything from balancing blood sugars to lowering blood pressure, and even reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Stevia-based sweeteners use purified extracts from the leaves of the plant, and are 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used in place of sugar for baking, smoothies, beverages, and more. It is essential to read the ingredients label when choosing a stevia-based sweetener. Many on the market are combined with artificial sweeteners to improve texture and taste, and this will negate its health benefits. Products like Sweet Leaf have inulin prebiotics added, which only adds to the health benefits of this wonder herb.

Monk Fruit, The Keto Superstar

On your quest for a healthy sugar substitute, you may have already heard of monk fruit, Lakanto, or luo han guo, which is popular with keto dieters. This small melon that’s native to China and Thailand has been used for centuries as a sweetener and herbal remedy. Similar to stevia, it is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, contains no sugar or carbs, is a 0 on the glycemic index, and has little to no calories.

Monk fruit’s sweetness comes from powerful antioxidants called mogrosides. which support the immune system, digestive tract, glands, and respiratory system, all while fighting free radicals, lowering inflammation, combating infections, relieving fatigue, improving insulin resistance and the health of pancreatic cells, and possibly preventing cancer. It’s also a natural antihistamine. It’s no wonder it’s known as the “longevity fruit” in Eastern cultures.

While all these health benefits are fantastic, and it’s a great choice for diabetes and anyone looking to lose weight, it has it’s down side. Because of export restrictions and its complicated extraction process, it is quite a bit more expensive than other sweeteners. This is another sweetener to read the labels on. It’s often combined with other sweeteners like sugar alcohols to try to bring the cost down, but unfortunately, these additives also negate the health benefits.

Chicory Root, More Than a Coffee Substitute

Roasted chicory root became a popular coffee additive or even substitute during the Civil War, but your introduction to it may have come from the caffeine-free Dandy Blend I recommend in my bestselling Fat Flush plan. Chicory is a member of the dandelion family and its roasted root has even been added to beer to enhance its flavor.

Used raw, this root makes a natural, clean-tasting sweetener whose carbs and fiber are indigestible, so they pass right through your digestion with a zero-calorie impact. Chicory root is 65 percent dietary fiber by weight, and is chock full of inulin, the prebiotic fiber that your healthy bacteria love to eat.

The chicory root products from Just Like Sugar are widely available waistline-friendly sugar substitutes with a pleasant flavor.

Yacon Syrup, The Metabolic Miracle

I’ve saved the best for last. More than just a pretty face and sweet taste, this syrup has been studied for its dramatic weight loss and metabolic effects. You’ll be delighted to know women who used yacon syrup for 4 months were found to lose enough weight to go from obese to overweight classification! Losing an average of 33 pounds and 3.9 inches off their waists, cutting their fasting insulin levels almost in half. Their insulin resistance decreased by 67 percent, their LDL “bad” cholesterol by almost a third, and were cured of constipation. That’s impressive!

Yacon syrup or nectar comes from the yacon root, a tuber that’s one of the richest sources of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in the world. This fiber is an excellent source of prebiotics, which fuels our friendly bacteria and helps keep us healthy. Because yacon stores its sugars as FOS rather than starch, it earns the extremely low score of 1 on the glycemic index. It also has the added bonuses of decreasing food cravings, bulking up the stool and improving gastric emptying, while reducing the fat accumulation in the liver.

Native to the Andes Mountains in South America, yacon syrup is processed much like our native maple syrup is. The secret is in the low heat processing that keeps its precious high fiber content from converting into sugars. This is what qualifies it to be labeled as “raw.” Make sure you purchase pure, raw, organic yacon that is free of additives.

Bonus: My Favorite Treat Recipe from Radical Metabolism

We all need to indulge in a little treat now and then, and it’s wonderful when those little bursts of sweetness keep us on track with our weight loss goals. These delicacies are great as a snack by themselves, but also go wonderfully with coffee, which is another weight loss wonder I’ve included in my Radical Metabolism plan. There are actually quite a few secret slimmers in this recipe, and it gets its name from the Omega 6 fats that fuel your fat-burning metabolism and help restore health all the way down to the cellular level. Enjoy!

Hemp Cacao Magic 6-Balls
Serves: 20 to 24 balls
Packed full of Autumn spices, these little balls of energy pair wonderfully with coffee.
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 (5.5 ounce) bag or 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/4 cup coconut manna or hempseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Just Like Sugar, or to taste
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • For coating: additional hemp hearts, cacao powder, or finely chopped walnuts
  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the coating, in a food processor or mini food processor.
  2. Process all ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Or if you prefer, leave chunkier but process enough to hold together when squeezed with fingers.
  3. Form into balls.
  4. Roll in coating.
  5. Store in the refrigerator, or make a double batch and freeze half for later.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Diana

    I have a aversion to walnuts, can other nuts or seeds be substituted?

  2. Mary

    Everybody uses cinnamon. I’m highly allergic to it. Does anything else work? Looks great otherwise!

  3. Team ALG

    Diana, Yes you can use other other nuts or seeds that you like.

  4. Team ALG

    Mary, you could try nutmeg and omit the cinnamon. I’d start with 1/2 tsp.

  5. barbara papin

    Thank you! I can’t wait to try it!

  6. Mary

    Thank you. I will certainly give it a try!

  7. Terri

    Allergic to hemp. Any alternatives to hemp hearts?

  8. Team ALG

    Terri, Just use 2 c. of walnuts and leave out the hemp hearts.


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