Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Evaluating Different Sweeteners

In last week's blog, the necessity of the taste of sweet was discussed.  Ayurveda does not label foods as healthy or unhealthy in a general sense.  Rather, a food is evaluated on its taste and the effect that taste has on an individual's body type. There are 6 tastes; sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent.  Each taste has an energetic quality, and the sweet taste is heavy, moist and cooling by nature.  It increases bulk, moisture and weight, which makes it nurturing on both the physical and emotional level.  Some types need the taste of sweet more than others.  Vata and pitta do better with sweet than the already naturally earthy, full kapha type.

Here are a few of the many sweeteners available, and what they are and what they are good for:

  • White Sugar is refined and bleached and usually not recommended in Ayurveda. It has an addictive quality.  In acute situations for cooling extreme pitta or giving urgent nutrition, some Ayurvedic practitioners use it. Same for High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • Brown Sugar is white sugar with molasses and is similar to white sugar.
  • Honey should be raw and never heated. It is medicinal with a strong heating quality that is suited to kapha types (but small amounts are okay for vata and pitta). It is antimicrobial.
  • Molasses is better for vata types but its strong taste should be used sparingly and combined with other sugars in recipes.
  • Brown Rice Syrup & Barley Malt Syrup are sugars made from sprouted grains which are themselves a sweet taste, so they are better for vata and pitta types (with kapha avoiding). They have a mild sweet taste and are less addictive.
  • Agave Nectar Syrup is high in fructose and generally better for vata and pitta types, but it is a more potent sweet taste and should be used less than other sweeteners.
  • Coconut Sugar is produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar has a high mineral content that ups its nutritional value and is better for vata and pitta. 
  • Turbinado or Raw Sugar is a better form of sugar. However, it is still very sweet and should be used in smaller quantities for vata and pitta. 
  • Stevia is a sunflower that is native to subtropical and tropical regions. It can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but does not appear to raise blood sugar levels.  This makes it okay for all three body types.  Please use the natural, unrefined kind.  
  • Maple Syrup is sweet, cooling and moist, so best for vata and pitta. It is better than most sweeteners, but still should be used in moderation.
Remember that regardless of whether natural sugar or sugar substitutes are used, they should only be eaten as a very small part of one’s overall diet.  Yet, also remember, life is to enjoy, and sweet foods that nourish the body and emotions are not inherently bad (or anything to feel guilty about). Sweets have been part of the celebrations in many cultures and traditions throughout time. The real problem is not the occasional sweet food but rather our modern day tendency to eat them in excess and the fact we eat so much of them in highly refined forms.  Try to enjoy your taste of sweet in the form of foods, not sweeteners, and you can have the benefit of sweet in your life.

Stay healthy & well,


  1. Thank you so much for researching and clarifying the role of sweets. I found it very helpful.

  2. Thank you you for your feedback and great tips!!

  3. This really helped me. Thank you from Nomi