The Sweet Life: Cooking And Baking Without Sugar

We’re programmed to enjoy sweet tastes. Remember in grade school when you did experiments with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour tastes on your tongue? The “sweet” spot on your tongue is right up front, near the tip. On the Fast Metabolism Diet, the sweet receptors on your tongue are tickled by whole fruits. But there are still a couple of good choices for sweetening your tea or oatmeal, and after the diet, there are much, much better choices you can make compared to table sugar.

Why is sugar so bad for you? Check out our blog post, “Not so sweet: Sugar’s effects on your body.” Sugar is linked to everything from metabolic syndrome to cancer and heart disease. And the fake chemical sugars in those little-colored packets are even worse. So, on the Fast Metabolism Diet, we skip them entirely. But there are a few natural sweeteners that are fine to use.

On The Fast Metabolism Diet


Stevia is a plant. This sweetener, which comes as a powder or in liquid form, is made from the leaves. In fact, it’s easy to grow stevia plants yourself — you can drop the leaves into iced tea. A little stevia goes a long way; in fact, too much can taste bitter. Stevita and Sweet Leaf are good brands to try; because these companies have grown their stevia plants in climates with lots of sun exposure, the resulting product tends to be less bitter than other brands. Be sure to check ingredients on any brand you buy; the other day I turned a box of stevia over and saw dextrose on the ingredient list. Dextrose can be corn-based and isn’t part of the Fast Metabolism Diet.

How to use it: Use 1/8 tsp powdered stevia, or two drops liquid stevia in place of 1 tsp of sugar. You can always add more if you like.


This sweetener doesn’t spike your blood sugar like table sugars and syrups, and it’s all-natural — there are no chemicals to bog down your liver. Look for birch-based or hardwood-based xylitol. If the package doesn’t specify one of those sources, it’s probably made from corn, which is not part of the Fast Metabolism Diet. Xyla is one of my favorite brands. Read more about xylitol in this post. Use it sparingly; because it’s an alcohol sugar, it’s broken down in your lower GI, so too much can cause intestinal discomfort. Like chocolate, xylitol is toxic to dogs, so store it carefully.

How to use it: Xylitol comes as a powder or crystals. Use an equal amount to sugar. So if you like a teaspoon of sugar in your tea, use a teaspoon of xylitol.

Luo Han Guo (Monk Fruit)

This Chinese herb is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It’s certainly harder to find than stevia or xylitol. Still, for those who find stevia bitter and find that xylitol doesn’t agree with them, Luo Han Guo is an excellent alternative.

How to use it: Sold as a tincture (liquid). follow directions on the label.

After The Fast Metabolism Diet

If you bake it, your metabolism can take it! Instead of buying sugar-laden junk foods, make your own cookies and treats after you’ve finished the Fast Metabolism Diet. For cooking and baking, some non-cane-based sugars seem to be metabolized more efficiently. Some of these don’t cause blood-sugar spikes and won’t stimulate fat storage, so they’re better at supporting your Fast Metabolism Lifestyle.

Coconut sugar

This one is an easy favorite for baking. It has a lovely toasted taste that makes it a good choice for cookies. It’s used in this recipe for oat/nut butter cookies. Coconut sugar is low glycemic compared to other sugars so that it won’t spike your blood sugar nearly as much as table sugar. And coconut sugar does contain some minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium. Coconut sugar is easy to find in health food stores or at Whole Foods.

How to use it: You can use coconut sugar one-for-one, so use a cup of coconut sugar in place of a cup of table sugar in recipes.

Raw honey

Raw honey is also lower on the glycemic index, and it also has some health benefits, including antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. But be sure to buy raw honey, processed honey doesn’t have any of these health benefits, and in my book is as bad as high fructose corn syrup.

How to use it: Use raw honey in recipes, or to sweeten tea. You can use it as a glaze for meats, or in salad dressings.

Date sugar

Made from very finely chopped dates, date sugar isn’t great for baking certain items because it doesn’t melt. That means it’s not a great choice for batters. But it works well in cookies, bread, and cookie bars where melting doesn’t matter so much.

How to use it: Many find date sugar to be sweeter than table sugar, so use about 2/3 cup of date sugar for 1 cup table sugar.

What about agave nectar and brown rice syrup?

Nothing is more frustrating to me than foods that are sold as “healthy” but actually cause damage. That’s why agave nectar and brown rice syrup have no place in my kitchen.

Made from the agave plant — yes, the same plant you might have at home on your windowsill — agave has about the same glycemic index as coconut sugar. The heating and processing needed to extract and concentrate the sweet part of the plant give agave nectar a 90% concentration of fructose. Yes, the same stuff found in high-fructose corn syrup. So while it won’t spike your blood sugar, excess fructose consumption has been linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Agave is often used in energy bars and granola bars, but the high levels of fructose should make you think twice.

Brown rice syrup is another one that’s popping up in ‘health’ foods like cereal bars and other processed snacks. It’s very high glycemic — just as high as table sugar — and it has no health benefits. It was in the news last year when high levels of arsenic were discovered in brown rice and brown rice syrup. That’s another good reason to steer clear.

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