Many ‘refined sugar-free’ treats are emerging in the health industry. From smoothies that taste like chocolate milkshakes to Snickers and Millionaire’s Shortbread imitations, many health shops and vegan spots are replicating our favourite sweet treats and offering us ‘guilt-free’ alternatives.

There is concern that these products are as high or even higher in calories than your standard sweet treats, but it’s about considering if the calories are more worthwhile. We take a look at some of the popular sources of sweetness in the health industry, and weigh up their pros and cons.

Raw cane sugar

When we talk about the consequences of sugar and why to curb cravings, we do in a sense add to the stigma surrounding sugar. However, it’s important to discern between the processed sugars added to most products and sugar in its natural form, which can be beneficial to both body and brain.

If it’s not gone through the centrifugal processing and doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals, then the health benefits of cane sugar elevate it above the highly refined versions we’re used to. Proper raw sugar consists of sugarcane juice that’s had its water evaporated. This retains the molasses that’s usually stripped from table sugar during processing. Molasses is rich in magnesium and also contains calcium, iron and vitamin B6.

Non-Centrifugal Sugar has confirmed effects on immunity, anti-toxicity and cell protection, and can even protect against tooth decay and diabetes. You’ll find Muscovado at some grocery stores – this is the more common type of unrefined sugar. Just ensure you’re aware of what other ingredients might be accompanying it. 

Coconut Sugar

You might have noticed this addition to many of the sweet treats emerging in health-conscious hangouts. Coconut sugar comprises the sap of the coconut palm that’s been dehydrated and boiled to form granules pretty similar looking to regular sugar. It therefore isn’t any more ‘natural’ than unprocessed cane sugar.

The aging aspect to added sugars from AGEs still occurs and the calorie content is the same too. Nonetheless, there are trace elements of nutrients in coconut sugar, its glycemic index is a lot lower than table sugar and it has possible antioxidant properties that could counteract the aforementioned aging.



When it comes to honey, there’s a vast range of health benefits – from inflammation-fighting properties to being an antibacterial go-to. However, cautious sourcing is important. Little of the honey we find on supermarket shelves is raw and unrefined. The heating and filtering that goes into processing honey strips some of its nutritional value. Insight into labels is an integral part of benefiting from products’ potential nourishment.

Interestingly, honey has been studied as an antidiabetic agent. It’s possible to be used safely, albeit carefully, as a source of sweetness for people with diabetes. This also indicates honey’s slightly lower glycemic index – it shouldn’t raise blood sugar as quickly as table sugar. It is higher in calories than sugar but they’re evidently not all empty calories and the taste is sweeter so you’ll tend to use less.



Although dates are made up of many essential vitamins and minerals and contain fibre to decrease blood sugar spikes, it’s wise to bear in mind they’re quite calorie-dense. Each date contains around 66 calories. Adding dates in moderation to sweeten smoothies is ideal but they often take up the first spot on the ingredients list in ‘health bars’. This is a little misleading – you think you’re making a ‘guilt free’ choice in line with your diet but may end up with a calorie count higher than you’re comfortable with.

Read Ingredients and Indulge with Restraint

Being conscious of contents is crucial to keeping on track with clean eating balanced with sufficient tasty treats. KnowIt ensures you’re always informed on the ingredients, just what bodily effects to expect and how much sugar you’re actually consuming.  

Natural forms of sweetness are good alternatives to processed and refined added sugars to satisfy your sweet tooth with something that contains some goodness, as opposed to only inflammatory damage. They simply have to be used as such – an extra element and not the core component. When it comes to sugars, they’re much of a muchness best served in moderation.