Some natural alternatives to refined sugar still have as many or more carbs than table sugar, and a high glycemic index. Sweeteners like honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, and maple syrup can still make your blood sugar spike. But, there are two natural sweeteners that can be considered an acceptable alternative to sugar.
Agave nectar comes from the Agave plant. It has been used for centuries as a sweetener, especially by the Aztecs. The nectar tastes sweet and has a consistency similar to honey. Agave is gaining popularity as a natural sweetener, because it has a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar or honey. The glycemic Index of agave nectar is around 20 to 30. Regular sugar has a GI of 60 to 65.
When compared to sugar, 21 grams of agave nectar is 60 calories and 16 grams of carbohydrate. The same amount of granulated sugar is 64 calories and 16.8 grams of carbs. So the benefit of using agave instead of sugar lies in the glycemic index. A lower GI means it doesn't spike blood sugar as fast as ordinary sugar does.
Stevia is another plant that has been used since early times as a sweet source. It grows in South America, and the leaves are similar in shape to the mint family. Because Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, it takes very little to make things sweet. This automatically cuts calories and carbs.
There is a new sugar substitute product on the market that contains Stevia, called Truvia. It's sold in small packets, and each packet is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar. Truvia has no calories, and only 3 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Two teaspoons of sugar has 32 calories and 8.4 grams of carbs.
For more information on agave nectar and stevia, check out these About.com sources...