Coffee and sugar are like peanut butter and jam. It’s one of life’s great love stories where you wonder if there was ever a time when one existed without the other.
For coffee and sugar, that time may be rapidly approaching.
With all of the research done, we see the adverse effects that white sugar can have on our bodies, and many of us are avoiding it more and more.
I’m not saying all sugar is bad, just refined sugar. Many forms of sugar are natural alternatives and will provide incredible flavor without causing any damage to your body.
Frankly, with so many options, plain sugar isn’t as appealing as it once was just from a flavor standpoint.
Why Is White Sugar Bad?
White sugar or refined sugar has been getting a bad rap over the past decade, and it seems all the allegations are true; it’s terrible for you.
The most glaring downside to sugar is its calorie content and lack of anything your body needs to function healthily. It will increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It’s also linked to a higher likelihood of depression, dementia, liver disease, and certain types of cancer. [1,2,3]
Although it tastes delicious, the negative impact it could have on your body far outweighs the immediate gratification you get from consuming it.
With it being so popular, it can be hard to avoid. You see it at every coffee shop, and it’s usually the only option if you want to sweeten your cup of coffee. Since I’m not a fan of black coffee and enjoy sweeter coffee, I have sought ways to add a bit of flavor while not putting my body at risk.
Sugar in its natural state is more palatable for your body to process. Eliminating all sugars is near impossible, but we can eliminate processed, refined sugar and still enjoy our morning coffee.
Simple syrups are an easy way to store and distribute a sweetener. These are extracted from natural sources and will last a long time in your cupboard.
As the most popular alternative to white sugar, honey is now found in many more coffee shops around the world. One spoonful will add just the kick you need to soften the bitter flavor that coffee sometimes has too much of. A word of caution; ensure the honey you get is all-natural and produced humanely. Many companies out there are looking to capitalize on honey’s healthy reputation by offering a less-superior product.
This may be more challenging for some people to get, especially in its all-natural form, but a spoonful of maple syrup will take your coffee to a new level of sweetness. Produced from the maple tree, northern regions in North America have this in abundance. If you’re not living there, be mindful of the product you buy. Similar to honey, companies like to piggyback off the reputation that all-natural products have by charging a premium for an inferior product in the form of breakfast syrups.
Even tougher to find than maple syrup is agave syrup. It has a much more subtle flavor profile but has more health benefits than maple or honey. Made from the agave plant, those living in desert regions should have no problem finding a bottle at their local store.
Usually found in a baker’s cupboard, molasses can be used for more than just Grandma’s fresh-baked cookies. Its sweet flavor is unique, so you will only need a small amount of it for one 10-ounce regular coffee.
If syrups are too sticky and inconvenient to measure accurately, opt for one of these powders. They’re just as easy to store but can be added and dissolved into your hot coffee much easier.
This popular powder will easily remove the bitterness of coffee with a minimal amount. It does add its own flavor as it can be more prominent than the syrups listed above. Cinnamon is especially popular in the colder months of the year as it provides a warming and earthy flavor.
Many coffee beans already have chocolatey notes of flavor that can be cultivated throughout the harvest and roasting stages. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and mix well for a more rich chocolate flavor. This is a sugar-free way to sweeten your coffee and make it more of a treat than a daily necessity.
Take concentrated flavor and apply it to your favorite coffee guilt-free with an assortment of extracts. Most you can even make yourself at home to tailor-make your coffee just the way you like it.
If chocolate isn’t your thing, try a drop of vanilla extract for sweeter coffee. It’s an excellent alternative for coffee lovers who want something on the lighter side and offers a touch of sweetness. Vanilla flavor can be quite powerful, so use it sparingly and pair it with dark roast coffee grounds for the best effect.
Barista Tip: If you don’t have vanilla extract, you can substitute vanilla ice cream. It will add more texture to your cup of coffee as well. Just be sure to avoid ice creams loaded with refined sugars.
For the ultimate freshness, some mint extract will do the trick perfectly. This might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ because mint is usually found in cups of tea, but a light roast coffee would benefit nicely from adding this characteristic flavor. Mint also has many bonus health benefits  that make it taste even better.
Alternative milk is the least popular way to increase the level of sweetness because it also increases the level of calories and will expire much quicker than other methods. To add a hint of sweetness, you may need to add quite a bit of milk which could take away the bold flavors of your favorite coffee as well.
Almond milk is the most common and easiest to find. It will sweeten your coffee and add a nice nutty flavor to the boot. Just be aware of the ingredients, as some almond milks will contain artificial sweeteners.
Coconut milk or even coconut cream is a great way to sweeten bitter coffee without sugar. It also has many added health benefits so that you can be a little heavy-handed with it. This method will undoubtedly change the flavor profile of your morning cup, so be sure you like coconut before buying a whole bunch of coconut milk.
While this may not make your cups of coffee ‘sweet,’ it will improve any bitter-tasting coffee you come across. If you find yourself in a pinch without any other natural sugar alternatives, you only need a pinch to change the flavor and enjoy your beloved coffee.
Choose Naturally Sweet Coffee
You can nip this problem in the bud just by changing which coffee you usually get. Arabica beans have higher sugar content than robusta beans, so choose coffees that use 100% Arabica.
What Are Healthier Alternatives To Granulated Sugar?
Healthier alternatives to granulated sugar would be all-natural honey syrup. You can find this at almost any grocery store, and it can be used to sweeten almost anything. Ensure that the one you buy is all-natural and there are no added refined sugars so you can enjoy it guilt-free.
Does Sugar-Free Really Mean Sugar-Free?
No, the term ‘sugar-free’ doesn’t always mean there is no sugar in it. There may be other artificial sweeteners that the governing bodies don’t recognize as sugar. This is how companies can mislead consumers with their terminology and convincing advertisements. Always read the ingredients list and avoid products that contain anything that ends in ‘ose.’ E.g., fructose, sucrose, etc.
Can I Make My Own Sweetener?
Yes, you can make your own sweetener in a number of ways. Syrups can easily be made by combining extracts or powders with hot water. Keep these in your fridge, and they can stay fresh for weeks at a time. For the more ambitious, beekeeping is a great way to cultivate your own honey while helping the environment by increasing the bee population.
To Sum Up
Coffee has many health benefits that go way beyond just waking you up in the morning. It’s great for your heart, lowers the risk of developing diabetes, and does wonders for your kidney. [5,6,7] Keep coffee healthy by avoiding refined sugar.
Sweetening coffee without sugar is becoming increasingly easier as we all discover the health benefits of alternatives. In most cases, people enjoy the taste more of other options than their regular table sugar. So put down that sugar carafe and pick up something healthier and tastier next time you’re out for coffee.