What are appropriate sweeteners for the AIP?
Feeling a little confused and overwhelmed by this topic? I’m not surprised!
While I’ve already said this numerous times throughout the contents of this site, I’ll say it again, my #1 recommendation will ALWAYS be Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s The Autoimmune Protocol book, which is the most comprehensive resource for the AIP – what’s allowed and what’s not and why, food lists and more, so grab a copy here – it’s downloadable immediately and it’s something I even keep on my phone so I can search the PDF on the fly if I’m uncertain about an ingredient.
In the meantime though, let’s cover some basics …
Being a refined sugar-free diet, many initially believe they’ll be fine using sweeteners they see promoted in other diets. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as non-nutritive sweeteners like Xylitol, Erythritol, Swerve and even Monk Fruit and Stevia can actually be detrimental to gut health – they increase the permeability of the gut either directly by damaging the cells that form the gut barrier or indirectly, by feeding the wrong kinds of microorganisms which stimulates intestinal inflammation.
Natural sugars, like nutrient-dense honey and blackstrap molasses are actually superfoods and beneficial to the microbiome! Sweet! But before you do the happy dance there’s a but (there’s always a but) … ALL natural sugars should still only be consumed in moderation. Why? Because whether it’s a nutrient-dense or non-nutritive sweetener, our bodies still recognize all forms of sweeteners as sugar and will react in a similar way. So even if we’re using an AIP friendly sweetener (in tea or cooking or sweet treats) we need to do so in MODERATION!
Great – question answered, but what’s considered “moderation”? Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s The Autoimmune Protocol answers that question for us – “…all natural sugars should only be consumed in moderation, keeping intake to less than 10% total calories.”
I’ll be sweet to you (pun intended) and give you a quick run down of the best options for the AIP: Honey, Maple Syrup, Unsulphured Black Strap Molasses, Dates, Date Syrup, Coconut Sugar, Maple Sugar and Coconut Nectar (not to be mistaken with the more savory product called Coconut Aminos which also contains coconut nectar).
In all cases – ensure you’re using the REAL DEAL – pure, unadulterated products – 100% natural – no “natural flavors” – organic if possible – unpasteurized where applicable.
If you want to read a few quick articles online about this topic specifically, take a look here. The first two articles are by Dr. Ballantyne and specifically talk about sweeteners and the Paleo diet (of which the AIP is a modified version as you know), but these are still full of great information and detail that applies.
Sugar vs. Sweeteners – Natural Sugars and Their Place on the Paleo Diet
Artificial Sweeteners – Is it Paleo? – Splenda, Erythritol, Stevia and Low Caorie Sweeteners including Monk Fruit
Where Do Natural Sugars Fit In On A Healing Diet?
The Trouble with Stevia
Stevia is NOT a Good Sweetener for the AIP