As the name suggests, Paleo diets generally fall in line with rules governing a prehistoric, or Paleolithic, lifestyle. In other words, if a caveman couldn’t access it or it’s not naturally occurring, it’s off the plate, so to speak, for Paleo dieters.
Focused primarily on the consumption of real, unprocessed, non-packaged food (think lean meats, eggs, vegetables and limited quantities of fruits and nuts), the Paleo diet involves foods that are basic but nutritious. Grains, dairy, and processed foods are off the list, as are sugars – an oft-hidden staple of our modern diets.
While other ingredients are more avoidable, sugar or sweeteners – in some variation – are used to enhance the taste in many packaged products. They can be obvious elements, part of candies and desserts, or ambiguous components of so-called healthy foods, such as turkey bacon and fat-free salad dressing.
While they have a narrow path to walk, Paleo dieters can safely turn to low-glycemic additives. Here are 8 Paleo-friendly sweeteners, courtesy of Jane Barthelemy, a Paleo chef and author of “Paleo Desserts”:
While raw, unprocessed honey is considered a super food and is Paleo-friendly, honey is very high in carbs and calories, and is reserved as a Paleo “treat,” according to Barthelemy. As it’s twice as sweet as table sugar, it’s suggested to use sparingly.
Raw honey products to try:
- Thrive Market Super Raw Honey Unfiltered
- L.R. Rice Raw & Unfiltered Honey
- Y.S. Eco Bee Farms Raw Honey
Erythritol is a pure crystalline Polyol sweetener that is 70 percent as sweet as sugar and has no gastro-intestinal side effects as some other Polyols. Look for Non-GMO Erythritol when buying.
Erythritol products to try:
Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup
Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup has a sweet taste and a low glycemic index which is great for diabetics and Paleo dieters. Artichoke syrup is rich in inulin, a pre-biotic, which feeds other probiotics in the body, so it can be beneficial for the friendly flora of the intestinal tract.
Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup products to try:
Lucuma powder is a sweet powder of the South American Lucuma fruit that is said to be low in carbs. Its sweetness makes it a delicious addition to gluten-free flours, according to Barthelemy.
Lucuma Powder products to try:
- Earth Circle Organics Lucuma Powder
- The Raw Food World Lucuma Powder
- Organic Merchants Co. Lucuma Powder
Luo Han Guo Fruit (Monk Fruit)
Pronounced Lo-Han-GWO, this Chinese herb is a delicious zero-carb, zero calorie sweetener that is 20 times sweeter than sugar. Luo Han Guo fruit is a totally natural (Paleo) food and the dried whole fruit powder has a delicious flavor similar to chocolate or molasses. You can buy the pure whole dried fruit from an herbalist and grind it into a powder using a super blender.
Monkfruit products to try:
Raw maple sap
Pure sap from maple trees is a truly natural (and Paleo) sweetener used for centuries by the American Indians. This is a thick, sticky sap that is slightly sweet. It is boiled and reduced to 2 percent of its volume to make commercial maple syrup. It can be added into recipes, and a few companies are marketing it as a better-tasting alternative to coconut water.
Raw maple sap products to try:
Stevia dried leaf
The unrefined, dried leaves of the South American plant Stevia Rebaudiana are 30–45 times as sweet as table sugar. Pure stevia is available as a potted plant, in bulk dried leaves, or as a green powder. Raw stevia is a truly natural (and Paleo) sweetener.
Stevia dried leaf products to try:
Delicious syrup from a South American tuber root, tastes like caramel. High in fructo-oligosaccharides, which have a sweet taste but are low in calories and carbs. Since there is no industry standard, some syrups are highly processed, cooked, and therefore high-carb. I suggest care if you are sensitive to sugars. If you can rind raw Yacón, it is lower in carbs and sugars.
Yacon syrup products to try: