Different Types of Sugar and Their Ranking from Best to Worst

Sugar is a staple ingredient found in kitchens worldwide, serving as a sweetener in countless recipes. However, not all sugars are created equal. From natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup to refined options such as high-fructose corn syrup, each type of sugar has a unique chemical composition that affects how it interacts with our body. This document will explore the different types of sugar, ranking them from healthiest to those best consumed in moderation, based on factors like nutrient content, glycemic index, and overall health impacts. Our goal is to provide a clear and informative guide to help you make better choices for your sweetening needs.

Glycemic index and its Importance

Before diving into the different types of sugar, it’s essential to understand the concept of glycemic index (GI). Glycemic Index (GI) is a metric that quantifies the rate at which a food rich in carbohydrates elevates blood sugar levels. Foods with a higher GI are digested faster and cause a more significant spike in blood sugar levels, while those with lower GI are broken down gradually, leading to a more sustained release of energy. High GI foods are linked to weight gain, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and other health issues, making it crucial to choose low GI options whenever possible.

Related: Recommended daily sugar intake advised by experts.

Healthiest Types of Sugar

1. Stevia

With a GI of zero, stevia is the clear winner when it comes to healthy sweeteners. Native to South America, stevia has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener. It is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way.

2. Honey

A staple in many households, honey ranks second on our list with a GI of 55. Besides being an excellent alternative to refined sugar, honey also contains antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. However, it’s crucial to note that honey is still high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.

3. Coconut Sugar

With a GI of 54, coconut sugar is becoming a popular choice for health-conscious individuals. It contains small amounts of minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, making it a slightly healthier option than regular table sugar.

4. Maple Syrup

With a GI of 54, maple syrup is another natural sweetener that contains antioxidants and some minerals. However, like honey, it’s still high in calories and should be used sparingly.

5. Dates

With a GI of 42, dates are often used as a natural sweetener in recipes. They are also rich in fiber and contain essential vitamins and minerals.

Types of Sugar to Consume in Moderation.

6. Raw Sugar

Often marketed as a healthier alternative to white sugar, raw sugar has the same GI of 65-70. While it retains some of its natural molasses, it still undergoes minimal processing and should be consumed in moderation.

7. Agave Nectar

Despite being marketed as a healthy option, agave nectar has a GI of 15-30, making it higher than most other sweeteners on this list. It also contains high fructose levels, which can have adverse health effects when consumed in excess.

8. Brown Sugar

With a GI of 64, brown sugar is essentially just refined white sugar with added molasses for color and flavor. It offers no significant nutritional benefits and should be used sparingly.

9. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

The most common sweetener in processed foods, HFCS has a staggering GI of 87, making it the unhealthiest sweetener on our list. It’s derived from corn and has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.

10. White Sugar

Last on our list is the most commonly used sweetener, white sugar. With a GI of 65-70, it offers zero nutritional value and is often referred to as “empty calories.” It’s essential to limit or avoid consumption of this highly processed sugar whenever possible.


There are also artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda, which have zero to minimal calories and GI. However, there is much controversy surrounding their safety and potential health impacts, with some studies suggesting that they may lead to weight gain and other health issues. It is best to limit the use of these sweeteners until further research is conducted.

Reading Food Labels for People with Diabetes

For individuals with diabetes, having a comprehensive understanding of the various types of sugar and their impact on blood glucose levels is of utmost importance. When carefully examining food labels, it is crucial to delve beyond the mere consideration of total grams of sugar and instead, take into account the specific source and type of sugar utilized. This additional information empowers those with diabetes to make well-informed decisions regarding their dietary choices, ultimately promoting better management of their condition and overall well-being.

Ultimately, the best choice for sweeteners is to opt for natural, minimally processed options whenever possible and use all types of sugar in moderation. With this guide, we hope you can make more informed choices when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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This site provides educational information only. It is important not to depend on any content here in place of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Similarly, it should not replace professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any health concerns or questions, always seek guidance from a physician or another healthcare professional.