Paleo Friendly Sugar- Is there such a thing?

by: Chelsea Brinegar-

We’re going to dive into the deep, dark world of Paleo-friendly sugar. We get a lot of questions about this topic. And for a good reason – it can be confusing.

What is Paleo-friendly sugar?

I don’t know about you, but when I first started the Paleo diet, I spent hours and hours learning all I could about it. This included recipe hunting. And, of course, as I sought out recipes,  I found all kinds for Paleo cookies, cakes, brownies…the whole gamut.

For a beginner, this was confusing. Many resources claimed that the Paleo diet is a sugar-free diet. But these dessert recipes included ingredients like coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, and more.

Paleo-friendly sugar can be controversial

Some people choose to approach the Paleo diet as completely sugar-free. This means eating only vegetables, low glycemic load fruit, meat, fish, fowl, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats/oils, and various herbs/spices/extracts.

Other people may include sweeteners and the occasional Paleo treat.

As a rule, generally accepted Paleo sugars are natural sugars – like raw honey, Grade B maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, and stevia – to name a few. These are considered by the Paleo community as Paleo-friendly because the sugars occur in their natural form (which is to say that they aren’t refined) and they have some beneficial health properties.

Often times, these Paleo sugars also have a lower glycemic effect than non-Paleo sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, white cane sugar, or agave nectar.

Does this mean that we can go out and eat all of the cookies and cakes as long as it’s made with raw honey or grade B maple syrup?

Paleo-friendly sugar in moderation

Not so fast. When it comes down to it, sugar (no matter what form it is in) is still sugar. Yes, raw honey has some beneficial health properties like a high vitamin and mineral content and antimicrobial benefits. In fact, it has been considered a healing food for thousands of years.

That being said, our ancestors didn’t have Paleo sugars right at their fingertips at all times. Things like raw honey, maple syrup, and even fruits were only available so often.

So, sure, these Paleo-friendly sugars can have nourishing properties…but if you eat a ton of them, they can still have the damaging effects of any other sugar – problems with insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, mood swings, energy dips, and cravings. Just because a cookie is considered “Paleo” doesn’t mean that you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Paleo for YOU

Contrary to what some people may believe, the Paleo police don’t exist. You, and you alone, can choose how you want to approach the Paleo diet – whether you stay completely sugar-free or choose to include a few Paleo treats every now and then. This can be influenced by a number of factors including your personal health history and individual goals.

If you’re looking to lose weight, improve your glycemic control, improve cholesterol/triglyceride levels, or have another specific health goal, focusing on the foundational aspects of the Paleo diet and avoiding sugar (Paleo or not) may be necessary.

If you’re an athlete or someone just looking to boost overall health and wellbeing, an occasional treat made with a Paleo-friendly sugar may be fine. You can make that call based on your personal circumstances.


Chelsea Brinegar from