What Sweeteners Do We Use at Thistle?

by Margeaux Vittoria

Sugar is public enemy #1 in the health and wellness world these days, and for good reason. Processed, refined sugars, in the quantities found in the Standard American Diet, are devastating to everything from our metabolic health to our moods. Processed sugar promotes inflammation in the body, which is a precursor for almost every modern disease. Studies have also shown that sugar triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine, making it very hard to avoid overeating the substance for most people.

Good news for your sweet tooth: Nature offers a variety of whole-foods sweeteners that taste wonderful and, when consumed in moderate quantities, are kinder to your body that refined sugar. Unrefined sweeteners contain the vitamins and minerals that are stripped away by the refining process, making them more than just ‘empty calories’.

At Thistle, we’ve gone above and beyond when it comes to selecting the best quality, healthiest sweeteners for our delicious breakfasts, sauces, and plant-based snacks. Above all, we prioritize moderate usage of any sweetener, ensuring that our recipes taste the way nature intended. These are the sweeteners we’ve chosen to work with and the ones we’ve opted to avoid, and our reasoning behind each decision!


Maple syrup. Real maple syrup, derived from the sap of maple trees, is rich in antioxidants and immune-boosting zinc. It is also easier to digest than refined sugars, meaning — good news! — less bloating and indigestion for you.

Dates and date paste. Dates and date paste (made by soaking dates in water and then blending them) are an incredible gift from nature for your sweet tooth. They’re a great source of dietary fiber and they’re loaded with minerals that promote improved bone health.

Coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar is like the maple syrup of palm trees, as it is made with sap from coconut palms. Like maple syrup, it’s a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic sweetener. It’s high in calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, all of which are essential to optimal brain and heart health.

Fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice. Low-calorie, high-fiber, nutrient-dense, and naturally sweet — what’s not to love about fruit? The same qualities that make whole fruit a great snack make fruit in other forms an awesome sweetener. From apple juice to dried apricots, mashed bananas to blended acai berries, we love using fruit as often as we can to sweeten our recipes.


Agave nectar. Due to its low glycemic index, agave nectar has long been considered a great sugar alternative. However, recent research has indicated that the high levels of fructose in agave can impair liver function and increase risk for cardiovascular disease, in much the same way that high fructose corn syrup does. It can also be very difficult to digest, causing gastrointestinal upset. Never worth it!

Cane sugar. Cane sugar is worth avoiding for all of the reasons listed at the beginning of this article — its highly refined nature means that it is bereft of nutrients and able to spike your blood sugar with alarming speed, creating a dramatic crash after the initial high.

High fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is an ‘industrial food product’ with a chemical structure seemingly designed to raise your blood sugar in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Many reputable researchers believe that HFCS is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in America. At Thistle we make a point of avoiding this sweetener at all costs.

Fake sugars. We avoid all artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, Splenda, and sugar alcohols. At best, fake sweeteners confuse your metabolism, promote cravings, and trigger digestive issues. At worst, they’re tied to a variety of diseases and neurological disorders. Unfortunately, the reason artificial sweeteners seem too good to be true is because they are!

With Thistle’s convenient meal delivery service, you can enjoy the wonderfully sweet flavors of nature in quantities that will nourish your body. Whether you’re digging into our fruit-sweetened Strawberry Rhubarb Chia Oats or our 24-Carrot Gold Muffin (sweetened with dates) you CAN satisfy your sweet tooth while achieving your health goals.

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