Some of the foods people tend to eat now are so devoid of nutrients that digesting them uses more vitamins, minerals, etc. than were originally in the food. Dr. Fuhrman mentions this to some extent in his book Eat to Live when he discusses white flour. In this case, I feel the same thing occurs with refined sugars. Everything has been removed from them except for the sucrose which tastes sweet. And you are left with a nutrient deficiency when you consume foods consisting of this type of ingredients.
Many people claim that there is no significant difference in natural sweeteners since they contain only low or trace levels of vitamins and minerals in addition to the sugar molecules they consist of. However, I think the vitamins and minerals present in them occur in the exact quantities we need to properly digest these foods. One exception might be blackstrap molasses which, although it is 35% sucrose, is quite nutrient dense.
Personally, for my health, Sucanat/Rapidura and Maple syrup are the worst of the natural sweeteners since they contain 82% and 65% sucrose, respectively. And I can often tell a difference in how I feel even with these less refined forms of sugar, so if you are also sensitive to sugars you may want to avoid or limit your use of these sweeteners.
Honey is a mixture of 75% glucose and fructose, a small amount of other sugars,minerals, and water. The sugars in Barley malt and Brown rice syrup (mild grain sweeteners) are predominately maltose, and 65% of Date sugar is a mix of sucrose and fructose, all of these seem to have a more limited effect on blood sugar than sucrose alone.
I used to have some health problems, tending towards hypoglycemia, and as a result needed to eat every few hours to remain pleasant to be around. In addition, fluctuating blood sugar levels often resulted in migraines. When I cut sugar out initially I noticed an improvement in the amount of time I could handle between meals. But because my migraines had been sporadic I didn’t notice they had completely disappeared until one of my friends mentioned hers (which had often occurred weekly) had also disappeared when she cut out refined sugar.
As far as the option of artificial sweeteners goes, I avoid these since too many side effects have been linked to their use. I think their only value may be as a temporary crutch to those weaning themselves off refined sugars.
*Percentages of the various sugars were listed in the book Nutrition Almanac by Lavon J. Dunne