Americans eat 165 pounds of added sugar each year, and sugar substitutes are on the rise as well, which are hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. That’s a lot of sugar! But are there healthier alternatives? Are artificial sweeteners or natural sweeteners like, honey, agave nectar, sweet-n-low, splenda or stevia healthier than sugar? Let’s find out.
Are Artificial Sweeteners And Artificial Flavors Bad For You?
- AKA: Table sugar
Calories: 16 per teaspoon
Found: Naturally in fruit; added to baked goods, jams, marinades, salad dressingsThe deal: Sucrose offers energy but no nutritional benefits. In 2003, a team of international experts recommended that added sugars make up no more than 10% of your diet, or about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) for a 2,000-calorie diet.
But in 2009 the American Heart Association slashed that even further suggested women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar and men no more than 9 (37.5 grams).
Calories: 20 per teaspoon
Found in: Cereals, yogurts, tea
The deal: The nectar is a product of the agave cactus, and its taste and texture are similar to honey.
It doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as honey, but it contains approximately the same amount of calories. Agave, however, is sweeter than sugar, so proponents suggest you can use less to get similar sweetness.
It contains more fructose than table sugar, which, according to a recent study, means it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar but could be more likely to reduce your metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
AKA: Equal, NutraSweet
Found in: Drinks, gum, yogurt, cough drops
The deal: One of the most studied artificial sweeteners, aspartame has been accused of causing everything from weight gain to cancer.
However, since being approved by the FDA in 1981, studies have found no convincing evidence and the FDA, the World Health Organization, and the American Dietetic Association say aspartame in moderation poses no threats.
The CSPI feels differently, and gave it their lowest ranking in a review of food additives. People with phenylketonuria, an inherited genetic disorder, should avoid it.
Calories: 21 per teaspoon
Found in: Cereals, baked goods, teas
The deal: Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and studies suggest it may not raise blood sugar as fast as other sweet products.
(It’s generally better for the body to have a slow and steady rise in blood sugar after eating, rather than a dramatic spike.)
Honey, however, does contain calories and should be used as sparingly as any other full-calorie sweetener.
Stevia leaf extract:
AKA: Truvia, Pure Via
Found in: Diet drinks, yogurts, individual packets
The deal: Derived from the stevia plant, stevia leaf extract, also called rebiana, is deemed the natural alternative to artificial sweeteners.
Although crude stevia extracts are not approved by the FDA, refined stevia products such as Truvia gained a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) approval from the FDA in 2008.
In 2013, the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest said it “considers rebiana, a natural high-potency sweetener obtained from stevia, to be “safe,” though deserving of better testing.”
AKA: Sweet’N Low
Found in: Drinks, canned goods, candy
The deal: Rat studies in the early 1970s found a link between consuming Saccharin and bladder cancer, prompting Congress to mandate in 1981 that all foods containing it bear a warning label.
Later studies showed that these results may only occur in rats, and there was a lack of evidence that saccharin causes cancer in humans. Saccharin was removed from the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens in 2000 and Congress repealed the warning label.
The CSPI places it on their “avoid” list, acknowledging that Congress’s removal of the label will likely result in greater use of the sweetener.
Calories (per 1 teaspoon): 0
Found in: Fruit drinks, canned fruit, syrups
The deal: Sucralose received FDA approval in 1998, and although one study showed it may negatively impact the immune system, follow-up studies did not find a correlation.
The CSPI deems it safe, and several studies have found that it is not carcinogenic. This sweetener is one of the few not sensitive to heat and can therefore be used in baking, useful for those limiting empty-calorie carbohydrates because they are dieting or have diabetes.
AKA: Sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol
Calories: 10 per teaspoon
Found in: Sugar-free candies, gum, desserts
The deal: Sugar alcohols aren’t nonnutritive sweeteners—they have 2.6 calories per gram—but they don’t cause tooth decay like table sugar.
Although they’re generally less sweet and caloric than sugar, eating large amounts (particularly of mannitol) can cause bloating and diarrhea. They’re often used in sugar-free foods marketed to diabetics, because they contain fewer carbohydrates than table sugar. They do contain some carbohydrates, so eating them in excess may increase blood sugar.
The ADA recommends consuming sugar alcohols in moderation, and counting half of the grams of sugar alcohols as carbohydrates because only about half get digested.
Here is a great video by D News explaining the differences, I love this girl Laci Green she is so cute and funny!
What about Artificial Flavors?
This video just about sums it up!
Final Thoughts: I use honey or stevia most times and still use sucrose and maybe splenda sparingly. But all in all just do your best to keep sugar and artificial intakes to a minimum and you should be fine. All of these natural and artificial sweeteners are approved by the FDA, the key is moderation in everything in life! Your choice, what is your favorite sweetener?
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Whole Health Coach & Humanitarian
Decide Abundance INC