- 8 Natural Substitutes for Sugar
- Sugar substitutes and health
- Study limitations
- Will sugar substitutes help you lose weight?
- Are Sweeteners Healthy? Aspartame, Stevia, Splenda, and More
- Which Artificial Sweetener Is Right For You?
- Artificial Sweeteners vs. Sugar: Which Is Best?
- Are Artificial Sweeteners Good or Bad for Weight Loss?
- Are artificial sweeteners healthy?
- Are they good for weight loss?
- Popular Artificial Sweeteners
- Stevia for Weight Loss
- Stevia is Safe for Human Consumption
- Stevia’s List of Health Benefits
- Is stevia bad for you?
- 1. Stevia Taxes the Adrenals
- 2. Stevia often contains other ingredients
- 3. Stevia has an aftertaste
- 4. I’m not afraid of false Candida myths!
- 5. Stevia doesn’t support glycogen synthesis
- 6. Stevia molecules have a hormone structure
8 Natural Substitutes for Sugar
There are several natural sweeteners that health-conscious people often use in place of sugar. These include coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
While these natural sweeteners may contain a few more nutrients than regular sugar, your body still metabolizes them the same way.
That being said, the natural sweeteners listed below are slightly “less bad” than regular sugar. Nonetheless, they are still forms of sugar.
5. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm.
It contains a few nutrients, including iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, as well as antioxidants.
It also has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which may be partly due to its inulin content.
Inulin is a type of fiber that has been shown to slow glucose absorption (39).
Nevertheless, coconut sugar is still very high in calories, containing the same number of calories per serving as regular sugar.
It’s also very high in fructose, which is the main reason why regular sugar is so unhealthy in the first place.
At the end of the day, coconut sugar is very similar to regular table sugar and should be used sparingly.
Summary: Coconut sugar contains a small amount of fiber and nutrients. Therefore, it’s slightly “less bad” than regular sugar. However, it’s still high in fructose and should be consumed in moderation.
Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honey bees.
It contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundance of beneficial antioxidants (40).
Eating honey may help raise the levels of antioxidants in your blood. High levels of antioxidants in the blood are linked to a lower risk of disease (41, 42).
In fact, honey has been shown to improve several risk factors for disease.
One study found that eating honey for eight weeks significantly lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides in individuals with diabetes (43).
It also increased “good” HDL cholesterol. However, in the same study, a marker of blood sugar levels called HbA1c increased, which is not good.
Another study found that eating honey decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a measure inflammation (44).
It also lowered homocysteine, another blood marker associated with disease.
Furthermore, both of these studies showed that honey had slightly less harmful effects on blood sugar levels and metabolism than regular sugar.
But despite the fact that studies have shown honey to have some promising health benefits, it still contains fructose, which can contribute to a slew of health problems.
In short, honey is still sugar and not completely harmless.
Summary: Honey contains antioxidants and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. It may offer some health benefits, but at the end of the day, it’s still sugar and should not be consumed excessively.
7. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a thick, sugary liquid that’s made by cooking down the sap of maple trees.
It contains a decent amount of minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese.
It also contains at least 24 different types of antioxidants (45).
A couple test-tube studies have indicated that maple syrup may even have anti-cancer benefits, but more research is needed to confirm this (46, 47).
While maple syrup contains some beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, it’s very high in sugar. It has a slightly lower glycemic index than regular sugar, so it may not raise blood sugar levels as quickly, but it will still raise them (48).
Much like coconut sugar and honey, maple syrup is a slightly better option than regular sugar, but it should still be consumed in moderation.
Summary: Maple syrup contains some minerals and over 24 different antioxidants. It’s slightly “less bad” than regular sugar, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to eat it.
Molasses is a sweet, brown liquid with a thick, syrup-like consistency. It’s made from boiling down sugar cane or sugar beet juice.
It contains a handful of vitamins and minerals, as well as several antioxidants.
In fact, blackstrap molasses is higher in antioxidants than both honey and maple syrup (49).
Furthermore, its high potassium and calcium content may benefit bone and heart health (50, 51, 52).
Overall, molasses makes a fine replacement for refined sugar, but there is no reason to add it to your diet, as it’s still a form of sugar.
Summary: Molasses contains nutrients that support bone and heart health and may help regulate blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, it is still high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly.
Sugar substitutes are found in everything from diet sodas to sugar-free candies, but scientists continue to debate whether these non-sugar sweeteners are really good for you.
Now, a new review study suggests sugar substitutes don’t seem to be hugely beneficial. Indeed, the researchers conclude there’s no “compelling evidence” for important health benefits from non-sugar sweeteners. In their review, the researchers assessed a variety of health outcomes, including body weight, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar levels, eating behavior, heart disease and cancer.
Although the new work is one of the most comprehensive reviews on the topic to date, it’s far from the final word on sugar substitutes. The researchers stress that many studies conducted so far on the benefits of sugar substitutes are lacking in scientific rigor. For example, many studies included in the review were small or conducted over short periods. For this reason, larger studies conducted over longer periods are needed to draw firmer conclusions on the benefits and harms of sugar substitutes, the researchers said.
The study, published Jan. 2 in the journal The BMJ, will help inform upcoming guidelines from the World Health Organization on non-sugar sweeteners.
Sugar substitutes and health
Sugar substitutes include both artificial sweeteners — such as aspartame and saccharin — and”natural” no-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia. Because sugar substitutes add few to no calories to a person’s diet, they could, in theory, reduce the risk of weight gain. But the evidence for health benefits from sugar substitutes is mixed, the researchers said. Some studies have linked consumption of sugar substitutes with a reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, but other studies suggest the opposite — that non-sugar sweeteners may actually increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
To clarify the health effects of sugar substitutes, the researchers reviewed information from 56 previous studies that compared people who used sugar substitutes with those who did not. The studies included both adults and children who were generally healthy. Studies were included only if they listed the type of sugar substitute.
For the most part, people who used sugar substitutes had similar health outcomes to those who did not.
Some small studies did suggest slight improvement in BMI and fasting blood glucose levels (high levels are linked to diabetes) among people who used sugar substitutes. But the quality of this evidence was low, the researchers said. Among adults and children who were trying to lose weight, there was no evidence of any effect from sugar substitutes.
The review did not suggest a link between sugar substitutes and cancer or other major adverse health effects. But the researchers noted that the evidence of safety was of low quality — meaning TKTK — and so more studies are also needed to rule out potential harms of non-sugar sweeteners.
In an editorial accompanying the review, Vasanti Malik, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, who was not involved with the review, noted some limitations of the review. For example, some relatively long-term studies suggest sugar substitutes may help prevent weight gain, but these studies were not included in the current review because they did not specify a type of sugar substitute, Malik said. (Instead, these studies considered broader categories of “diet beverages” versus sugar-sweetened beverages.)
In addition, the health effects of sugar substitutes could differ depending on whether they are compared with “real” sugar or with water. But the new review did not differentiate studies based on the “comparator” (real sugar, water, etc.), and this may have affected the results, Malik said.
Malik agreed that the findings “highlight the need for larger and longer-term studies of NSS to guide policy development.”
In July 2018, the American Heart Association published an advisory on low-calorie sweeteners that encouraged people to replace sugar-sweetened beverages and diet beverages with water. But the advisory also acknowledged that diet beverages may help wean people off sugar-sweetened beverages as they transition to water.
- How to Eat Healthy (and Cut Sugar, Salt and Fat)
- 10 Ways to Promote Kids’ Healthy Eating Habits
- 9 Meal Schedules: When to Eat to Lose Weight
Originally published on Live Science.
Will sugar substitutes help you lose weight?
(HealthDay)—The term “sugar substitutes” is a catch-all that covers a wide range of alternatives, starting with those little pink, blue and yellow packets. But their value as a health or diet aid is still uncertain.
A research review in the BMJ found that there’s limited evidence to say how much using them helps with weight loss, and that the real answer is to cut back on sugar in general by drinking water and choosing low- and no-sugar foods. Still, sugar substitutes can free up calories you can spend on healthier foods. Here’s what you need to know:
Spoonful for spoonful, artificial sweeteners can be 100 times sweeter than sugar, with few or no calories. As food additives, they’re regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and must get approval before they can be marketed.
Approved Artificial Sweeteners
- Acesulfame potassium
Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener commonly used in packaged foods. They’re carbohydrates, but the body doesn’t completely absorb them, so they don’t raise blood sugar as much as natural sugars. They’re also lower in calories, but they can have an unwanted laxative-type effect.
Common Sugar Alcohols In Packaged Foods
“Novel” sweeteners are a different kind of product. The most common one is stevia, which is made from a plant. Considered a dietary supplement rather than an additive, refined stevia isn’t subject to FDA regulation, though the agency, among others, considers it safe. It’s widely available in forms from powder to liquid drops to its own little packets. Monk fruit extract is another sweetener in this group starting to get some traction among consumers.
Although sugar alternatives like honey, molasses, maple syrup and agave nectar may seem healthier than processed white sugar, their calories are virtually the same as sugar.
No matter what sweetener you pick, watch how much you use. A Swedish study found that people who have just two sweetened drinks a day, whether naturally or artificially sweetened, double their risk of diabetes. And the risk grows with the number of such beverages you drink.
Artificial sweeteners won’t affect your blood sugar: study More information: Check out SugarScience from the University of California, San Francisco, for a rundown on the various types of sugars to help you make better choices. Journal information: British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
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Are Sweeteners Healthy? Aspartame, Stevia, Splenda, and More
Which Artificial Sweetener Is Right For You?
We help you weigh the pros and cons
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic – Expert Column
Honestly, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? We are born that way — liking the taste sensation of sweetness. We have scores of taste buds dedicated only to tasting sweetness.
And boy, do we like our sugar. Within a year’s time, Americans basically eat their weight in sugar. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2012 the average American consumed 76.7 pounds of sugar (including sugar, corn sweeteners, honey, and syrups).
Most of us who are trying to keep extra pounds off want to have our cake and eat it, too: We want the sweetness of sugar but without the calories. The way I see it, if we are trying to cut calories from sugar, we have a couple of options:
- Option 1: We can decrease the amount of sugar we eat by enjoying smaller portions of sugar-laden food and drinks and by adding less sugar when we prepare sweet items.
- Option 2: We can turn to artificial sweeteners.
Lots of us are going for Option 2. The amount of artificially sweetened products consumed by Americans has doubled in just 10 years. Artificial sweeteners come in handy if you are trying to reduce your calories from sugar, if you have diabetes and are trying to maintain normal blood sugar — and if you happen to like the taste of diet soda because regular soda is too darn sweet.
I’m in this last group. I simply do not like the taste of regular soda, so I enjoy one can of diet cola (caffeine free) a day — usually in the afternoon.
But Can They Really Help With Weight Loss?
According to a recent study by Dutch researchers, artificial sweeteners may have a pivotal role in our weight loss (or weight maintenance) plans! After reviewing many recent studies, they noted that:
- The use of aspartame was linked to better weight maintenance.
- When artificially sweetened beverages were substituted for regular, sweetened beverages (and total calories were not restricted), people ended up eating fewer calories and weighing less.
A Harvard Medical School study reported similar results in 1997. Researchers told obese women to either consume aspartame-sweetened foods or eliminate them for 16 weeks of a weight-reduction program. What happened? The women who were consuming the artificial sweetener lost significantly more weight and regained significantly less weight during the maintenance and follow-up phase.
Which One Is Right for You?
With so many artificial sweeteners out there these days, how do you know which one to buy? Here’s how they differ, and the pros and cons of each type.
Splenda contains the artificial sweetener sucralose along with maltodextrin, which adds bulk so Splenda can be substituted cup-for-cup for sugar in recipes. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar. To make sucralose, they take a cane sugar molecule and substitute three hydrogen-oxygen groups with three chlorine atoms.
Baking tip: After experimenting with Splenda in recipes, I have found the results are usually successful when I use half sugar and half Splenda.
- Sucralose has no calories, is not considered a carbohydrate by the body, and has no effect on blood sugar levels.
- You can bake with Splenda. Heat doesn’t lessen the sweet taste.
- When it comes to baking and cooking, Splenda appears to be the best sweetener for the job.
- Of all the artificial sweeteners, Splenda has caused the least controversy from watchdog or consumer groups.
- After more than 110 studies, the FDA concluded sucralose was found to have no toxic or carcinogenic effects and to pose no reproductive or neurologic risk to humans.
- The bulking agents used in Splenda can add around 12 calories per tablespoon of the mixture (although the package does not list these calories).
- Splenda can change the texture in baking recipes and can add an ”artificial” taste when used as the only sweetener in the recipe.
- Some critics claim that preliminary animal research has linked Splenda to organ damage.
Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
Saccharin, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar, is an organic molecule made from petroleum.
- Heat doesn’t affect its sweetness.
- After bladder cancer was found in male lab rats that were fed huge amounts of saccharin, the FDA proposed a ban on saccharin in 1977. But no ban was enacted, and the warning label on saccharin was dropped in 2000.
- Since 1981, government reports have listed saccharin as an ”anticipated human carcinogen.” Although studies of heavy saccharin users don’t support any link with cancer, certain subgroups, like male heavy smokers, may be at increased risk.
- The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs suggests that parents and caregivers limit young children’s intake of saccharin, since little information is available on how it might affect them.
- Because saccharin can cross the placenta, the Council on Scientific Affairs suggests that women use saccharin carefully during pregnancy.
Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal)
You would never guess that one of the most popular artificial sweeteners is actually a combination of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which are then combined with methanol. It is 180-200 times sweeter than sugar.
Some 70% of our aspartame intake is from soft drinks. The FDA has set the acceptable daily intake (ADI) at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. For most of us, this probably translates to about four (12-ounce) cans of diet soda or nine (8-ounce) glasses of fruit drink made from powder. The ADI is the estimated amount a person can safely consume every day over a lifetime.
- Each gram of aspartame has 4 calories, but it adds almost no calories to foods or drinks since we need only a tiny amount of aspartame to mimic the sweetness of sugar.
- The FDA has evaluated aspartame use in food and beverages 26 times since the sweetener was first approved in 1981. In 1996, the FDA approved its use as a general-purpose sweetener in foods and beverages.
- In 1985, the AMA’s Council on Scientific Affairs concluded that ”available evidence suggests that consumption of aspartame by normal humans is safe and is not associated with serious adverse health effects.”
- Use of aspartame within the FDA guidelines appears safe for pregnant women.
- People born with a condition called phenylketonuria cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine.
- Aspartame breaks down in liquids that are exposed to heat. So we can’t bake or cook with it.
- Some people claim they have had allergic reactions to aspartame, ranging from skin reactions to respiratory problems. But this has been difficult to confirm in studies.
- Some people have reported central nervous system side effects, like headaches, dizziness and mood changes, after consuming aspartame. But after reviewing 600 of these complaints, the CDC concluded there was no association. (The Environmental Nutrition newsletter later reported that the CDC was leaving open the possibility that a small group of people is very sensitive to aspartame.)
Acesulfame-K (Sunette or Sweet One)
Acesulfame-K (the ”K” refers to mineral potassium) is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is approved by the FDA as a tabletop sweetener and an additive to desserts, confections, and alcoholic beverages.
- It doesn’t increase the risk of cancer, according to government agencies.
- It doesn’t affect blood-sugar levels.
- It can be used in cooking and baking.
- It isn’t broken down by the body during digestion and is excreted from the body unchanged.
- Combining it with other artificial sweeteners can increase the overall sweetness and decrease the bitter taste.
- The use of acesulfame-K within FDA guidelines appears safe for pregnant women.
- When used on its own, this sweetener can have a bitter taste.
- The Washington-based consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest believes the safety tests on acesulfame-K were poorly conducted and did not properly assess the sweetener’s cancer-causing potential.
Stevia is an herb that is 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, and calorie-free. It comes from a plant in South America. You’ll find it in the herbal section of health food stores, sold as a powdered extract or in liquid form.
- Stevia has been used in South America for centuries. It’s been used in Japan for the past 30 years as well.
- Stevia has not gone through the FDA approval process for use as an artificial sweetener since it’s sold as a dietary supplement, not a sweetener, in the U.S.
- Research done in the 1980s suggested that DNA changes occurred when stevia was tested with a certain bacteria. The FDA believes stevia’s safety has not been proven.
These sugar alcohols are found in nature (in plant foods such as fruits and berries) and are also commercially made for use as sweeteners. They are absorbed slowly, and part of them isn’t absorbed at all — which is why consuming large amounts can lead to diarrhea.
- Sorbitol has received the ”Generally Recognized As Safe” designation from the FDA.
- Some people experience a laxative effect if they consume more than 49 grams of sorbitol or more than 19 grams of mannitol.
The Bottom Line
Remember: Everything in moderation. We can’t just put all our weight-loss eggs in the artificial-sweetener basket. In other words, don’t expect that simply switching to sugar-free products will help you lose weight and keep it off. This should be just one piece of your plan to start living healthy — by eating right, avoiding overeating, and exercising as much as possible.
And in my opinion, no artificial sweetener should be consumed in excess. To be extra safe, you could try following the FDA guidelines for pregnant women and children.
Environmental Nutrition suggests we limit ourselves to a couple servings a day of foods and beverages containing aspartame. This “one-diet-soda-a-day” drinker couldn’t agree more.
Originally published February 20, 2004
Artificial Sweeteners vs. Sugar: Which Is Best?
When you’re trying to cut back on calories, it’s tempting to replace some of the sugar-laden treats in your diet with artificially sweetened ones. But whether this is a good idea or not is highly debated, as there are many kinds of alternative sweeteners, few of which have been researched extensively. Below are the facts about some of the sweeteners on the market, so you can review them and make the decision that’s best for you. If you want more advice, see my recommendations at the bottom!
|SWEETENER||ALSO CALLED||WHAT IT IS||HOW ITS USED||IMPORTANT INFO|
|Sugar||Sucrose||Natural substance from sugarcane or sugar beets||Baked goods, flavored yogurt, ice cream, bottled dressings and sauces||Nutritionally equivalent to brown sugar, honey; 16 calories per tsp|
|High Fructose Corn Syrup||HFCS||Very sweet liquid derived from cornstarch||Soda, processed foods, condiments||Just like sugar, may cause you to overeat b/c of effects on blood sugar and hunger-regulating hormones.|
|Agave Nectar||Agave Syrup||Sweet liquid extract from agave plant||Bottled, in some “natural” baked goods & processed foods||Sweeter than sugar, so when adding it to food you can use less to achieve the same taste|
|Sucralose||Splenda||Chemically altered sugar with no calories||In “Less Sugar” cereals, baked goods, some sodas/drinks||600X sweeter than sugar; recognized as safe but no long-term studies have proven its safety|
|Aspartame||Equal, Nutrasweet||Synthetic sweetener with no calories||Diet sodas, “light” yogurt and processed foods, diabetic candy, sugar-free gum||Causes headaches in some people, research on whether it’s safe is mixed, not safe if you have phenylketonuria|
|Stevia||Truvia, PureVia, Enliten, Rebiana||Natural sweetener derived from leaf of stevia plant||In packets, protein-shake mixes, some “natural” soft drinks||Currently considered safe in small amounts, but no long-term studies have proven its safety. May cause gas or bloating.|
|Saccharin||Sweet ‘N Low||Synthetic sweetener with no calories||In toothpaste, in packets, and Tab diet soda||300X sweeter than sugar. Has been linked to cancer in rats, research on relationship to cancer in humans is inconclusive.|
- When you want a treat, eat a real one, sweetened with sugar or another regular old natural sweetener. If you eat sweets occasionally and in moderate portions, the sugar won’t cause cavities or weight gain.
- Avoid artificial (and zero-calorie “natural”) sweeteners most of the time. Even if they end up being proven safe for long-term use, they may interfere with your body’s ability to judge whether it’s still hungry or not. Plus, these sweeteners are only present in processed, packaged foods, which should be eaten occasionally anyway.
- None of these sweeteners will kill you if eaten in small portions, according to the evidence we have today. So if you aim to eat mostly real, nutritious foods that you make yourself, it probably won’t matter which of these you decide to ingest – if only once in a great while.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Good or Bad for Weight Loss?
When it comes to eating healthily, most people struggle with their sugar intake and often turn to zero- or low-calorie sweeteners to help cut down on sugar. Although this seems like a great option, swapping out sugar for an alternative can actually be worse for your health. Before you start using artificial sweeteners with reckless abandon, read on to learn a bit more about how they affect weight loss and health.
Are artificial sweeteners healthy?
The research around the safety of artificial sweeteners is up in the air. “There does not appear to be a concrete answer on whether or not artificial sweeteners are more harmful than sugar,” says Charlotte Martin, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O.W.M. Many sweeteners have links to numerous health conditions such as stroke, dementia, type II diabetes, obesity, and cancer. “However, most of the research is observational and doesn’t prove that the sweeteners themselves are responsible,” Martin notes.
Because the research is so varied and consuming too much sugar is also harmful, it’s best to try to decrease your intake of both artificial sweeteners and added sugar.
Are they good for weight loss?
Again, there does not appear to be an official consensus as to whether consumption of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain or weight loss—there is research to support both sides. On the one hand, some studies support that replacement of caloric sweeteners with lower- or no-calorie alternatives can lead to modest weight loss in the short term. However, other studies have found the opposite: Consuming artificial sweeteners can eventually lead to weight gain.
“Experts who believe that artificial sweeteners lead to weight gain feel this way because they think consumption of artificial sweeteners confuses the brain into craving more sugar-rich foods,“ Martin says. “Therefore, individuals who regularly consume artificial sweeteners consume more food to curb these cravings.” Some researchers also believe that artificial sweeteners interfere with the balance of bacteria in your gut. This could affect absorption of nutrients and potentially lead to weight gain.
Popular Artificial Sweeteners
Read on to learn about the risks and benefits of some of the most common zero- and low-calorie artificial sweeteners.
Saccharin is the sweetener you find in Sweet’N Low. “It is also found in processed foods and beverages including gum, soft drinks and diet sodas, fruit canned in light syrup, and other foods labeled ‘low-calorie’ or ‘light,’” Martin says. It was once thought that saccharin increased the risk of bladder cancer in rats. Fortunately, the effect was not the same for humans. However, additional research has found that saccharin can negatively affect gut bacteria and lead to weight gain.
Most people will know aspartame by the names NutraSweet or Equal. Find it in items such as diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, gum, candy, and more. Again, research isn’t conclusive, but this particular sweetener doesn’t seem to bode well for our well-being. People have reported that aspartame causes a number of adverse reactions. These include headaches, nausea, anxiety, slurred speech, insomnia, memory loss, and more.
“Unlike other artificial sweeteners like aspartame, this sweetener is stable when heated, which is why it’s found in many baked goods,” Martin says. “It’s also found in tabletop sweeteners, diet beverages, frozen desserts, candies, condiments, gum, etc.”
Like most sweeteners, acesulfame potassium is not without controversy. Some research has found a link between acesulfame potassium and cancer, thyroid damage, and changes in brain function.
Like acesulfame potassium, neotame is heat-stable. So, you can find it in a number of baked goods. It is about 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Currently, there aren’t many studies showing negative effects of neotame. The sweetener comes from aspartame, though, so people tend to report the same adverse effects.
Find sucralose in many light dairy products, diet drinks, protein powders and meal replacements, condiments, candies, and chewing gum. This is Splenda. Although the FDA deems it safe, sucralose has links to a variety of harmful biological effects in the body. It can reduce good gut bacteria, release toxins during baking, and alter insulin responses and blood sugar levels.
Unlike the aforementioned sweeteners, erythritol, a sugar alcohol, naturally occurs in small amounts in some fruits and fermented foods. “It’s also added to sweeten many packaged foods such as baked goods, beverages, gum, jellies and jams, and chocolate,” Martin says. It is one of the safest low-calorie sweeteners, but if consumed in high amounts, it does have the potential to cause digestive issues.
“Because stevia extracts originate from a plant, it’s considered natural,” Martin says. “Stevia is found in numerous packaged foods and beverages, such as baked goods, diet beverages, chocolate, candy, protein powders and meal replacements, jams/jellies, condiments, etc.”
Some research shows stevia’s potential to treat endocrine diseases. These include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The jury is out about whether it helps weight loss.
There is some evidence connecting zero-calorie sweeteners to negative physical side effects. But it’s still pretty up in the air. As with any processed foods or ingredients, it’s a good idea to ingest artificial sweeteners in moderation.
Plus, it always a good idea to follow a regular workout routine to keep your body and immune system at it’s healthiest. Aaptiv has classes across several categories, so it’s easy to find something you like—and will stick to.
It’s official. Cleveland Clinic dietitians agree that the best sweetener is no sweetener at all.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
“Sugar and artificial sweeteners are addictive and will hijack your health and metabolism,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD.
They stimulate your appetite, encourage your sweet tooth and pack on the pounds. And they place you at risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver.
But you’re human — so you probably won’t be quitting all sweeteners tomorrow. So we’ve polled our dietitians to highlight the worst and best options.
5. The worst: Artificial sweeteners
These garnered the most “no” votes.
Most people should step away from artificial sweeteners. With one exception: If you have prediabetes or diabetes, artificial sweeteners and stevia are preferable to real sugar.
“Real sugar will immediately raise your blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners will not,” says Emily Bostin MS, RDN, LD.
But “sugar substitutes can cause you to crave more sweet and sugary foods,” notes Kate Patton, Med, RD, CSSD, LD. Studies link artificial sweeteners, considered safe in moderation, with a higher risk of glucose intolerance, a precursor to prediabetes and diabetes.
They’re also associated with changes in gut bacteria and lead to increased fat storage. And who wants that?
“The worst of the worst is aspartame, which caused cancer in three independent animal studies,” says Ms. Titgemeier. Adds Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD: “I steer clear of any sweetener made in a lab.”
4. Refined sugar: Empty calories
Table sugar is inflammatory, high in calories and offers no nutritional benefit. Plus, it’s already hiding in many of your favorite foods.
“Most flavored granola bars, yogurts and cereals already contain around 12 grams (1 tablespoon) of added sugar per serving,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD. “And sugary drinks contain about 40 grams per serving. So why add more?”
3. Naturals: Raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, raw sugar
Natural sweeteners provide a few more nutrients than table sugar. “But they are all still forms of sugar and high in calories, so use no more than 1 to 2 teaspoons per day,” advises Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.
Raw honey contains antioxidant vitamins E and C as well as minerals, and pure maple syrup contains antioxidants. “Both have prebiotic oligosaccharides that help to feed gut flora,” says Ms. Titgemeier.
But read all food labels for hidden ingredients. “If you must use maple syrup, for example, choose pure maple syrup,” says Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD. “Commercial brands often contain high-fructose corn syrup.”
High-fructose diets are linked to long-term metabolic complications like insulin resistance, belly fat accumulation and high triglyceride levels.
Agave nectar — marketed as a safe alternative to sugar for those with diabetes — provides fewer nutrients than raw honey or pure maple syrup.
“Agave nectar is a natural sweetener that can be used to make lower-carb sweet treats,” says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE. “It has the same number of carbohydrates as table sugar, but you get a lot of flavor from a small amount.”
Adds Ms. Bostin: “Agave nectar has a slightly lower glycemic index but does contain sugar. It will still spike your blood sugar.”
Like agave, raw sugar has fewer nutrients than the other natural sweeteners. But — bottom line — when it comes to your metabolism, all natural sweeteners behave like sugar.
2. Stevia: Second best
Stevia — in packet, drops or plant form — is a dietitian favorite, especially when it’s 100 percent pure organic.
“Not only are stevia-based sweeteners herbal as opposed to artificial, they also contain zero calories,” says Ms. Zumpano.
Stevia blended with a sugar alcohol called erythritol (Truvia) works well in low-carb baked desserts, says Ms. Noe. “For a simple and easy sweet treat, mix 1 teaspoon of the sweetener with plain Greek yogurt and peanut butter. It tastes like peanut butter pie,” she says.
1. The best sweetener of all
The best way to sweeten food and drinks? Fresh or frozen fruit. “Fruit is a sweetener without any empty calories,” says Ms. Willoughby.
Try sweetening oatmeal by mixing in banana or applesauce. Add berries to plain Greek yogurt or chilled water. Sweeten smoothies with frozen fruit. Or add naturally sweet flavorings like vanilla or almond extract, cocoa powder and/or spices.
“I grew up with a diet high in sugar. When I cut down on added sugars and sweeteners, I started enjoying the natural sweetness of fresh berries and melon,” says Ms. Taylor. “That’s when my sugar cravings started to fade.”
How to break your habit
No sugar or sugar substitute is healthy in excess. “That’s true whether it’s in soda, sweet tea, fruit drinks, packs of sugar or sugar substitute for coffee or tea, or artificially sweetened flavor packets for water,” says Ms. Noe.
Use a true measuring spoon to gauge how much added sugar you’re using daily.
“Challenge yourself — your foods and beverages don’t always need to taste sweet,” says Ms. Zumpano.
Try decreasing the sweetener in your coffee or tea by 1 teaspoon per week. Start diluting juices by mixing half your usual portion with water to retain some of the sweetness.
That way, you won’t have to quit cold turkey. The end goal: Weaning yourself off sweeteners completely.
Stevia for Weight Loss
Weight Loss with stevia can be very beneficial for your health as well as your figure.When looking to lose weight, stay in shape and be healthy, it is vitally important to eat right! It seems that everybody loves sweets, but as we all know refined sugar is bad news for your waistline as well as your health.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have sweets and be healthy as well as achieve that nice figure and keep it! Choosing the right sweets such as stevia is key. Here you will find out some facts about weight loss with stevia.
Stevia is a low calorie sweetener which is great for promoting weight loss. It’s a wonderful substitute for sugar in baking and for adding to your smoothies, tea, coffee, etc… Stevia is known to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar meaning that you use far less of it.
Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose and aspartame hinder weight loss and cause inflammation leading to many diseases. Click for more on inflammation. Try these links to learn more about the unhealthy affects of sucralose and aspartame.
Stevia is Safe for Human Consumption
The leaves of the stevia plant have been used to sweeten teas and medicines in Brazil and Paraguay for hundreds of years. Unlike sweeteners such as sucrolose and aspartame which are toxic to the body and cause body wide inflammation, this all natural sweetener is perfectly safe.
The low calorie sweetener comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. Unlike aspartame and sucralose which is man-made, stevia is 100% natural and has zero calories. Other healthy sweeteners are, natural coconut palm sugar, maple syrup and honey. For more on these simply click on the links.
Stevia’s List of Health Benefits
This natural sweetener has been known to lower the blood pressure. It is found to be nontoxic as well as containing antioxidants which decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer.
This natural sweetener is good for diabetics since it is known to have anti-diabetic properties that can stabilize the blood sugar. Also this natural sweetener is good for your oral health because of the fact that will not promote tooth decay. another health benefit of using this low calorie sweetener is that it’s also known to strengthen bones by increasing your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Stevia is a healthy alternative to regular table sugar. It’s known to be safe for diabetics. It has antioxidants, and promotes weight loss along with other health benefits such as for bone strength, preventing tooth decay, preventing pancreatic cancer, and stabilizing the blood sugar.
So by removing table sugar from your diet and replacing it with this all natural low calorie sweetener, you’ll be healthier, feeling better and fitting into that smaller size before you know it!
Is stevia bad for you?
As you know, the transition to real food is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are bumps in the road. It’s a learning process. One bump in my road toward healing? Stevia.
I’ll be honest… I previously used stevia with abandon, before I came to the conclusion that stevia does not support health. I added stevia to sweeten my tea and I occasionally I used it in desserts or baking, like my Coconut Flour and Stevia Zucchini Muffins.
I found that stevia was very convenient. It dissolves instantly and works well in beverages or liquids. Further, because a little goes a long way, it is less expensive than many other sweeteners. But , for me, the cons outweigh the pros, and so I have quit stevia for good.
1. Stevia Taxes the Adrenals
Our bodies are not designed or evolved to handle calorie-free sweeteners – be it natural or artificial. Experiencing a sweet taste from a food that is not going to provide glucose confounds our body’s sugar-handling process. Kate, from one of my favorite health blogs Nutrition By Nature, explains how eating a sugar-free sweetener like stevia can trick the body into a state of hypoglycemia:
Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. Glucose is cleared from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, but no real sugar/glucose is provided to the body to compensate. When this happens, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver and muscle glycogen, or protein, or body tissue) to bring blood glucose back up. (Source)
The frequent release of the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) in response to the stevia-induced hypoglycemia is damaging to our adrenal glands and overall health. These stress hormones are designed to be utilized when we need to be in a flight-or-fight response–not when we are eating a meal. The consequences of excess stress hormones means a suppressed immune system, increased inflammation, and lower thyroid function… just to name a few!
Stevia isn’t going to affect everyone’s blood sugar in the same way or to the same degree. I’ve heard from more than one of my colleagues that their clients react with poor blood sugar levels to stevia. Some folks can eat stevia without a blood sugar drop, but some people will experience this blood sugar drop and correlated stress hormone surge. If you want to check, buy a glucose meter and test your blood sugar before and after eating stevia. Plus, if you are eating stevia with another source of sugar or carbohydrate the blood sugar concerns will not be as harmful, since you are providing cells with some glucose in response to the sweet taste. But blood sugar isn’t the only issue I have with this sweetener.
2. Stevia often contains other ingredients
The issue of other additives exists because we use processed stevia, not pure stevia leaves. Obviously, if you have a pot of stevia leaves growing in your garden, you can ignore this point.
- Glycerine: This is often found in liquid stevia extracts. Recently, I switched from my “natural” toothpaste to a homemade version to avoid glycerine. This solvent coats teeth and prevents the remineralizing process.
- Natural flavors: a.k.a “this could be anything.”
- Xylitol: Truvia is a popular sweetener made with stevia and xylitol. Although proponents bestow the title “natural” to this sweetener, I’ve never eaten Truvia because I’m not a fan of this uber-processed ingredient. Read this xylitol article at The Healthy Home Economist for more information.
- Dextrose: On the SCD/GAPS diet, I can’t eat typical powdered stevia because it often contains dextrose which is usually corn-based. But even if you can eat corn, dextrose most likely contains GMO corn… not good for you or our planet.
3. Stevia has an aftertaste
If you eat stevia, you know it has an aftertaste… and you do your best to convince yourself of the contrary. Raw honey (or pure maple syrup or sucanut or coconut sugar) tastes exorbitantly better. Period.
4. I’m not afraid of false Candida myths!
Many people favor stevia as a primary sweetener, because they are afraid of feeding Candida overgrowth. Stevia may not feed Candida, but going sugar free to address Candida overgrowth is a big mistake because it can lead to systemic candida overgrowth and severely impaired metabolism.
What is so wrong with the popular Candida Diet, a sugar-free diet that uses only stevia as a sweetener? I recently debunked candida myths and offered a safer, healthier alternative to the Candida Diet in my post Busted: Candida Myths.
5. Stevia doesn’t support glycogen synthesis
Many people choose stevia over natural sweeteners like fruit and honey, but this is not a good choice. Fruit and raw honey, in particular, are excellently balanced sources of glucose and fructose, providing the liver with building blocks to create glycogen (glucose stores). Stevia, however, does not support glycogen formation.
Why is glycogen so important? When blood sugar is low, glycogen is broken down and released as glucose in the bloodstream. When the diet lacks sufficient glucose, there will be inadequate glycogen stored. If sugar is not immediately ingested to raise blood sugar levels, the body releases extra adrenaline and cortisol to convert muscle protein and fat into glucose. If this pattern is repeated, the frequent release of these stress hormone takes a toll on the body… and one of the most manifest symptoms of excess cortisol is abdominal weight gain.
Additionally, the body cannot convert convert inactive thyroid hormone T4 into active thyroid hormone T3 without adequate glycogen. The resulting hypothyroidism leads to slowed metabolism–and that means a host of symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss and lack of energy. Without adequate dietary sugars, the body cannot create and store glycogen.
I love giving my body some fuel in the form of raw, unfiltered honey instead of nutrient-void stevia. I believe that a sugar-free diet is detrimental (and by “sugar free” I mean free of healthy sugars… there is nothing wrong with eliminating white sugar, agave nectar, and corn syrup from the diet!). See my post Sugar: Why Your Body Needs It to learn why natural sources of sugar are important to metabolism and healthy hormones.
6. Stevia molecules have a hormone structure
I’m not a scientist, but one nutrition scientist whom I greatly admire – Sarah Ballantyne – is strongly apprehensive of the hormonal structure of stevia molecules. According to Sarah,
Steviol glycosides are synthesized in the same pathway and end up being structurally very similar to the plant hormones gibberellin and kaurene. This means that steviol glycosides have a hormone structure… There is evidence that steviol glycosides have contraceptive effects in both males and females. In particular, one specific steviol glycoside, called stevioside, has been shown to have potent contraceptive properties in female rats, implying that stevia may have an impact on estrogen, progesterone or both.
While small and occasional consumption of stevia likely has little to no impact on general health, it should not be consumed on a regular basis especially by those with altered hormone balance and dysfunctional immune systems. (Read more)
Since I have an autoimmune disease and hormonal imbalance, I’ve given stevia the boot for good. I stick with my raw honey and whole fruits!
How do you feel about stevia? Do you love it, hate it or are you on the fence?