Reducing your intake of refined sugar can be tough, but given how incredibly harmful sugar can be, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Fortunately, quite a few sweeteners found in nature are actually healthy.
They’re low in calories, low in fructose, and taste very sweet.
Here are 5 natural sweeteners that could be healthier alternatives to refined sugar.
Stevia is a very popular low calorie sweetener.
It’s extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana.
This plant has been grown for its sweetness and medicinal purposes for centuries in South America.
Several sweet compounds are found in stevia leaves. The main ones are stevioside and rebaudioside A. Both are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram.
Therefore, stevia is very sweet but has virtually no calories.
Additionally, a few human-based studies suggest stevia may have health benefits, including for the following health parameters:
Blood pressure. Stevia may help lower high blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, it doesn’t affect normal or only mildly elevated blood pressure levels (2Trusted Source).
Blood sugar. Stevia may be a helpful sugar alternative for people with diabetes and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, some research suggests that stevia may negatively affect the gut microbiome (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Many people greatly dislike the taste of stevia. The flavor depends on the brand, though, so you may need to experiment to find a type of stevia you like.
Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that may help lower both your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Erythritol is another low calorie sweetener.
It’s a sugar alcohol found naturally in certain fruits. However, powdered erythritol available for purchase is most likely made via an industrial process.
Erythritol tastes very much like sugar, although it can have a mild aftertaste.
Erythritol doesn’t spike your blood sugar or insulin levels, nor does it affect levels of blood fats like cholesterol or triglycerides.
It’s absorbed into your body from your intestines, but it’s eventually excreted from your urine unchanged.
Although it’s often better tolerated than other sugar alcohols, it could cause digestive issues, including gas and diarrhea, if you consume too much at a time — especially if it’s combined with other types of sugar like fructose.
Keep in mind that erythritol is much less likely to cause digestive issues than other sugar alcohols such as xylitol.
Additionally, one study including 264 young adults showed that higher blood levels of erythritol were associated with increased belly fat, which may be due to a genetic predisposition to convert sugar into erythritol (9Trusted Source).
Erythritol is a very sweet and low calorie sugar alcohol. Studies show that it’s generally safe to eat, although it can cause digestive problems at high doses.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to that of sugar.
Xylitol appears to have some benefits for dental health, including reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay (10Trusted Source).
According to some animal studies, it may also improve bone density, helping prevent osteoporosis (11Trusted Source).
Furthermore, research shows that xylitol can increase levels of several compounds in the digestive tract to help support your gut microbiome (12Trusted Source).
Xylitol also doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels. However, like other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive side effects, including abdominal gas and diarrhea, at high doses (13Trusted Source).
Keeping this in mind, it’s best to use xylitol in moderation.
Finally, if you have a dog at home, keep xylitol out of its reach, as xylitol is highly toxic to dogs (14Trusted Source).
Xylitol is a very popular sweetener. It’s a sugar alcohol containing about 2.4 calories per gram and may have some benefits for dental and digestive health. Research in rats suggests it may improve bone density and lower the risk of osteoporosis.
4. Yacon syrup
Yacon syrup is another unique sweetener.
It’s harvested from the yacon plant, which grows natively in the Andes in South America.
It’s very high in fructooligosaccharides, which function as soluble fibers that feed the good bacteria in your intestine.
Yacon syrup may prevent constipation and has various benefits due to its high amount of soluble fiber.
Don’t eat too much at a time, though, as it can cause digestive problems.
Yacon syrup is very high in fructooligosaccharides, which feed the good bacteria in your intestines. It may help prevent constipation and promote weight loss.
5. Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit is a type of fruit native to Southeast Asia. It’s often used to make a natural sweetener called monk fruit extract.
It’s free of calories and carbs, and some research suggests it may help support better blood sugar management. Yet, this same research concluded that there’s not enough evidence to determine the safety of monk fruit extract as a food additive (18Trusted Source).
Monk fruit also contains antioxidant compounds known as mogrosides, which studies have shown may reduce markers of inflammation (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Although there’s limited research on the effects of monk fruit in humans, it’s generally considered safe and hasn’t been associated with any negative side effects (21Trusted Source).
However, it’s important to check the ingredient label when purchasing monk fruit extract, as many products are combined with sugar or other sweeteners, which could negate its potential health benefits.
Low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, can allow people with diabetes to enjoy sweet foods and drinks that do not affect their blood sugar levels. A range of sweeteners is available, each of which has different pros and cons.
People with diabetes must take special care to avoid blood sugar spikes. Controlling blood sugar is important for avoiding the more severe complications of diabetes, including nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.
Choosing alternative sweeteners is one way of maintaining sweetness in food and drink. However, not all alternative sweeteners are good options for people with diabetes. Agave syrup, for example, provides more caloriesTrusted Source than table sugarTrusted Source.
In this article, we look at seven of the best low-calorie sweeteners for people with diabetes.
Stevia is a popular alternative to sugar.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
To make stevia, manufacturers extract chemical compounds called steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant.
This highly-processed and purified product is around 300 times sweeter than sucrose, or table sugar, and it is available under different brand names, including Truvia, SweetLeaf, and Sun Crystals.
Stevia has several pros and cons that people with diabetes will need to weigh up. This sweetener is calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar levels. However, it is often more expensive than other sugar substitutes on the market.
Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. For this reason, some manufacturers add other sugars and ingredients to balance the taste. This can reduce the nutritional benefit of pure stevia.
Some people report nausea, bloating, and stomach upset after consuming stevia.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify sweeteners made from high-purity steviol glycosides to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. However, they do not consider stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts to be safe. It is illegal to sell them or import them into the U.S.
According to the FDATrusted Source, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of a person’s body weight. Accordingly, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 pounds (lb), can safely consume 9 packets of the tabletop sweetener version of stevia. Various stevia products are available to purchase online.
Tagatose is a form of fructose that is around 90 percent sweeter than sucrose.
Although it is rare, some fruits, such as apples, oranges, and pineapples, naturally provide tagatose. Manufacturers use tagatose in foods as a low-calorie sweetener, texturizer, and stabilizer.
Not only do the FDA class tagatose as GRAS, but scientists are interested in its potential to help manage type 2 diabetes.
Some studies indicate that tagatose has a low glycemic index (GI) and may support the treatment of obesity. GI is a ranking system that measures the speed at which a type of food increases a person’s blood sugar levels.
Tagatose may be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes who are following a low-GI diet. However, this sugar substitute is more expensive than other low-calorie sweeteners and may be harder to find in stores.
Tagatose products are available to purchase online.
People can use sucralose instead of sugar when baking.
Sucralose, available under the brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener made from sucrose.
This sweetener is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar but contains very few calories.
Sucralose is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, and it is widely available. Manufacturers add it to a range of products from chewing gum to baked goods.
This alternative sweetener is heat-stable, whereas many other artificial sweeteners lose their flavor at high temperatures. This makes sucralose a popular choice for sugar-free baking and sweetening hot drinks.
The FDA have approved sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener and set an ADI of 5 mg/kg of body weight. A person weighing 60 kg, or 132 lb, can safely consume 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of sucralose in a day.
However, recent studies have raised some health concerns. A 2016 study found that male mice that consumed sucralose were more likely to develop malignant tumors. The researchers note that more studies are necessary to confirm the safety of sucralose.
A range of sucralose products is available to purchase online.
Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener that has been available in the U.S. since the 1980s.
It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar, and manufacturers add it to a wide variety of food products, including diet soda. Aspartame is available in grocery stores under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal.
Unlike sucralose, aspartame is not a good sugar substitute for baking. Aspartame breaks down at high temperatures, so people generally only use it as a tabletop sweetener.
Aspartame is also not safe for people with a rare genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria.
The FDATrusted Source consider aspartame to be safe at an ADI of 50 mg/kg of body weight. Therefore, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 lb, could consume 75 packets of aspartame in the form of a tabletop sweetener.
Many different aspartame products are available to purchase online.
Here, learn more about the side effects of aspartame.
5. Acesulfame potassium
Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K and Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener that is around 200 timesTrusted Source sweeter than sugar.
Manufacturers often combine acesulfame potassium with other sweeteners to combat its bitter aftertaste. It is available under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One.
The FDATrusted Source have approved acesulfame potassium as a low-calorie sweetener and state that the results of more than 90 studies support its safety.
They have set an ADI for acesulfame potassium of 15 mg/kgTrusted Source of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of acesulfame potassium.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source in mice has suggested a possible association between acesulfame potassium and weight gain, but further research in humans is necessary to confirm this link.
Cafes and restaurants may provide saccharin sweeteners.
Saccharin is another widely available artificial sweetener.
There are several different brands of saccharin, including Sweet Twin, Sweet’N Low, and Necta Sweet. Saccharin is a zero-calorie sweetener that is 200–700 timesTrusted Source sweeter than table sugar.
According to the FDATrusted Source, there were safety concerns in the 1970s after research found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats.
However, more than 30 human studies now support the safety of saccharin, and the National Institutes of Health no longer consider this sweetener to have the potential to cause cancer.
The FDATrusted Source have determined the ADI of saccharin to be 15 mg/kg of body weight, which means that a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person can consume 45 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of it.
People can purchase a range of saccharin products online.
Neotame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 7,000–13,000 timesTrusted Source sweeter than table sugar. This sweetener can tolerate high temperatures, making it suitable for baking. It is available under the brand name Newtame.
The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener and flavor enhancer for all foods except for meat and poultry. They state that more than 113 animal and human studies support the safety of neotame andTrusted Source have set an ADI for neotame of 0.3 mg/kg of body weight.
This is equivalent to a 60-kg, or 132-lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of neotame.
When choosing a low-calorie sweetener, some general considerations include:
Many sugar substitutes do not withstand high temperatures, so they would make poor choices for baking.
Cost. Some sugar substitutes are expensive, whereas others have a cost closer to that of table sugar.
Availability. Some sugar substitutes are easier to find in stores than others.
Taste. Some sugar substitutes, such as stevia, have a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. Make sure that the manufacturers have not added chemicals or other sweeteners that reduce the nutritional benefit.
Natural versus artificial. Some people prefer using natural sweeteners, such as stevia, rather than artificial sugar substitutes. However, natural does not always mean lower-calorie or more healthful.
Add fruit instead of sweetener: Where possible, add a sweet fruit to a meal instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Options include strawberry, blueberry, and mango.
The best sweeteners should not only add sweetness, but enhance the flavor of your tea too. The world of sweeteners can be as complicated as the world of tea itself, so choosing the right one is not always the easiest task. Sweeteners can be natural or artificial, and can have calories or can be calorie free.
The following covers the most common artificial sweeteners and each one’s ability to be used in baking:
SACCHARIN: (e.g., Sweet‘N Low)
It can replace some of the sugar, but will leave a metallic aftertaste and may result in lumpy texture.
300-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ½ tsp. bulk Sweet‘N Low
ASPARTAME: (e.g., Equal, Nutrasweet)
Not for baking as it loses sweetness in high heat. May work in custards and puddings.
200-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet
ACESULFAME POTASSIUM: (e.g., Sunette)
Can be used in baking, but will yield a slight bitter aftertaste
200-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet
NEOTAME by Nutrasweet
Developed to be used in baking as the sweetness holds up to high heat with no metallic or bitter aftertaste.
8,000-times sweeter than sugar
Not widely available for purchase
STEVIA (e.g., Turvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw)
These are not pure stevia, but a form of stevia known as Rebaudioside A. It is often mixed with erythritol after processing.
Heat stable so can be used in baking; however, these sugars do not caramelize or crystalize so you will not get the browning effect desired in certain baked goods. Not appropriate for use in meringues.
200 to 300-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet
SUCRALOSE (e.g., Splenda)
Good for baking as long as you use the Splenda baking formulation, which has low-calorie fillers added for bulk. Sucralose is a distant cousin of sugar as it is made from sugar.
600-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ½ tsp.
ERYTHRITOL (e.g., Nectresse)
Good for baking with no aftertaste; has fewer calories than sugar, but is not zero-calorie like many other artificial sweeteners.
150-times sweeter than sugar
1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ¼ tsp.
Although it is tempting to turn to artificial sweeteners to reduce sugar, carbohydrates and calories in baked goods, we recommend that you stick with natural sweeteners such as raw honey, pure maple syrup, and coconut sugar and try to increase the healthy fats in your recipes and to help balance out the macronutrient content.
Sugar is an inseparable part of the food we consume. But too much sugar is not ideal for our teeth and waistline. There have been some controversial suggestions that excessive sugar may play an important role in certain degenerative diseases. So artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened products continue to attract consumers. A sugar substitute (artificial sweetener) is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, but usually has less food energy. Besides its benefits, animal studies have convincingly proven that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, brain tumors, bladder cancer and many other health hazards. Some kind of health related side effects including carcinogenicity are also noted in humans. A large number of studies have been carried out on these substances with conclusions ranging from “safe under all conditions” to “unsafe at any dose”. Scientists are divided in their views on the issue of artificial sweetener safety. In scientific as well as in lay publications, supporting studies are often widely referenced while the opposing results are de-emphasized or dismissed. So this review aims to explore the health controversy over perceived benefits of sugar substitutes.
Acceptable Daily Intake: 50 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound person, 3,409 milligrams a day would be safe. A packet of Equal contains 37 milligrams of aspartame. A 12-ounce can of diet soda contains around 200 milligrams of aspartame.
01/11 Are artificial sweeteners safe?
Contrary to the general belief artificial sweeteners are not at all healthy as they are made using synthetic substances, which are not easy to digest. You might be surprised to know that there are some artificial sweeteners that are banned across several countries, but are still used in some, like Acesulfame potassium or Ace K. Here are 10 points to know more about the side effects of artificial sweeteners.
02/11 Artificial sweeteners are completely artificial
If you think that they have some form of naturalness, then you are mistaken. Artificial sweeteners are made using synthetic substances, which a human cannot digest easily and are harmful as well. So, the next time you think of adding artificial sweetener in your diet, be careful!
03/11 It’s not safe
No matter how sweet these artificial sweeteners taste, they are dangerous. There are some sweeteners like Acesulfame potassium or Ace K and Aspartame, which are banned across the world but still used in some countries. They are extremely unsafe and may have carcinogenic side effects on people.
04/11 Lowers metabolism
Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners also tends to lower the metabolism in your body as they delay the balance of insulin and glucagon, which controls the blood glucose. This paves way to increase your hunger, which can lead to overeating as well.
05/11Can cause diseases
Various studies have confirmed that artificial sweeteners cause dangerous diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic disorders. They can even cause chronic kidney diseases and neurological issues.
06/11 Artificial sweeteners are ‘neurotoxic’
Several studies have suggested that you must avoid the regular intake of artificial sweeteners as they can even cause memory loss. They attack the neurons in the brain and have the capacity to damage the brain’s cerebellum.
07/11 Adverse effect on Prenatal development
You can imagine how unhealthy these sweeteners are as they are not permitted during pregnancy. They can cause preterm delivery, which might not be healthy for both the baby and the mother.
08/11 Lead to weight gain
Artificial sweeteners have a direct impact on your gut bacteria, which affects the metabolism and eventually it leads to weight gain. So, the next time you go out to shop for zero-calorie beverages, BEWARE!
09/11 Risky for children
There are no studies to suggest, what impact artificial sweeteners can cause on children. Kids must avoid having food or beverages that have artificial sweeteners.
10/11 Affects insulin hormone
The regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can affect your insulin hormone adversely as whenever you eat anything sweet, the insulin is released which can affect your blood glucose levels, leading to hunger pangs and overeating.