Best (and Worst) Sugar Substitutes – Cleveland Clinic

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Let’s be honest, adding sugar is not good for your health. (sorry.)

It’s understandable to splurge sometimes. Added sugars are pervasive in our food supply, and a life of excessive restrictions and denials is neither sustainable nor practical for many.

You probably already know that. And maybe you thought you found a better solution. are you OKyou think, If sugar isn’t so good for my body, I get sweet from artificial sweeteners, honey, and other sugar substitutes. Problem solved.

However, it is not. (Sorry again.)

Not all sugar substitutes are created equal when it comes to sweeteners.

We asked registered dietitian Anna Taylor, RD, LD, to sort through the issue and give us some advice on how to reduce your sugar intake.

sweet food problem

Sugary and sweet foods don’t just increase the risk of tooth decay. It can stimulate your appetite and make you even hungrier than before. And eating too many sweets can put you at risk for things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease.

Keeping your sugar intake low is important to keep your body healthy.

How much sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association recommends the following carbohydrate restriction daily:

  • 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB).
  • For males and those assigned male at birth (AMAB), 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day.

“The average American consumes about 68 grams of sugar a day,” says Taylor. “This can add up to 28 pounds of body fat per year.”

we are all human. And skipping sweets tomorrow probably won’t be at the top of your to-do list. However, reducing intake can make a big difference. Taylor explains how to reduce your sugar intake in a healthy way.

Best Choice: Fresh and Frozen Fruit

The best way to sweeten your food or drink is with fresh or frozen fruit.

Unlike prepackaged baked goods that are packed with empty calories, fruits are packed with nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and natural sugars. It’s the ideal sweetener, says Taylor.

Fruit is a great way to fill your stomach with vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. So, while adding sweetness, it also benefits your overall health. A win-win.


Try sweetening your oatmeal by mixing it with bananas or applesauce. Add blueberries to plain Greek yogurt. Use frozen fruit to sweeten your smoothie. Alternatively, add a handful of sliced ​​strawberries or a few slices of lime and add water.

Restrictions: natural sugars

Natural sugars include raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and raw sugar.

The good news is that some natural sweeteners offer several more nutrients than sugar.

What’s the bad news? They are all a form of sugar and high in calories.

Natural sugars, like refined sugars, should be included in your daily sugar intake.

“Whether natural or refined, sugar is still sugar and should be limited,” says Taylor.

On the plus side, both raw honey and pure maple syrup contain antioxidants and prebiotic oligosaccharides that help nourish the intestinal flora. (Translation: Helps keep digestion on track.)

Remember, however, that honey should not be given to infants under the age of one. Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which can be a serious health hazard for infants.

When it comes to maple syrup, you want to be picky. Some commercial maple syrup brands contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup instead of natural sweeteners. Check food labels for hidden ingredients.

“High-fructose diets are associated with long-term metabolic complications such as insulin resistance, abdominal fat accumulation, and high triglyceride levels,” explains Taylor. “Therefore, avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup.”

Agave nectar is also a natural option. However, it has fewer nutrients than raw honey or pure maple syrup.

“The carbs and calories in agave nectar are the same as sugar, but you get a lot of flavor with less, so you end up using less to get the same sweetness,” says Taylor. . “It still raises blood sugar levels. So people with diabetes should be careful with their diabetes.”

Things to remember about natural sources of added sugar: Sugar works just like sugar in terms of weight and blood sugar levels. So don’t overdo it.

“All added sugar causes inflammation, including honey and maple syrup,” Taylor clarified.

Restrictions: refined sugar

Table sugar causes inflammation, is high in calories, and offers no nutritional benefits.


It may be hidden in your favorite foods as well.

“Most flavored granola bars, yogurts and cereals already have about a tablespoon of sugar per serving,” says Taylor. “Many sugary drinks contain more than 3 tablespoons of sugar per serving.”

Restrictions: artificial sugars

Common artificial sweeteners include saccharin (Sweet n’ Low®), aspartame (Equal®), and sucralose (Splenda®).

Artificial sweeteners may sound like a dream come true. It tastes so sweet, but it has zero (or very few) sugar and calories. Yes, please!

But artificial sweeteners have their own concerns.

like what? good…

  1. Like sugar, artificial sweeteners can make you crave sweeter, sweeter foods.
  2. Artificial sweeteners often contain sugar alcohols. Erythritol, one of the sugar alcohols commonly used in artificial sweeteners, was first linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes.
  3. Some researchers have suggested that artificial sweeteners may be linked to a variety of other health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. However, these results have not been fully validated. Research is still ongoing.

Ready to cut out your candy?

One thing is clear: consuming too much sugar and sugar substitutes is good for your health.

Sugar is addictive. The more sugar you eat, the more you want it. However, it is possible to reduce or eliminate added sugar.

How can I break the habit?

“Challenge yourself. Food and drink don’t necessarily have to taste sweet,” recommends Taylor.

Start small. You don’t have to eat cold turkey to get the benefits of a low carb diet.

  1. Reduce the amount of sweeteners in your coffee or tea by 1 teaspoon per week.
  2. Drink more water and less soda, lemonade, and sweetened tea.
  3. Dilute the juice by mixing half the usual amount with water to leave a little sweetness.
  4. Start a habit of reading labels. Much of the sugar in the American diet is found in processed, sweetened, ready-made foods and beverages. If you start looking, you’ll find added sugars everywhere, and you can look for natural alternatives.

“Zero added sugar should not be the goal for most people. It’s just not realistic,” says Taylor. But being aware of your sugar intake is a start. Also, knowing where to get healthier alternatives to satisfy your occasional sweet cravings can help keep your body fit. And don’t give in to your sweet tooth.




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