The Artificial & Natural Sweeteners Health & Safety Rankings – Which are Worst, Which are Best?
Do you love cookies, cake, sugar in your tea? You’re not alone! The average American eats about 150 pounds of sugar each year. If you have been trying to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, beware of their potential side effects. Trying a safe, zero calorie natural sugar like Lakanto Monkfruit can change the way you eat!
(Note to Readers: Also be sure to check out our related article, Honey, Sugar, Molasses, Agave, Stevia & Other Natural Sweeteners: Which Are Actually Good for You?)
Sugar. It’s a part of our culture, our traditions and our lives.
From our earliest days, we often associate sweet things with nurturing and love.
Sweet treats have become a nearly unavoidable part of holidays and birthdays, but did you know that some form of sugar is in just about every processed food on the market? Even so called “healthy” foods can be laden with ingredients to sweeten it up.
Do you have a sweet tooth?
You may be surprised to learn that the average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar each year1.
Because Americans consume so much sugar, we’ve seen a rise in diabetes, hyperactivity, and obesity. As a result, many people are now turning to artificial sweeteners for a calorie-free sweet fix.
But artificial sweeteners are NOT a healthy alternative to sugar.
Including certain sugar alternatives, cultured foods and the right prebiotics and probiotics into a diet can be game changing for anyone trying to live a healthier life, or to conquer certain health conditions. Read on to discover the best and the worst artificial and natural sweeteners on the market today and to learn about some healthier alternatives!
Aspartame may contribute to headaches, dizziness, seizures and depression to name a few.2 The consumption of aspartame may even be linked to cancer.3
Manufacturers use aspartame in a variety of products, including the artificial sweetener Equal.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a less expensive sweetener than sugar and is linked to serious health implications.4,5 It’s present in most of the processed food available at your local supermarket and even finds its way into products that are not “sweet!”
HFCS is made up mostly of fructose, a kind of sugar that must be metabolized in your liver.
But your liver cannot handle all the fructose that many people ingest, so doctors are seeing more and more patients with fatty liver disease, a condition similar to the liver toxicity of alcoholics, except that it comes from too much high fructose corn syrup and other lifestyle choices.
Learn more about Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and how to prevent it.
Sugar (or sucrose)
All sucrose (including cane sugar, raw sugar, sucanat, and brown sugar) causes your blood sugar to spike and when eaten in excess can increase your risk for diabetes.
Sugar also triggers a cyclical dependence on its quick-fix energy, resulting in a short term “sugar high” that is always followed by a “sugar low.”
High sugar intake has been linked to:
- Increased free radical formation
- Increased advanced glycation end products (AGEs)6
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease7
For more on the dangers of sugar, read: The 25 Key Reasons You Want to Dramatically Reduce or Avoid Sugar in Your Diet.
Besides having an unpleasantly bitter and metallic aftertaste, saccharin has been shown to be carcinogenic and may cause bladder cancer.
Saccharin is in diet drinks like Tab, some toothpastes, and Sweet n Low.
Honey is sweeter than sugar and is 100% glucose and fructose. It has more calories and even raises your blood sugar more than white sugar.
Some research reports that raw honey has enzymes and small amounts of minerals, which lead some health food enthusiasts to feel that honey is a better choice than sugar. While it is more natural and less processed than white sugar, honey does feed the systemic yeast infection, candida.8
Marketed as a “healthy” artificial sweetener, Splenda can cause skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain.9
Splenda has also been shown to promote gut dysbiosis. 13
These products impart a sweet taste and are not all bad because they have some nutritional value, but use caution because they act like sugar in your blood stream and if you are battling candida or other immune-related illness, these sweeteners feed candida. At Body Ecology, we would suggest that if you must have these sweeteners, cautiously reintroduce them AFTER you’ve re-established an inner ecosystem inside your intestines and cleared up all symptoms of candida. However, there are even better choices (keep reading!).
Molasses contains some minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It is not as sweet as sugar.
Blackstrap molasses is the least sweet kind you can buy and has more minerals than other varieties.
Maple syrup contains high levels of calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, thiamin. It also has B2, B5, B6, riboflavin, biotin and folic acid, and many amino acids and phenolic compounds.
Agave is derived from a plant found mainly in Mexico and contains a sweet, sticky juice that is ninety percent fructose.
Until recently, blue agave was used only for tequila distilling. Then growers found a way to process agave, and convert it into something called hydrolyzed high fructose inulin syrup.
This chemically processed agave is similar to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sugar with serious health implications.
In fact, some agave distributors have been caught re-labeling HFCS as agave syrup!
It is difficult to tell whether the agave syrup sold on the market is from a toxic variety of agave, which might be used due to the shortage of blue agave, or whether it is the highly processed fructose syrup.
For these reasons, it is best to second guess using agave syrup unless you are certain of its source. One of our probiotic liquids (super spirulina) uses a highly reputable source of agave syrup, and we can attest that we went through great lengths to make certain of its credibility. Many companies offering food products won’t necessarily go through these lengths, so again, just be cautious.
These sweeteners do not feed candida and do not cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol extracted from the fiber of many fruits and vegetables including corn, raspberries, and plums. Xylitol has the same consistency and sweetness as white sugar, but with 33% fewer calories. It helps remineralize your teeth and prevents cavities.
You can find many natural chewing gums that use xylitol as a sweetener. Our favorite is Xylichew.
Stevia is an amazing sweetener that comes in both liquid and powder form. It has zero calories, dissolves in water and is 200 – 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need to use a few drops for sweetness.
Body Ecology’s liquid stevia is truly unique in that it has all the sweet flavor with none of the bitter aftertaste. This natural sweetener comes from Japan and has been used safely and with great success for ten years. It is not only approved but actually recommended by The Japanese Ministry of Health for those who suffer from obesity and diabetes. Over ten thousand hospitals in Japan serve it to their patients.
Lakanto looks like, tastes like and works just like sugar. Unlike most fruits, whose sweetness comes from fructose, Monk Fruit’s sweetness comes from natural mogrosides that are 300 times sweeter than sugar. Zero-calorie Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweetener is good for the waistline, and it’s also diabetic-friendly. Lakanto has been proven not to raise insulin or blood sugar.
We even use this preferred sweetener in our top-selling, delicious probiotic protein shake.
This type of sugar alcohol is about 60 – 80% as sweet as sugar. It’s fermented, heat stable, non-caloric, non-glycemic, and one of the easier sugar alcohols to digest. Sugar alcohols, like xylitol, are often used as sugar substitutes because they provide a sweet taste that does not raise blood sugar to the degree that sucrose does. This is because they convert to glucose more slowly in your body and do not require much insulin to metabolize.
For a great natural sweetener that combines the health benefits of non-GMO erythritol and lo hanguo, read more here.
The Best Natural Sweeteners
Donna Gates spent years introducing stevia to tens of thousands of Americans during the years the FDA banned importation into the US. She knew how vital it was for us (and especially our children) to have a safe, sweet-tasting sugar substitute that did not feed fungal infections or raise blood sugar.
In those earlier days, there were no delicious examples of stevia. It was an unpopular herb because of the strong licorice-like aftertaste of the crude green leaf.
Body Ecology began offering stevia in a white powder that was an extract of the two sweet elements in stevia…rebaudioside and stevioside. We encouraged thousands of our customers to contact the FDA and request that stevia be given GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) approval as a sweetener. The FDA received constant phone calls and, two-and-a-half years later when the SunRider Company filed a formal petition, the FDA lifted the ban allowing it to be sold, but only as a dietary supplement.
The job was far from over, however, since American’s really had no idea of how to use this new white powder. Donna, knowing that there was a “learning curve” to a sugar substitute that was nothing like sugar developed recipes and co-authored a cookbook with Dr Ray Sahalian called, STEVIA: Cooking with Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener.
Because Stevia is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, most people found the fluffy white powder difficult to work with, so Body Ecology introduced the first higher quality Reb-A liquid concentrate. This more convenient form of stevia is great for sweetening beverages, probiotic liquids and breakfast dishes …but the powder or the liquid aren’t really that acceptable for baking.
Determined to find a solution and after much research and experimentation, Donna was the first one to bring the sugar alcohol, Lakanto, to the US and market it as a new natural sweetener that is an all-around star for health and sweetness, including in baking. Made from the naturally sweet luo han guo fruit (monk fruit), calorie-free Lakanto looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, and bakes like sugar — without sugar’s dangers. There are so many ways that Stevia and Lakanto can be used – so make sure to keep us updated if you make your own creation that works well!
Here are some of the great characteristics of Stevia and Lakanto:
- Zero calories
- All natural ingredients
- Sweetness equal to sugar
- No aftertaste
- Heat resistance makes it excellent for baking
- Controls blood sugar levels10
- Can be used anywhere in place of sugar
- Prevents cavities11
- Comes in granulated, cubed, and syrup forms
- Less likely to feed candida12
Stevia and Lakanto will have great appeal if you:
- Want to lose weight
- Have diabetes or excess sugar in your blood
- Are looking for a calorie-free, natural sweetener
- Follow a low glycemic diet
- Like a sweet taste, but not the side effects of artificial sweeteners
- Have candida or other fungal and bacterial infections
- Want to minimize sugar’s aging effect on your body
You may just find that Stevia and Lakanto are great complements to the Body Ecology system for health and healing, and can help you reach your wellness goals without giving up your sweet tooth!
- “45 Alarming Statistics on American’s Sugar Consumption and the Effects of Sugar on Americans’ Health”. The Diabetes Council.
- Lillis, Charlotte. “What are the Side Effects of Aspartame?”. MedicalNewsToday.com. Jun 2018.
- Aspartame. Cancer.org.
- Stanhope, Kimber, et al. “A dose-response study of consuming high-fructose corn syrup–sweetened beverages on lipid/lipoprotein risk factors for cardiovascular disease in young adults”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 6, 1 June 2015, 1144–1154.
- Walker, Ryan W., et al. “Fructose content in popular beverages made with and without high-fructose corn syrup”. Nutrition. Volume 30, Issues 7–8, July–August 2014, 928-935.
- Danby, FW. Nutrition and Aging Skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in Dermatology. 2010 Jul-Aug;28(4):409-11.
- Kailash Prasad, Indu Dhar. “Oxidative Stress as a Mechanism of Added Sugar-Induced Cardiovascular Disease”. International Journal of Angiology. 2014 Dec; 23(4): 217–226.
- Oates, Carla. The good-gut guide. Professional Beauty. Issue Jan/Feb 2015 (Feb 2015).
- Johnson, Jon. “Splenda: Is it Safe?” MedicalNewsToday.com. Feb 2017.
- KU Leuven. “Researchers unravel how stevia controls blood sugar levels.” ScienceDaily. April 2017.
- Ma MS, Blanksma NG. [Stevia in the fight against dental caries]. Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd. 2015 Jan;122(1):51-5.
- Thomas, JE, Glade, MJ. “Stevia: it’s not just about the calories”. The Open Obesity Journal. 2010, 2, 101-109.
- Rodriguez-Palacios, A, et al. “The Artificial Sweetener Splenda Promotes Gut Proteobacteria, Dysbiosis, and Myeloperoxidase Reactivity in Crohn’s Disease–Like Ileitis”. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Volume 24, Issue 5, 23 April 2018, Pages 1005–1020.