The 8 Best and Worst Sugar Substitutes For Your Health

Now that people are becoming more aware about the dangers of too much refined sugar, people are opting for “healthier” substitutes for the sweetener.

Whether it’s sugar-free soda, a lighter Starbucks drinks, or sugar-free gum, artificial sweeteners have been popping up everywhere, and many are choosing these options over their sugar-filled counterparts, believing them to be the more nutritious option. Unfortunately, many of these sugar substitutes are actually worse for you than the real thing.

Whether you’re into baking at home or trying to buy the right products at the grocery store, it’s important to know which sugar substitutes to choose and which to avoid.

If you’re at a loss as to what sweeteners are the healthiest option, use the below guide for the worst and best sugar substitutes.

Worst Sugar Substitutes

1. Equal

This popular sweetener is made from aspartame, which can cause headaches, and even worse, an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Aspartame is found in thousands of foods, especially diet soda, and it accounts for 75 percent of the adverse food reactions reported to the FDA.

sweetener photo

2. Splenda

Splenda, also known as sucralose, has been found to have some harmful effects on the body, including reducing good gut bacteria, releasing toxic compounds during baking, and altering insulin responses and blood sugar levels.

Research has also shown that consumption of sucralose is linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

splenda photo

3. Sweet N’ Low

Sweet N’ Low contains saccharin, a white crystalline powder that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Studies from the 1970s show that rats who consumed the sweetener showed a higher risk of obtaining bladder cancer, and while the effect has not yet been shown on humans, the Center for Science in the Public Interest still believes saccharin to be unsafe and has listed it as a sweetener to avoid.

sweet n' low photo

4. Agave Nectar

Although it was a popular “health” option for quite some time, agave nectar is actually very high in fructose, which can put you at risk for heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Since agave contains more fructose than even high fructose corn syrup, it can have a huge impact on your body’s insulin levels, wreaking havoc on your hormones and putting you at a higher risk of metabolic disease.

sweetener photo

 Best Sugar Substitutes

1. Stevia

Stevia, is an ingredient in the popular sweetener, Truvia. It is is a natural plant indigenous to Peru and Brazil, and it is made with little-to-no chemical additives.

The substitute has no effect on your blood sugar, and it can actually improve insulin sensitivity, which helps your body effectively use glucose for energy.

stevia photo

2. Raw Honey

Raw honey is not only all-natural, but it contains antibacterial properties, especially in the darker varieties. Studies have also shown that people who consumed honey instead of sugar showed a reduction in both their body weight and fat.

It also has a molecular structure that resembles glucose, making it easy for the body to digest.

honey photo

3. Coconut Sugar

With a taste similar to brown sugar, coconut sugar contains a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that white table sugar lacks.

The substitute also has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, keeping your blood sugar and insulin levels more steady.


4. Pure Organic Maple Syrup

Organic maple syrup is another great natural option for sweetener, as long as it’s not the kind packaged in a bottle with corn syrup that’s often served with pancakes.

100 percent maple syrup contains up to 54 antioxidant compounds, and it can help fight cancer, improve your skin, and even fight bloating, among other benefits.

maple syrup photo

And if you ever run out of brown sugar (and need some in a pinch) here’s how you can easily make it at home!

Health, Wellness & Fitness

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About the Author
Carina Wolff
Carina is a health and wellness journalist based in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing, doing yoga, or exploring mountains and beaches, she spends her time cooking and creating recipes for her healthy food blog, Kale Me Maybe. Carina is also an ongoing writer for Bustle, Reader's Digest, FabFitFun, and more.

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