Here’s How Sugar Substitutes Stack Up

Unfortunately, the media, in an effort to grab attention through headlines, often misleads the public about the true importance of study findings. The danger in this constant bombardment of conflicting and hyped information is that people, not knowing the right thing to do, may simply give up on making healthy changes to their diet. But making healthy food choices can have a positive impact on health; so it is important that people, especially those who have undergone weight loss surgery, strive to eat a healthy diet. Choosing sugar substitutes can be part of that healthy diet.

Research tells us that sugar substitutes are not equal when it comes to safety. What ends up in our food is most likely based on the acceptable taste of the finished product and the cost to produce the product, not the potential health risks to individuals. After all, the FDA has approved all the sweeteners we find in our food supply as being safe for human consumption.

As an individual, selecting healthy foods and beverages for yourself and your family, you may want to be more discerning. Although it sounds easy enough, read the labels and discard any options that contain potentially toxic sweeteners; many of our favorite drinks and foods contain these ingredients. For example, Jello gelatin contains aspartame and Crystal Light is sweetened mostly with aspartame. It’s best to focus on the sweeteners in the beverages you choose and foods that you eat on a regular basis. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid all of the potentially toxic sweeteners in our food supply, but you can cut back drastically by putting your focus into these areas.

Here’s how the individual sugar substitutes stack up.

Stevia, found in Equal Naturals, Pure Via, Splenda Naturals, Stevia in the Raw, SweetLeaaf, and Truvia may have a slightly bitter aftertaste, but appear to be safe to consume.

Erythritol, found in Equal Naturals, Splenda Naturals, Swerve, Truvia, and Wholesome Zero is an underutilized gem in the world of sugar substitutes. You may have the best luck finding this product online. It bakes well and tastes like sugar and appears to be safe for consumption. Although it is a sugar alcohol, it has fewer of the gastro-intestinal side effects found with most sugar alcohols.

Sugar Alcohols, known by the names hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol appear to be safe in moderate amounts. Larger amounts can cause the gastro-intestinal side effects of gas, cramping and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are found in many sugar free products including candy, protein bars, and ice cream. Limit to 7 grams per day until you are able to establish your personal tolerance level.

Acesulfame Potassium is found in Equal Original and Equal Spoonful and many processed foods and should be used with caution or avoided because it may cause cancer in animals.

Aspartame is found in Equal Original, Equal Spoonful, and NutraSweet and many processed foods. It is the most widely studied sweetener and should be used with caution or avoided because it may cause cancer in animals.

Saccharin is found in Sugar Twin and Sweet’N Low and many processed foods and should be used with caution or avoided because it may cause cancer in animals.

Sucralose is found in Spenda and many processed foods and should be used with caution or avoided because it may cause cancer in animals.

Download On Track with Barix:  The Sweetener Debate


About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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