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Sweet on Sweeteners

You’ve been told to cut refined sugar out of your diet.  Don’t worry, there are alternatives! 

 Refined sugar is one of few legal addictive substances that is everywhere in the American diet.  You can find it lurking in unsuspecting foods from soups to crackers to frozen entrees.  To maintain a healthy diet it’s critical to keep added sugar intake to an absolute minimum.  However, it’s understandable that when transitioning to a low-sugar diet, you need an alternative.  Let’s examine some of the sweeteners that are on the market and how they can be used in beverages and cooking.






Stevia is a plant native to South America that is naturally sweet.  There are several brands of sweeteners that use the extract of stevia including SweetLeaf, Truvia, Stevia in the Raw and PureVia.  Stevia is the preferred sweetener of medical professionals as it has 0 calories, 0 carbohydrates therefore not causing a rise in blood sugar levels. It’s also been shown to not have an adverse affect on teeth & gum health, so it is also approved by dental professionals. 

This sweetener can be almost 15-20 times sweeter than sugar, so use sparingly.  Stevia has a slight aftertaste and doesn’t have the same mass as sugar which doesn’t make it ideal for baking but can be used to sweeten beverages like coffee, protein shakes and iced tea.  Liquid stevia works best in sweetening beverages, salad dressings and soups.


Agave “nectar” is syrup that is derived from the Mexican agave plant.  It’s pressed for its sweet juice and then either boiled down like maple syrup or heated to a low temperature and dehydrated (this is considered “raw” agave).  Agave has a few more calories than sugar but is much sweeter, so less can be consumed.  Agave is also safer than sugar for diabetes as it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes.  Many pastry chefs and bakers use agave as their vegan sweetener of choice because it adds back texture and sweetness. 


Honey is the oldest sweetener known to man, though its earlier uses were primarily medicinal rather than dietary.  Raw honey contains minerals, enzymes, has anti-microbial properties, and has been known to treat many ailments from coughs to burns.  Finding honey of this purity is difficult and most honey sold in grocery stores has been cooked and filtered, a process which removes many of the beneficial qualities. 

Honey is higher in calories than sugar and should be used sparingly (for example in teas when you have a minor cold).  Honey is not recommended for children under the age of one. 

Sweeteners to Avoid

Artificial sweeteners are chemically derived substances.  Some companies claim that their sweetener is a safe alternative and doesn’t have the same effects of sugar.  Many people use artificial sweeteners for a number of reasons:  for example if they are diabetic; those who are reducing calories from their diet; and those avoiding tooth decay from sugar. 

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) – Aspartame is probably the most harmful artificial sweetener on the market.  It is a cocktail of toxins and alcohol.  Anecdotal reports of headaches, seizures, depression, panic attacks, memory loss, nausea, and over 80 other symptoms have been associated with aspartame.  When the body metabolizes aspartame, it creates a byproduct called Diketopiperazine (DKP) which is a toxin whose affects are similar to that of formaldehyde.  It is advised that this product be avoided as aspartame can cause neurological damage.

Saccharine (Sweet N’Low) – Saccharine was an accidental development in the later 1800’s as a derivative of coal tar.  It became popular after World War I when there was a sugar shortage.  Saccharine is 300 times sweeter than sugar and although it isn’t metabolized like sugar, it still stimulates your body to release insulin.  It’s received controversy over studies conducted on animals in which they developed bladder cancer, but the study has not been able to be reproduced in humans. 

Sucralose (Splenda) – Sucralose is derived from sugar but has been chemically altered by substituting three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule.  This process renders sucralose technically as a chlorocarbon which is toxin that accumulates in fat cells and over time can cause harm to the body.  It’s marketers claim that sucralose is not absorbed by the body however, there are studies that prove that anywhere from 17% – 40% of the substance can be absorbed. Sucralose also contains small amounts of heavy metals and mentionable amounts of arsenic.    

Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One) – Acesulfame K is another 0 calorie sweetener on the market.  It’s about 200 times sweeter than table sugar.  It’s often paired with sucralose and other sweeteners to disguise each of their stringent aftertastes.  Conclusive side effects are unknown as it hasn’t been heavily tested and the studies that have been conducted were poorly done. 

Health Warning!

All of the artificial sweeteners mentioned above have been proven to increase the risks of cancers, tumors and other disorders in animals.  Oftentimes, large doses are being administered – far above the amount used in their respective products.  However, the human body recognizes these as foreign substances, absorbing them and boarding them up in fat cells to protect the body.  Over time, the accumulation will have detrimental effects that will vary from person to person.  It is highly recommended that women planning on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or nursing, those with chronic illnesses and all children avoid artificial sweeteners of any kind.

Dr. Justin Gruby
1834 Glenview Road. Suite 2W, 2nd Floor GlenviewIL60025 USA 
 • 847-730-3988