Is Artificial Sweetener Really Better For You? We Asked Experts

If you have a serious sweet tooth, making healthy diet choices can be difficult. Most people know by now that too much sugar can be detrimental to your overall health and should be especially avoided by anyone trying to lose weight. However, finding a healthy alternative that can still hit that sweet spot isn’t always easy. In fact, although many people believe that artificial sweeteners are a good, weight loss-friendly alternative, research shows that this likely isn’t actually true.

To get down to the bottom of things and answer the question “Is artificial sweetener really better for you than sugar?” we checked in with health experts Dana Ellis Hunnes, dietitian and author of Recipe for Survival, and Joanna Wen, certified health coach and founder of Spices & Greens. They both told us that despite what many people believe, artificial sweeteners can be just as unhealthy as plain old sugar. Learn more below!


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artificial sweeteners in container on green checkered tablecloth


Artificial sweeteners aren’t necessarily healthier than sugar

As it turns out, artificial sweeteners may not be the healthy alternative to sugar that many people assume they are. In fact, despite their lower calorie count, they can be quite unhealthy in their own ways, posing a number of health risks. “Most artificial sweeteners are chemicals that in animal studies, and at high doses, are associated with increased risks for certain types of cancer,” Hunnes warns. 

Wen echoes this sentiment: “Studies have found that these sweeteners may increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease,” she says. “This considered, they may not be healthier than sugar after all.”

In addition to these health risks, it’s also important to note that artificial sweeteners likely won’t help you lose weight. Hunnes explains that these sweeteners are “not associated with weight loss” and “still elicit an insulin response because of their sweet flavor,” which “can lower our blood sugar and actually make us more hungry, craving more sugar/sweets.” That means that although they may not add as many calories to your cup of coffee, you’ll still be likely to overeat later in the day–which is never good for weight loss. 

“When it comes to sweeteners, there is still much research being conducted on the subject, but many agree that natural alternatives are a better choice for those looking for less processed options,” Wen concludes.


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artificial sweetener aisle


Which sweeteners are the healthiest?

Okay, so sugar is a no-go, and artificial sweeteners should also be avoided. What does that leave us with? According to Hunnes, the healthiest way to go is with “the least amount of the least-processed types of sweeteners.” She recommends opting for pureed dates or other naturally sweet foods (like bananas) to sweeten a dish. Adding maple syrup or honey is also a good option, as they are “sweeter than sugar for roughly the same amount of calories, so you need less.” Noted!

Wen agrees that choices like raw honey, maple syrup, and stevia are better than sugar and artificial options. At the end of the day, though, she says that “Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide which option best fits in their lifestyle and nutritional goals.” We couldn’t agree more!

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