What Really Are Sugar Substitutes?

Sugar substitutes make us believe that “sugar-free” also means “healthy” and come without any negative side effects. But this is not true.

We are simply trying to TRICK our bodies, but it isn't working.

When you taste something sweet, your body instantly prepares itself. Insulin, our blood sugar lowering hormone rises, allowing sugar to be taken into the cells.⁠ However, when no glucose enters the system, our blood sugar is now low. ⁠

Low blood sugar is stressful for our body as our cells need fuel.⁠ So our body finds a way to raise blood sugar and cortisol and adrenaline surge to mobilise stored glucose or create glucose out of our tissues.⁠ Constant elevated cortisol levels can lead to detrimental effects to your health and wellbeing.

These imitation sweeteners don't provide the body with what it's asking for and leave it feeling unsatisfied and stressed out and eventually the craving becomes stronger and more frequent.⁠

It has also been shown that over a 24 hours period sugar or sugar substitutes all raise blood sugar levels equally.

Sweeteners can be divided in to three categories:

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Nutritive sweeteners

  • Natural intense sweeteners

Below you will find common examples of sugar alternatives and their potential side effects:

Artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners. Artificial Sweeteners are man made chemicals. They cannot be found in nature and do not contain nutrients for your body.

Common artificial sweeteners include:

  • Aspartame

  • Acesulfame potassium

  • Saccharin

  • Sucralose

(Commonly referred to as: Sweet N Low, Equal, Nutrasweet & Splenda)

Possible health side effects:

  • Disrupt gut health

  • Cause liver inflammation

  • Interfere with satiety hormones

  • Cramps, bloating, diarrhea & gas

  • Imbalance blood sugar and insulin levels

  • Weight gain

  • Hormones disruption

  • Decreased oral health

  • Increase risk of cancer

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Parkinson & Alzheimer's disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Autism

  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes

  • Lupus

  • Tachycardia

  • Nausea

  • Mood disorders

  • Birth defects

  • Blurred vision

  • Seizures, dizziness and migraines

Nutritive sweeteners. Derived from natural substances such as corn sugar, barley, birch trees, yeast and corn starch. There is a high rate of GMO substances used and they are HIGHLY processed & most are HIGHLY indigestible.

Common nutritive sweeteners include:

  • Erythritol

  • Malitol

  • Maltodextrin

  • Mannitol

  • Isomalt

  • Sorbitol

  • Xylitol

Possible health side effects:

  • Fluctuations in your blood sugar.

  • Disrupt digestive health

  • Headaches

  • Hormone disruption

  • Bloating, gas, cramps & diarrhea

  • Weight gain

  • Laxative effect

  • Potentially GMO

Natural intense sweeteners. Produces from plants/fruit and from 200-2000 times sweeter than sugar. These sweeteners are HIGHLY refined and chemically processed.

Common natural intense sweeteners:

  • Monk Fruit

  • Stevia

  • Thaumatin

Possible health side effects:

  • Hormone disruption

  • Weight gain

  • Digestive disruptions

Apart from the possible side effects, I am a big believer in eating as close to nature as possible, and any research you do into even the "natural" & "healthy" sweeteners should you that through the chemical refinements process that they go through they are as far away from nature as they could be.

(please note I am only referring to the processed and refined natural intense sweeteners, not the whole, unrefined plants)

Where are they found?

You will find these sweeteners in processed, pre packaged foods. My tip is to opt for organic, whole and seasonal foods as much as possible.

Some foods that may have sweeteners include:

  • Toothpaste and mouthwash

  • Chewable vitamins

  • Cough syrup and liquid medicines

  • Chewing gum

  • Spreads/ jams/ sauces

  • Protein powders

  • Nutritional/ Greens powders

  • Pre workout powder

  • No-calorie waters and drinks

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Salad dressings

  • Desserts

  • Powder/granulated / liquid sugar substitutes

  • Ice cream & frozen yogurt

  • Candies & lollies

  • Chocolates

  • Baked goods

  • Yogurt

  • Breakfast cereals

  • Processed snack foods

  • “Lite” or diet fruit juices and beverages

  • Prepared meals

  • Most sugar free, low sugar, low calorie, no calorie foods


  • Dates

  • Coconut Sugar/Syrup

  • Honey

  • Maple syrup

Opt for organic, non gmo and raw as mush as possible.