why the bad rep?

The rundown of the real stuff up against the new substitutes.

Hannah Pownall
The Guide Editor

Hannah is our resident Editor of The Guide. Having worked across various beauty brands, as well as 7 years experience as a makeup artist, she brings a mix of journalism with real beauty knowledge.

"I’ve rounded up 7 of the most popular products – natural and artificial, so you can decide yourself what’s actually best for you."

Sugar. Constantly being scolded and given a bad name for its stress-inducing, weight gaining and cancer causing abilities. It’s also one of the most addictive substances on earth, not only does it make everything taste better, it induces dopamine which floods the brain to make us feel good. Tucked away and hidden in so many products under pseudo names, it’s becoming impossible to decode the label and understand what we’re actually putting in our bodies.

Although artificial sweeteners have been on the market for decades now, there’s been a rise of ‘healthy’ alternatives entering our health food stores and promising to be healthier and better for you. So what’s the deal, you ask?

I’ve rounded up 7 of the most popular products – natural and artificial, so you can decide yourself what’s actually best for you.

The natural stuff - Sucrose

Also known as: Sugar
Calories: 16 per teaspoon
Found naturally in fruit and added to baked goods, tea, jams, sauces, salad dressings – the list goes on!

What to know: Offering energy with no nutritional benefits whatsoever, sugar is actually a carbohydrate. While small amounts (under 25 grams a day) is okay, anything over this, over time, can lead to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stress and ageing on the body. Who knew something so sweet could literally age you!

Argave Nectar

Calories: 20 per teaspoon
Derived from the Argave cactus, the nectar has a similar taste and texture to honey. This particular natural sweetener is used hugely in ‘natural’ chocolates, yogurts and cereals.

What to know: Although Argave has more calories per serve than sugar, it’s actually a lot sweeter so you need to use a lot less to get a similar sweetness. It contains high levels of fructose which is a no-no for those Fructose intolerant, however it’s actually less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar like typical sugar does.


Calories: 0
Also known as: Equal
This artificial sweetener is found in soft drinks, gum, lollies and even cough drops!

What to know: Aspartame is one of the most studied artificial sweeteners, and has a long history of accusations for causing weight gain and cancer. However, no actual studies have found any evidence to prove this, and in moderation it’s said to pose no health threats. It however the lowest ranking food additive, which is saying something, right?

Corn Syrup

Calories: 17 per teaspoon
This artificial sweetener is found in a variety of drinks and foods like soft drink, desserts and cereals.

What to know: This highly debated sweetener contains the sugars, fructose and glucose from processed corn syrup. It’s cheaper than your normal sugar and gives foods a longer shelf life so it has a double use – both as a sweetener and preservative. Studies have said this artificial sweetener is more likely to contribute to obesity than regular sugar.


Calories: 21 per teaspoon
This one is a no-brainer! Honey is used on its own and also as a natural additive in a huge variety of foods.

What to know: As well as tasting delightful, honey also contains key vitamins and minerals. It also does not raise your blood sugar as fast as other sweet alternatives which is way better for your overall energy and health.

Sugar Alcohols

Also known as: Sorbitol, Xylitol and Mannitol
Calories: 10 per teaspoon
These artificial sweeteners are commonly found in sugar-free lollies, gum and desserts.

What to know: Although generally less sweet and lower in energy than sugar, eating large amounts of this can cause bloating and stomach upset. Sugar alcohols are often used in sugar-free foods marketed towards diabetics because they contain fewer carbs than sugar – although they still contain carbs, so excess consumption may lead to increased blood sugar.

Stevia Leaf Extract

Calories: 0
This sweetener has become widely popular in ‘health’ foods because it’s derived from the stevia plant and is completely natural!

What to know: This natural sweetener is considered nature’s next best (or first!) thing to sugar as it has zero calories, does not cause any blood sugar hikes and isn’t chemically processed.

So what’s the take on all of this? Be conscious about your actual daily sugar consumption over its form, and remember everything in moderation is key. A little natural sugar has never hurt anyone, right?

References: “10 Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Substitutes, by Mara Betsch”.,,20424821,00.html

Havard Medical School Health Blog Are artificial sweeteners a healthy substitute for sugar?
Anthony Komaroff, M.D., Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

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