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Natural Sweeteners vs. Artificial Sweeteners

Updated on February 21, 2014

Think Sweet! Will you use natural sweeteners - or artificial? Know the facts about each and make the best decision for you and your family.

Everyone likes to add a bit of sweetness to their diet, but how much do we really know about the natural and artificial sweeteners we eat? How bad are artificial sweeteners, really? And if they're all that bad for us, what natural sweeteners can replace them?

If you listen to the manufacturers of chemically produced artificial sweeteners, you'll hear there's no evidence that they're unsafe.

Critics cite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, saying natural substances are best for our bodies. They say we are being used as human guinea pigs, encouraged to consume possibly unsafe products that will not be proven unsafe until after we fall victim to cancer, brain damage, or other disease.

Here you'll find a list of sweetness sources, starting with artificial sweeteners, then natural sweeteners. You'll find in the natural section I start with some highly-processed sweeteners derived from plants but chemically treated. Toward the bottom of the page you'll find some of the best natural sources of sweetness.

Artificial sweeteners contain methanol...

...which can become formaldehyde.

Methanol and formaldehyde in your food... doesn't sound very appetizing, does it?

This is a quote from a news article that ran on July 11, 2010 in the Daily Mail:

"It is rare for a mother-to-be to give birth before 37 weeks of a normal pregnancy.

But the EU research suggests this low risk was increased by 38 per cent if the woman was drinking, on average, one can of diet drink a day.

Routinely drinking four or more cans a day could increase the risk by as much as 78 per cent.

However, the researchers said in a report in the journal of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition that there was no link associated with sugar-sweetened drinks.

They suggested that exposure to methanol, which is in some artificial sweeteners, may play a part in bringing forward the birth.

Critics of the sweeteners say methanol is a known nerve toxin, which can form formic acid in the body.

It can also lead to formaldehyde, the chemical used to preserve dead bodies. Historically, saccharine has also been identified as accumulating in the placenta.

[Emphasis mine.]

Source: Do sweeteners bring on early birth? How fizzy drinks can harm an unborn child by Sean Poulter, published July 10, 2010 in the Daily Mail.

Get off the sugar roller coaster - In less than a month you can train yourself not to crave carbs!

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The 21-Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally

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...banned in the USA.

The use of cyclamate in artificial sweeteners was banned in the USA in 1969 because testing associated it with bladder cancer, yet over 55 other countries still allow it to be sold. More recent testing disputes this finding, and a reapproval petition has been filed with the FDA.

The 1960s testing showed that a combination of cyclamate with saccharin caused rats to develop bladder cancer. More recent studies state that cyclamate is not a carcinogen.

Product using cyclamate: Sucaryl

Cyclamate - Wikipedia page


...banned in Canada and some other countries.

Saccharin is the common name for benzoic sulfinide, a sweet substance providing no nutritive value. Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by chemist Constantin Fahlberg, while researching coal tar derivitives at Johns Hopkins University. It became popular during World War I sugar shortages.

In the 1970s studies associated saccharin with bladder cancer in rats. It was banned in Canada in 1977. In the USA, a warning label was added to packaging.

In 2001 the requirement of a warning label was lifted after a study showed that rats develop bladder cancer from saccharin due to a function not relevant to human beings as our urine composition is different.

Product using saccharin: Sweet 'n Low

Saccharin - Wikipedia page


...chlorinated sugar.

Sucralose is chlorinated sugar and is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is made by replacing three hydroxyl groups with three chlorine atoms. It has no nutritive value and is eliminated from the body in the same form in which it was ingested.

Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener that maintains its sweetness when heated, so it can be used in baking.

Sucralose is an organochloride and may be carcinogenic, though not all organochlorides are. It is thought that sucralose may not be carcinogenic because it doesn't break down, dechlorinate, or accumulate in fat cells as some other organochlorides do.

Product using sucralose: Splenda

Sucralose - Wikipedia page

Sorbitol / Glucitol

Said to have numerous side effects.

Another name for sorbitol is glucitol. It is a sugar alcohol used in sugar-free candies and other diet foods. It is found naturally in some fruits and berries, but normally is created through chemical processing.

Though sorbitol has some nutrient value, it also is known for numerous side effects including abdominal pain and intestinal difficulties, so products containing sorbitol should be used in moderation. This sweetener is not well-absorbed.

Sorbitol - Wikipedia page

Sorbitol side effects

Aspartame - Approved by Searle former-CEO Donald Rumsfeld.

James M. Schlatter accidentally discovered aspartame in 1965 while researching anti-ulcer formulations for G.D. Searle & Company. It has become one of the most controversial artificial sweeteners due to its connotations with side effects such as headaches, brain tumors, brain lesions, and lymphoma.

Products using aspartame: Equal, NutraSweet, and Canderel.

Find out what aspertame is - other food secrets that might startle you!

Sugar... - ...or organic cane sugar (a viable option).

Originally people chewed on sugar cane to enjoy a sweet treat. Then a method of crystallizing sugar was developed in India around 350AD. Sugar became a political hot-topic during the European settlement of America because sugar cane grew well on Caribbean islands. Because labor was needed, slaves were brought in from Africa. We can thank sugar cane plantation owners for starting the slave trade to the New World.

Back then sugar was worth as much as gold and it was considered a luxury. Even today it is a very popular food item, though now almost everyone can afford it. Our sugar supply is made from sugar cane or sugar beets.

A lot of illness is blamed on sugar including weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, gout, and even cancer.

Vegans and vegetarians may shy away from sugar because about 1/4 of the sugar in the USA is refined using bone char instead of activated carbon.

Corn syrup information - Caution... most corn syrup is GMO these days!

High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) hasn't been around very long. It was first created in the 1970s and since then has become so popular, the average American consumes more HFCS than sucrose (sugar).

Corn syrup is considered by many to be extremely unhealthy for human consumption, but it is cheap and sweet, so manufacturers of processed foods keep using it.

Crystalline fructose - Fruit sugar...

Fructose, 1 lb.
Fructose, 1 lb.

Crystalline fructose isn't the same thing as high-fructose corn syrup. Some people have the two products mixed up. Fructose is found in corn syrup, but corn syrup also contains glucose.

Crystalline fructose is also called fruit sugar. According to the website of the Fructose Information Center, fructose is created by extracting cornstarch from corn kernals which through processing is "enzymatically transformed to fructose."


Maple syrup - I use a lot of this...

Agave nectar (also called Agave syrup) is produced in Mexico from several varieties of the Agave plant.

The juice is extracted, then filtered, heated, and concentrated.

Agave contains iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

It is composed of fructose and glucose.

Agave dissolves in cold water and is perfect for sweetening iced tea. It is especially popular with vegans, who use it as a honey replacement.

Buy Agave Nectar now: Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Raw Blue Agave, 44 Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)

Rice Syrup

Rice syrup has become very popular during the last few years. I find rice syrup listed as an ingredient in energy bars like Clif Bars - a healthful alternative to processed cane sugar. I also have no trouble finding it on my local supermarket shelves.

Stevia - South American Herb

It is available in stores as a white powder or as a liquid extract, but whole foods proponents recommend that consumers use green or brown whole-plant extracts and powders. They say the other Stevia products are too refined and lack essential phyto-nutrients. When too concentrated, Stevia can have a bitter aftertaste.

Pure Stevia - ... tastes "astonishingly good," according to one reviewer on Amazon.

KAL Sure Stevia Extract Powder, 3.5 OZ. | Best-Tasting, Zero Calorie, Low Glycemic | 1820 Servings
KAL Sure Stevia Extract Powder, 3.5 OZ. | Best-Tasting, Zero Calorie, Low Glycemic | 1820 Servings

Stevia is a plant native to tropical Central and South America. It is also called sweetleaf and sugarleaf.


Date Sugar - One of my favorite sweeteners, especially in oatmeal.

Bob's Red Mill Date Sugar, 24 Ounce (Pack of 4)
Bob's Red Mill Date Sugar, 24 Ounce (Pack of 4)

To make date sugar, simply dehydrate dates, then grind them.

They are nutritious and delicious.

Date sugar is excellent in oatmeal or in any recipe where brown sugar is used.

Date Sugar Recipes


Fruit juice - ...or applesauce!

Organic Apple Sauce - 25 oz
Organic Apple Sauce - 25 oz

One last suggestion: fruit juices.

Many juices are useful in baking and for sweetening smoothies and other drinks.

Applesauce is also added to muffins and other baked goods for sweetness.


The Sweetener Poll

What is your favorite sweetener?

See results

Let me know what you think...

Your comments

Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    5 years ago

    As a Diabetes sufferer it would be interesting to know the do and don'ts of using sweeteners in your diet

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Great lens.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    The latest natural sweetener -monk fruit extract,no calories,300X than sugar,fresh taste.

  • Linda BookLady profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Jo Martin 

    6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @NC Shepherd: Recently I started a candida diet and now can't use most of these - not even the natural sweeteners... all I can use is stevia. Well, that's something!!

  • profile image

    NC Shepherd 

    6 years ago

    Good information. I always say if you're going to eat a sweetener, go natural. I try not to use any, because even sugar can do bad things to your body. Although I suspect it's the refining that makes it so bad, as with most modern foods.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Great information. Natural sweeteners or not, it is also very important to remember that too much may not be good.

  • Linda BookLady profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Jo Martin 

    6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @mfp: Thanks so much for your comment! I was amazed to see all the differences in sweeteners. It shocks me now to remember that only a few short years ago I was using artificial sweeteners... I will never do that again. I'm a natural sweetener gal now. My favorite is plain old maple syrup (the real kind) ... at least with that you know what you're getting - tree sap. Sweet, delicious tree sap. My kind of thing.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    excellent lens, thanks, great reference

  • earthybirthymum profile image


    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great lense, loads of information. Many blessings!

  • Linda BookLady profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Jo Martin 

    6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @GregKuhn: Yes... it is unbelievable what people mindlessly consume. For eighteen months I worked in a pizza restaurant just to have the experience of doing it... and I saw people eating all kinds of unhealthy things. Very scary. But we can only save ourselves.

  • GregKuhn profile image


    6 years ago

    Thank you for this information, Linda! I love sweet things and talk about that in my writing about losing unwanted weight. I will take a moment to reevaluate what I add to drinks and foods!

  • I-sparkle profile image


    7 years ago

    Thanks for all of the great advice. I've been trying to find a sugar alternative for a few weeks now. Great layout and presentation as well. Congrats on a first class piece of work!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    So much of information on sugar and its replacements.I am in the middle of creating a lens on harmful effects of white sugar.

  • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

    Oneshotvariety LM 

    7 years ago

    Another great and informative lens!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Just today I found in beetroot (in a glass) Saccharin. Arrghhh. I see no reason for putting sweeteners to such things. About Stevia - this sweetener it's very contoversial! Since last december it is allowed as a foof additive in Europe. But this hasn't convinced a group of peoople who claims that Stevia is actually not a good chooise. That it could be just a clever idea from manufacuters to give the public somethnig else since the artificial sweeteners have such a bad reputation in past years. So in my Android app for food additives Stevia has risk level of "avoid" - at least until there aren't ENOUGH of data available.

  • VisFeminea profile image


    7 years ago

    Great work, great info!

  • ae dc profile image

    ae dc 

    7 years ago

    You are right. We shouldn't consume possibly unsafe products (products with Aspartame), we should never risk our health! I did write about a list of commercial foods and drinks that contain Aspartame - - We should do our best to stay away from these Aspartame sources!

  • Ramkitten2000 profile image

    Deb Kingsbury 

    7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

    Wow, you've covered a lot of sweeteners, and I lot of them I prefer not to touch. I stick to maple syrup and honey as much as possible, or no sweetener at all. I'll use some regular sugar sometimes, but none of the artificial ones.

  • profile image

    genuineaid lm 

    7 years ago

    My favorite and very healthy sweetener is Xylitol, not only does the gum tastes amazing with xylitol, but it is very beneficial to your teeth :)

  • profile image

    genuineaid lm 

    7 years ago

    My favorite and very healthy sweetener is Xylitol, not only does the gum tastes amazing with xylitol, but it is very beneficial to your teeth :)

  • ae dc profile image

    ae dc 

    7 years ago

    I also wrote about Aspartame. Totally against artificial sweeteners. (I am a honey girl ;) This is some great info, thanks!!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    great article... I am a stevia girl :)

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Very informative, great job!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    kitchen pantry

    Wonderful lens! The beautiful pictures are very helpful as well. I've added a link to this lens on my lens because I found it so helpful. Thanks a bunch!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Very Informative lens. Being a diabetic patient, I am always concerned about the sugar and it's health effect.

    Just a suggestion, Why don't you use the product reviews in your lens.

    I would be the first one to review, Natvia ( natural sweetners. I am using it for quite a long now and its results are awesome.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Lots of sugary sweet info! Thanks!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Wow, your lens is cool. Just thought I'd leave a comment to let you know. I also gave you a thumbs-up and made you one of my favs. Thanks for sharing this information. If you have time, surf on by and check out my newest lens on Migraine Headaches. Leave me a comment on what you think.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Interesting post. I read in this that sweeteners increase the risk for bladder cancer. I agree. However, there are a lot of risk factors for bladder cancer.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Good Lense on the topic of sweeteners! I will try to see how they differ in the ways they affect the body. A related book is "Alternative sweeteners By Lyn O'Brien Nabors"

    Take care, Yves Eljas/MediNewsDigest

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    World best fruit juice monavie

  • hayleylou lm profile image

    hayleylou lm 

    8 years ago

    The information here is great. It's amazing how we are being fed so many ingredients these days that are bad for our health - great lens - thumbs up :)

  • religions7 profile image


    10 years ago

    Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

  • BartonMurray profile image


    10 years ago

    This is so valuable and can have such a huge impact on health!

  • eccles1 profile image


    10 years ago

    This is a great lens finding out about our sweeteners can only make us healthier!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    wonderful stuff Linda thanks (((hugs)))


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