Good & Bad Sweeteners

Tier 1 (Really Bad) Sweeteners:

These are completely manufactured, so they’re foreign substances to our bodies.

  • saccharine (Sweet ‘N Low®, Equal®)
  • aspartame (NutraSweet®, some Equal®)
  • sucralose (Splenda®)

Tier 2 (Pretty Bad) Sweeteners:

These may have a technically natural origin, but they’re very highly processed, so the end product bears little resemblance to the original food. While I might not be quite “zero tolerance” on these, they aren’t far behind.

  • sugar alcohols
    (xylitol, erythritol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, etc. – As you’re probably beginning to notice, sugar alcohols end in -itol. Many of these are naturally-occurring – at least sort of – but they’re heavily processed, and tend to produce gastrointestinal upset. A couple, such as xylitol and erythritol, are said to be better than others, so use your judgment.)
  • agave
    (Touted as a healthy sweetener, this is usually a heavily-processed product similar to high-fructose corn syrup, not similar to maple syrup as we’re generally led to believe.)
  • high fructose corn syrup

Tier 3 (Sort of Bad) Sweeteners:

These are non-nutritive and pretty refined, so they shouldn’t be everyday foods. However, they are real, so they aren’t as downright terrible as some of the other options.

  • corn syrup
  • sucrose (regular sugar)

By the way, brown sugar is not less refined than white sugar. It is equally refined and bleached, then has a very small amount of the molasses put back in. It’s no more nutritious. Raw sugar is less refined and, although not great for your blood sugar, does contain some trace nutrients. It may be substituted 1:1 for white sugar. It can also be whirred in a blender to create a confectioner’s-style (powdered) sugar.

Okay Sweeteners:

This is not an exhaustive list, but it contains most of the common options. All sweeteners should be used in moderation, but all of these are real foods, minimally processed. That means our bodies know what to do with them – and most of them do offer some nutritional value.

  • honey
  • stevia
    (Check labels! Some stevia products are more heavily processed than others, and some are blended with sugar alcohols or fillers.)
  • maple syrup
    (real maple syrup, not maple-flavored pancake syrup)
  • coconut sugar
  • date sugar
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • molasses

Fats-Sweeteners Handout for Baby Steps.pdf
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