Empty Foods, False Promises: A Look at Artificial Sweeteners and What Sweeteners to Eat

Have you, like many people today, been a long-time consumer of artificial sweeteners?

Do you reach for the "pink stuff" to sweeten your coffee and tea?

Do you sprinkle the yellow packet on your morning cereal?

Humans love sweet things. This is true going back hundreds and thousands of years from traditional people who ate honey to Native Americans who consumed maple syrup and maple sugar.

Natural, traditional sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins, meaning they actually proivde nutrients to our body…unlike today's sugar and the many sugar substitutes.

Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners are completely lacking anything good for us and are, in fact, extremely dangerous to our health.

Refined table sugar (sucrose), the white packet, for example, actually causes the body to deplete its own store of nutrients to breakdown sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, it creates deficiency. It enters the bloodstream swiftly causing our blood sugar to rise, leaving us feeling happy and energetic for a while. Then suddenly, our blood sugar drops extremely low which can cause feelings of fatigue, depression, weariness and exhaustion. 

Also, eating refined table sugar stimulates your appetite more because you are consuming empty calories that lack nutrients. When you are hungry or experiencing cravings, your body is telling you it needs nutrition.

Examples of the most widely consumed artificial sweeteners are:

  • Aspartame – sold as Equal or NutraSweet (the blue packets)
  • Sucralose – sold as Splenda (the yellow packets)
  • Saccharin – sold as Sweet n' Low (the pink packets)

The artificial sweeteners are very deceiving. People see they are calorie free and think that is a good thing. Well, the reason they are free of calories is because they are not food at all, they are chemicals! They are made through chemistry by binding molecules to create new chemicals.

The chemicals that make up NutraSweet are metabolized by the body into formaldehyde. On June 10, 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as "known to be a human carcinogen [cancer causing] (1)."

Splenda is made from chemically altering the sucrose molecule by adding chlorine and the properties of the final product put it into the insecticide family. Yes, you heard me correctly, the insecticide family. Splenda was actually discovered in a lab during an experiment with new insecticides. Need I say more?

The fact of the matter is artificial sweeteners are not even close to being healthy. Just some of the health issues that have been linked to artificial sweeteners in scientific studies are:

  • Increased cancer risk
  • Negative effects on the kidneys, liver and other organs
  • Gastrointestinal and digestive problems
  • Weight gain
  • Increase in cravings
  • Developmental problems in children and fetuses
  • Headaches
  • Disrupts neurological functions
  • And too many more to list!

If you want to begin reducing your intake of these harmful artificial sweeteners, I recommend you start by reading food labels to identify which foods contain them; eat a diet that is mostly made up of whole, unprocessed foods like whole grains and fruits and vegetables; and when needed, sweeten your foods with natural sweeteners.

Our natural tastes for sweets can be satisfied; just do your best to choose sweet foods that also provide nutrients.

Guide to Natural Sweeteners

Natural Sweeteners are sweet foods which the nutrients have not been removed. Some natural sweeteners include:

  • Raw Honey – It contains enzymes that help digest carbohydrates, and has all the nutrients found in plant pollens. It can have a range of flavors, from dark and strongly flavored to light and mildly flavored. Buy honey labeled "raw." Just FYI: I have never seen raw honey in a cute little bear.
  • Maple Syrup – Maple syrup is rich in trace minerals and comes from huge deciduous trees. Be sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup and not commercially made maple-flavored corn syrup.
  • Stevia – Is an herb native to South America. A little of this herb's powder goes a long way as it is said to be 100 times sweeter than white sugar. It can be purchased in liquid or powder form.
  • Date Sugar – Date sugar consists of finely ground, dehydrated dates and has a high vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. According to Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, date sugar is a good sweetener for hyperactive children because of its high tryptophan content (tryptophan is an amino acid that has a calming effect).
  • Sorghum Syrup – This syrup is made from sweet sorghum, a grain related to millet that grows on woody stalks. It contains B vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium and phosphorus. It can be used in place of maple syrup.

Ultimately, I want to convey that artificial sweeteners are bad and we need to understand the difference it has on our health when we consume these chemically produced sweeteners as opposed to eating naturally occuring sweeteners. Again, it is not wrong for us to want to eat things that are sweet, this is normal! But to properly satisfy our sweet desires, choose natural sweeteners that will also provide nutrients to the body. However, as with all things, live in balance and moderation; don't overdo it.

What natural sweeteners have you tried? Did you learn about one you are excited to try? What action steps will you take to reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners and products that contain them? Leave your comments below or visit me on Facebook.

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Health and blessings,


Randi's passion is to teach people the importance of getting into the kitchen to cook! When people get into the kitchen to cook, they can control their health and their waistline. She uses fresh ingredients and traditional foods in her cooking like butter.  She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, exercise enthusiast and rep for Young Living Essential Oils (providing natural solutions for your health).


 1.  National Toxicology Program (10 June 2011). "Report On Carcinogens – Twelfth Edition – 2011" (PDF). National Toxicology Program. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/roc12.pdf. Retrieved 2011-09-14.

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