Ask the Expert: Sweeteners

Sweet Talk

CONTRIBUTOR Megan Shanahan, RD, LD

You want to know: Ever since those convenient pink packets landed on dining tables in the 1950s, sugar substitutes have offered sweet seekers a low-calorie alternative to the granulated standard. But compared to regular sugar, are these swaps really better for us?

The Dietitian Says:
When it comes to sugar and sugar substitutes, consider both quantity and frequency. Opting for a sugar substitute in your daily cup of coffee can save significant calories in the long run and support weight management. Sugar substitutes also allow people with diabetes to indulge in a periodic treat without blood sugar spikes. But you can have too much of a good thing, and the long-term negative effects of high amounts of sugar substitutes are still being studied. However, current research shows that most can be safely used in moderation. Below, we sift through some common options:

The Takeaway: Just as too much sugar isn’t good for you, using sugar substitutes in multiple products every day or to justify poor food choices isn’t a sound strategy. “I recommend monk fruit or stevia over others, especially for beverages and non-baked goods,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare dietitian Megan Shanahan. Use sucralose (sparingly) for baked goods, and opt for erythritol over other sugar alcohols, as it’s best for GI tolerance. Avoid aspartame and saccharin altogether. “Ultimately, if regular sugar fits with your health goals, it’s still an okay choice for the occasional sweet treat.”