5 Things to Know About Sugar Substitutes

View as:|
1 of 6

Do you know the differences between today's most popular sugar substitutes?

Agave nectar

Derived from the same plant with which we make tequila, agave tastes a lot like honey and is a bit sweeter than cane sugar. But unlike sugar, it doesn't cause such a jump in blood glucose levels. You can use it to sweeten tea, coffee, or drizzle on almond butter and Greek yogurt.


From the Stevia rebaudiana plant, the stevia used in sugar substitutes has no known health side effects. What consumers should watch out for are the fillers used in stevia-based substitutes. Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, of the Boston University School of Medicine, finds the brands Truvia and SweetLeaf to be the most healthy, as they use a natural sugar alcohol.


Saccharin is a synthetic, calorie-free compound that is safe for people with diabetes. While the chemical has been linked to cancer in rats, there hasn't been a substantiated link to cancer in humans.


Splenda (sucralose), which is derived from sugar, was recently downgraded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) from "safe" to "caution" after an Italian animal study linked sucralose to a higher risk of developing leukemia.


Aspartame is another calorie-free synthetic sweetener and is sold under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet. Most people won't experience any negative health side effects from aspartame, but there have been some reports that aspartame may cause headaches and digestive issues, and it has been linked in some studies to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.