Sugar or Sweetener?

People constantly ask me about sugar and sweetener. Which is better? There is lots of conflicting information out there so let’s look at the evidence to help you make your own decisions.

Reasons sugar isn’t good for you:

It can cause weight gain, especially when consumed as empty calories like fizzy drinks, sweets and sweetened hot drinks. This sort of sugar is not filling and can encourage you to over-eat.

It may increase your risk of heart disease. Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels — all risk factors for heart disease.

It has been linked to acne.

Increases your risk of having insulin resistance, leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

It may increase your risk of cancer.

It may increase your risk of depression. Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health

It may accelerate the aging process and cellular aging.

It may drain your energy, lead to fatty liver, increase kidney disease risk.

As we are all aware it can negatively impact dental health.

Increases the risk of gout and accelerates cognitive decline.

So, you are probably thinking would I be better switching to artificial sweetener?

Artificial Sweetener

As they’re virtually calorie-free, they’re often marketed as weight loss friendly. Yet, despite increased consumption of these sweeteners — and diet foods in general — the obesity epidemic has only worsened. The evidence regarding artificial sweeteners is fairly mixed and their use controversial.

Some researchers believe that artificial sweeteners don’t satisfy people’s biological sugar cravings in the same manner as sugar and could lead to increased food intake. Still, the evidence is mixed. It is also thought that because of its extreme sweetness it can encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence. Some studies show that artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain but other studies show they are favourable for weight loss so the evidence is again inconclusive. But health is not all about weight. There is staggering evidence that suggests that sweeteners are linked to increased risk of metabolic issues like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It is also reported that it can have a detrimental effect on the gut microbiome which is crucial for good health. However, more studies are needed to be conclusive.


Even though there is enough evidence suggesting both sugar and artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to your health there is also evidence to suggest they do no harm. I personally am not convinced that they are healthy, so I choose to avoid both as much as I can. When you don’t consume  processed and unnaturally sweetened foods it is amazing how your taste buds change. Natural foods like fruit, carrots, sweet potatoes etc become amazingly tasty, and a squirt of honey or a few dried apricots or dates can make a savoury dish delicious, and frozen berries or bananas are fantastic in a smoothie or in porridge. Nobody is perfect, so when I really fancy something sweet I tend to favour some custard using stevia. There is also nothing wrong with the occasional treat, a few squares of chocolate or a slice of homemade cake. I do find though, now a days that the cravings are rare as by not eating sugary foods, my blood sugar is not going up and down all day sending me to the biscuit tin.

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