Welcome to your basic guide to finding the best artificial sweeteners for you! Aka calorie-free sweeteners. With more and more choices on the market and it can be overwhelming to choose the ‘best’ artificial sweetener. What you deem as the best artificial sweetener (or sugar for that matter) depends on what you’re using it for, your health concerns and taste preference.
You may choose artificial sweeteners to reduce calorie intake or to control diabetes. Artificial sweeteners can’t be digested, so they don’t provide calories or increase blood sugars.
Real sugar contributes to the texture of baked goods in a way that substitutes cannot. Replacing 100% of the sugar for an artificial sweetener in baking will likely change the final product. If you want your baking to brown and rise, try keeping some of the sugar called for in the recipe.
You may have heard that artificial sweeteners have long-term health effects. Let’s consider their general safety with short and long-term use, as well as the pros and cons in terms of flavor and usability.
Is there a ‘best’ artificial sweetener? Keep reading to find out.
Stevia extract is harvested from leaves of the stevia plant. Stevia’s naturally sweet compounds called glycosides provide no calories, no spike in blood sugars, but do have an arguably bitter aftertaste. Stevia can be used in drinks and cooking. Stevia is hard to substitute for sugar in baking because it is so much sweeter than sugar so the ratio is about 1 teaspoon stevia to 1 cup sugar which would completely change the recipe. There are no safety concerns even with frequent use of Stevia.
Sucralose is a man-made molecule 500x sweeter than sugar. Commercial products like Splenda use a bulking agent to achieve the same sweetness and volume as sugar. This makes it suitable for 1:1 replacement in baking, however your final product won’t have the same texture as something made with sugar. Sucralose has a similar taste to sugar with minimal aftertaste.
Saccharin (Sweet’n’Low, Sugar Twin)
This is an artificial sweetener with a history of controversy. It was once banned after being classified as a carcinogen. Newer high quality studies have shown no cancer causing risk and it is deemed safe by Health Canada. Saccharin can be used in drinks and baking but it has a bitter, metallic aftertaste.
Studies linking aspartame to cancer have periodically made headlines over the past few decades. However all of these studies have been criticized for poor design. Credible reviews of the evidence show no link between aspartame and cancer.
Aspartame can’t be used in baking, but is often used in drinks, gum and yogurt. Some complain of aspartame giving them headaches, dizziness and stomach upset, however, research has found no connection. The real downside is the taste which many people find unappealing.
Xylitol and Erythritol have half the amount of calories as sugar, but also half the sweetness. These natural compounds don’t increase blood sugars. They are mostly used in gum, breath mints, and toothpaste so the dose is usually quite small. Sugar alcohols are not well tolerated in large amounts, resulting in gas, bloating and diarrhea. Tread carefully!
|Sweetener||Heat Safe?||Taste||Side Effects|
|Sugar (Sucrose)||Yes||Sweet||Increases blood sugar, in excess, can contribute to weight gain|
|Stevia||Yes||Sweet with bitter aftertaste||No safety concerns with Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)|
|Sucralose||Yes||Sweet with minimal aftertaste||No safety concerns with ADI|
|Saccharin||Yes||Sweet with bitter/metallic aftertaste||Often mixed with another artificial sweetener called cyclamate, which is only safe in small amounts during pregnancy|
|Aspartame||Yes||Sweet with metallic aftertaste||There are anecdotal reports of headaches, dizziness and stomach upset with use|
|Sugar Alcohols||Yes||½ as sweet as sugar||Large amounts cause stomach upset and diarrhea|
Is There a Best Artificial Sweetener?
If an artificial sweetener is on the market Health Canada has deemed it safe for consumption. The amount you need to consume to see any serious side effects is far higher than what the average person eats. For example a 110 pound person would need to eat almost 2 cups of Splenda every day for it to be considered unsafe.
Sweeteners vary greatly in taste, texture and physical properties. It’s really a personal choice you should base on your own needs and preferences. Whether you choose sugar or an artificial sweetener it is best to use it in moderation.
Have you tried any of these sweeteners? Share your thoughts and reviews in the comments below!
Curious about different types of sugars? Read ‘Are All Sugars Created Equal?’
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Edible IQ urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. Edible IQ advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. Edible IQ does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. Edible IQ does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by Edible IQ is solely at your own risk.
- Ashwell, M. (2015). Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener: A New Player in the Fight Against Obesity. Nutr Today, 50(3): 129–134. doi: [10.1097/NT.0000000000000094]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890837/
- Magnuson, BA. Roberts, A. Nestman, ER. (2017). Critical review of the current literature on the safety of sucralose. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 106(part A), 324-355. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2017.05.047
- Fujimaru, T. Park, JH. Lim, J. (2012). Sensory characteristics and relative
sweetness of tagatose and other sweeteners. J Food Sci, 77(9):S323-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22908895
- Health Canada. ( 2007). Saccharin. Retrieved from
- Food and Drug Administration. (2018). FDA Statement on European Aspartame Study.
Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm208580.htm
- Otabe, A., Ohta, F. Takumi, A. Lynch, B. (2018). Mutagenicity and genotoxicity studies
of aspartame. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yrtph.2018.01.023
- Health Canada. (2005). Sugar Alcohols (Polyols) and Polydextrose Used as Sweeteners in Foods – Food Safety – Health Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food-additives/sugar-substitutes/sugar-alcohols-polyols-polydextrose-used-sweeteners-foods-food-safety.html
- Diabetes Canada. (2018). Sugar & Sweeteners. Retrieved from