Sugar-free cookies, reduced-sugar cereal, sugar-free candy, diet soda… are these better for you? The answer: an overwhelming no. After sugar became a taboo in the nutrition and wellness world, sugar-free food items and beverages acted as substitutes for once beloved sweet drinks and snacks. Claiming to be ZERO sugar meant it was healthier, better for diabetics, and helped you slim down… Right?

WRONG!  Sugar-free is not better for you. 

What Does “Sugar-Free” Mean?

Sugar-free means that artificial sweeteners are used instead of real sugar. The problem: these sweeteners do not come from natural sources and they can cause you more harm than good.

What are Artificial Sweeteners?

If you are looking for sweeteners without sugar, artificial sweeteners seem like a great option. Unfortunately, it seems that sugar-free sugar may be even worse than actual sugar! Artificial sweeteners can cause a spike in blood glucose, heighten sugar cravings, and disturb your gut. 

Let’s get into what these artificial sweeteners actually are…

Sugar-Free Sugar

Sugar-free sugar sounds wrong and that’s because there is no such thing as sugar-free sugar. Some of these sugar-free alternatives even contain sugar and the ones that don’t have chemicals your body often does not know how to process.

Most artificial sweeteners are exponentially sweeter than sugar so very little is needed. That’s why they can market sugar-free alternatives as “low-calorie” or “no-calorie.” It also means that you get no nutritional value from consuming them which is why many sugar-free substitutes are classified as “non-nutritive.” 

These artificial sweeteners tend to hide under sneaky names. Here are a few of the most common. It is so important to read labels, not just on sweets, but everything. 


A.K.A. Sweet’N Low

Saccharin is sometimes combined with aspartame, another artificial sweetener. It was previously considered carcinogenic (meaning cancer-causing) because the rats who were consuming it began to develop tumors. After it got banned, not that long ago, researchers told consumers there was no evidence to believe that it caused cancer in humans.

Suspicious? You decide. 

How much sweeter is saccharin than sugar? 300-400 times.


A.K.A. NutraSweet and Equal 

When aspartame breaks down in your body, it becomes methanol which is toxic in large doses. It is often found in diet products and gum.  

***While aspartame is FDA approved, and low-calorie, it is commonly believed as bad for your body. Health side effects of aspartame? Schizophrenia, seizures, and cancer. 

How much sweeter is aspartame than sugar? 200 times. 


A.K.A. Splenda 

Sucralose comes from real sugar but is altered with added chemicals like chlorine so that less is needed to achieve sweetness. However, most sucralose is mixed with other products like dextrose. Ironically, dextrose is corn-based sugar.  

Health side effects from sucralose include diabetes, IBS, and weight gain. 

How much sweeter is sucralose than sugar? 600 times.

Acesulfame Potassium

A.K.A. Ace-K, Acesulfame K, Sunnett, or Sweet One

Ace-K is usually blended with sucralose or aspartame to cut its bitter taste. They often use it in baked goods because it is stable when heated, unlike other artificial sweeteners. 

Ace-K is one of those sugar-free sweeteners that was linked to maybe, possibly causing cancer in rats. There were also possibilities of brain decline associated with ingesting this artificial sweetener. Another health consequence? Ace-K impacts your gut and not in a good way.

How much sweeter is acesulfame potassium than sugar? 200 times.

Is “Sugar-Free” Harmful?

Unless you have stock in sugar-free alternatives then the answer is YES!. Sugar-free = harmful. 

What Does Sugar-Free Do to Your Body?

When you eat sweet stuff, your body continues to crave it and, even though your body cannot metabolize these sugar-free alternatives, your brain does not know the difference. In turn, sugar-free alternatives connect to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Ironically, the health conditions they were invented to minimize. 

Artificial sweeteners also confuse your gut, damaging your gut’s ability to break down sugar which impacts everything you eat. In other words, your body doesn’t know how to handle artificial sweeteners because they have nothing real to process.

Wait! But… Is sugar-free good for diabetics?

Again, a mixed verdict. While many artificial sweeteners were invented to provide diabetics with sweeteners that were sugar-free, artificial sweeteners can increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes! 

A good rule of thumb: stay away from artificial sweeteners and look for non-sugar, natural sweeteners like Stevia, Xylitol, or date sugar

Artificial Sweeteners vs. Sugar

In the war against artificial sweeteners and real sugar, both lose. Satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugars that come from fruits and stay away from products claiming to be sugar-free or diet!

Bottom line? Don't play Russian roulette with your health. If you HAVE to have something sweet, opt for natural sugars that are in Fruits. And contrary to what you hear, fruit is actually good for diabetics. 

*** More info here from WHO: 

World Health Organization says No to Artificial Sweeteners