There are many kinds of sweeteners available, but not all of them are healthy. Some sweeteners may have negative effects on your health, such as weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Here are some examples of unhealthy sweeteners:
- Artificial sweeteners are synthetic substances that mimic the taste of sugar without providing any calories or carbs. They include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, and acesulfame potassium1. Some studies have linked artificial sweeteners to alterations in the gut microbiome, which may affect your immune system, digestion, and metabolism2. Some people may also experience headaches, nausea, or allergic reactions from artificial sweeteners1.
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch that contains a high amount of fructose, a type of sugar that is metabolized differently than glucose. HFCS is often added to processed foods and beverages, such as sodas, candies, and baked goods. Consuming too much HFCS can increase your risk of obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and inflammation2.
- Agave is a syrup made from the sap of the agave plant, which grows in Mexico and South America. Agave is often marketed as a natural and healthy alternative to sugar, but it actually contains more fructose than HFCS. Agave can raise your blood sugar levels and triglycerides, which are a type of fat in your blood that can contribute to heart disease2.
- Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from cooked brown rice that is fermented with enzymes. It is often used in organic and gluten-free products, such as cereal bars and granola. However, brown rice syrup has a high glycemic index, which means it can spike your blood sugar levels quickly. It also may contain traces of arsenic, a toxic metal that can cause health problems with long-term exposure2.
If you want to reduce your intake of unhealthy sweeteners, you can try using natural sweeteners that are lower in calories and carbs, such as stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, or xylitol. However, you should still use them in moderation and consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.