When it comes to a sweet-tooth, “can you have your cake and eat it too?”
The overwhelming prevalence of diet sodas and artificially sweetened snacks in Western society would suggest that the popular knowledge answer is “yes.” However, most medical professionals would probably answer that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” So, what’s the deal? Are calorie-free sweeteners okay to eat or detrimental to your health?
Well, like most topics in nutrition, the answer isn’t entirely clear. However, what is clear is that some “non-nutritive”, i.e calorie-free, sweeteners are better for you than others. For example, some sweeteners, like Splenda and Sweet’N Low, act like normal sugar in that they force the body to release the fat-storing hormone insulin, whereas other sweeteners, like Stevia and Erythritol, are “non-insulinogenic.” Simply put, if you goal is control your weight, Stevia and Erythritol may be a better option for you than Splenda and Sweet’N Low.
Of course, there are a lot of other variables to consider. Some sweeteners can affect you gut bacteria, others are heat stable and can be used in baking, etc. So, while all the information may not be out there just yet, do try to be an informed consumer and remember: not all zero-calories are created Equal.
(Below is a table comparing some of the most common calorie-free sweeteners organised roughly in order of descending quality as relates to your overall health.)