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What's the best sugar substitute?

Aspartame, acesulfame k, saccharin, stevia, honey, sucralose, sugar alcohols, molasses, xylitol, erythritol, yacon syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup. What do all these have in common?

Each item listed is a sweetener used in place of sugar!

Some are calorie-free. Others are not. Some are made with chemicals. Others come from natural sources.

For the most health benefits, it's important to consider where an ingredient comes from. Is it made in a lab or is it naturally occurring? Sweeteners like honey, molasses and maple syrup may not be calorie-free, but they provide various health perks that sweeteners made with chemicals lack. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, may be calorie-free, but some people believe they can cause gut inflammation and weight gain.

How do you know what sweetener is best?

The bottom line is that you must evaluate your health goals and practice moderation. Are you working toward eating a cleaner diet with less processed foods? If so, chemical sweeteners may not be a great choice. You also can pay attention to how you feel after eating certain sweeteners. Are you energetic after consuming high-fructose corn syrup and sugar alcohols, or do you feel bloated and uncomfortable?

Fuel your body with the energy it needs and to enjoy the food you're consuming. Some days that might mean having your favorite dessert. On other days it may be cooking a homemade meal with fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market.  

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