Sugar Talk: Real vs. Artificial?

It’s a never ending discussion, isn’t it? Stevia’s bad for you… no it’s not… sugar is an addiction… low-cal is best, etc. Everyone has their dietary preferences and priorities, whether it’s paleo, vegetarian, “whole” foods, low calorie, or otherwise. It can be hard to choose an approach and stick with it.

sugar talk: real vs. artificial?

It seems pretty common for people to switch to low cal/low sugar when they’re trying to lose weight. Think Light ‘N’ Fit yogurt, Splenda in your coffee, etc. I think this works well for short-term calorie cutting, but is it truly healthy?

Now, I’m seeing more and more articles/blog posts about the emphasis on real food. If we’re talking sugar, think maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, etc. There are also a ton of “outside the box” natural sugars popping up like monkfruit, etc. — but even those probably require a little more research, in my opinion.

There are a few things mostly everyone can agree on:

  1. Sugar makes you crave more sugar. It happens to me all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I polish off a bowl of froyo and say to myself, “I can literally eat 5 more bowls of that right now.” … usually I don’t. ; )
  2. Sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin are so ’90s. These are more commonly known as Splenda, Equal and Sweet & Low. There are tons of studies on how these can actually contribute to diabetes and obesity. Got Diet Coke?
  3. Stevia is the most natural artificial sweetener. But it’s still an artificial sweetener.

Luckily, I’ve never been into Splenda or artificial sweeteners at all. They hurt my stomach, as I learned the hard way post-skinny-peppermint-mocha-latte in the fall of 2011. No, I’m still not over it. I use Stevia, but I try to use it sparingly.

So here’s the thing. Say I want pancakes. Do I go for natural maple syrup at 53g sugar and 210 calories per serving? Or do I choose a sugar free maple “flavored” syrup for 0g sugar and 35 calories?

Nutrition Facts for a sugar-free syrup

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think there is a right or wrong. However, I do think it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting in your body, and more importantly, how it makes you feel.

For me, I would rather have a little bit of something real than a ton of something fake. So if I want syrup on my pancakes, I’ll have a dab of real maple syrup. If I want ice cream, I’d rather have a small bowl of full-fat stuff than a huge bowl of the “light” kind that’s packed with chemicals.

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I guess it all comes down to preference, priority, etc. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Your Turn-

  • Thoughts on Stevia? Splenda? Real vs. artificial sources of sugar?
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14 thoughts on “Sugar Talk: Real vs. Artificial?

  1. Great post!! I 100% agree that it comes down to being aware of what you’re eating and the potential effects, and how you personally react to it. I’m a huge fan of liquid stevia, and use it in oatmeal/coffee/yogurt daily. I guess my philosophy is that I would rather eat the extra calories in the form of more complex carbs/protein. I think you’re approach is also great!

    I definitely find that eating real sugar makes me crave more sugar (SO true on the froyo!!) but I don’t get this reaction with stevia luckily.

    Jill @ http://www.champagneforeveryday.com

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    • Thanks for commenting, Jill! I use the liquid stevia too (love it in yogurt)– but like I said, I try to use it pretty sparingly. You’re right – for the most part, I’d rather save my calories for something else as well!

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  2. I agree- I think you have to start with being aware, and then make the choices that are best for your body. If you don’t eat a lot of sweets, I think it makes sense to go natural all the way. If you eat lots of sweet things, stevia could potentially be a better option!

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  3. It’s such a dilemma alright!

    Personally I feel like so many of the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners are still unknown, which is quite a scary prospect. I also find that they really irritate my stomach so I try and avoid them as much as I can!

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  4. LOVED this post! LOVE LOVE LOVE. I do use artificial sweeteners (not on purpose, just my protein powders are sweetened with them) but would always go the natural route (well, in comparison) with everything else- sugar in my coffee, maple syrups on pancakes, real sugar in baked goods etc! Saying that, I do like to try out using stevia or stevia blends in recipes because that’s what I find readers tend to enjoy! Splenda though..pass!

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    • Thanks for weighing in, Arman! I’m so glad you said that – I feel like a lot of bloggers with awesome recipes like you are very focused on stevia. I totallyyy get the benefits of it from a low-cal standpoint, but like you said, sometimes I feel like the natural stuff is a better bet. It’s a tough call!

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  5. I’ve been debating the same thing. I know artificial sweeteners are bad news–probably worse than the real stuff. But I use stevia and am wondering if I should stop. Probably the best thing to do is just not eat as much sweet stuff, and retrain your taste buds..

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  6. Ahh yes, the sweetener debate! I always find this topic interesting. Growing up, my mom always ate “diety” things with aspartame.. and then I remember one day where she threw everything with aspartame out because she had heard that it causes cancer! Nevertheless, “fat free” and “sugar free” foods were always prevalent in my house.

    So, as an adult I’ve sort of shifted my focus to “real” food instead of artificial stuff. I stay away from anything with sucralose (causes tummy issues for many people!) and aspartame, but I do eat stevia because I find it to be much more natural than the others. My favorite sweetener is honey though – yum! I put it in plain yogurt all of the time.

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    • Yes, Nicole, it’s so interesting how our perspectives change, isn’t it? Growing up, my household was similar .. we had the “light” stuff a lot. Now I won’t go NEAR splenda (ugggh tummy troubles for sure) or aspartame… but I do a little stevia here and there. Everything in moderation, I guess. Including both stevia AND natural sweeteners. Love honey too 🙂 I’m so addicted lately!

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