The processing, packaging and marketing of sugar and sweetener has surely changed over the years. Gone are the days of our ancestors where their only sweetener choices were honey and dates. Today is sadly very different. We now commonly see packaging with “Sugar Free” or “No added Sugar” but for most processed foods on the market, this is nothing more than a creative marketing ploy.

healthy shopping ingredientsRecently I took a trip to the supermarket to gather some numbers as an example of these claims. I found 15 packages with “Sugar Free” or “No added Sugar” blasted on the front of the package. I found that 14 of the 15 packages I flipped over proved my point–although they did not add sugar, they DID add artificial/chemical sugars. It has now become our responsibility as consumers to be detectives and make sure the products we consume and feed our families is indeed free of unhealthy sweeteners. We all need to become familiar with the list of sugars below so you can determine if a product is safe to consume.

Avoid ALL artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners may be the most well known for their low-glycemic properties and are largely used in commercialized products.There is a lot of controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners and the safety of long-term ingesting. Artificial sweeteners tend to have an unwanted aftertaste after ingested, and sugar alcohol-based sweeteners, they too have a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities.

Sugar Free The following is a list of just a few more common artificial/chemical sweeteners I found while I was doing my supermarket research. Besides the fact that these artificial sweeteners are very harmful to our bodies, studies have shown that they do NOT help with weight loss. When we consume these products, our bodies do not know what to do with artificial ingredients and so the brain sends a signal to send the components to the liver. And there it sits. And sits. Our liver is our main fat-burning organ so it’s really important to keep it clean.

Aspartame – Also known as Equal or NutraSweet, has been linked to numerous health issues including, but not limited to, headaches, mood swings, neurological disorders, seizures and even brain tumors. This harmful ingredient breaks down into phenylalanine when it is ingested and metabolized. Phenylalanine causes excessive action of neurons in the brain and it kills cells. Aspartame turns to formaldehyde at 80 degrees, which obviously is a lower temperature than our bodies. Research has shown that too much phenylalanine can trigger Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders. Read more: Could Aspartame Be Making You Sick?

Splenda/Sucralose is made with chlorine components. The presence of chlorine is thought to be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics. Short-term studies done by Splenda’s manufacturers, McNeil Nutritionals, revealed that test rodents suffered from dangerous side effects such as shrunken thymus glands, and enlarged livers and kidneys. No long-term studies were done before Splenda was approved by the FDA. Read more on Splenda here.

Saccharin – Also known as Sweet ‘n Low. Although not solidly proven, this sweetener has been thought to cause cancer. It has been found to cause bladder cancer in lab animals. It now comes with a cancer-warning label. Reported reactions include wheezing, nausea, diarrhea, tongue blisters, tachycardia, fixed eruptions, headache, diuresis, and sensory neuropathy.

Maltodextrin – It is produced from rice, potato or corn starch. It is known to contain MSG and it doesn’t need to state that on the ingredient label. It is also known to affect blood sugar levels and cause tooth decay. You will find this additive in sugar packets as well as in sugar free jello, crystal light and other popular products.

Dextrose – is a powdered form of corn sweetener that is used a lot in processed foods. It’s very similar to glucose. It is a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) ingredient made from plant starch (Usually corn starch).

Fructose listed on packages usually refers to the chemical name fructose, a well known kind of sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Naturally produced fructose and (chemical) fructose are not the same thing. The fructose you see listed on most ingredient labels of processed foods is not derived naturally from fruit or honey. This fructose is often extracted corn syrup. In the processing stage the sucrose molecule breaks down into two simple sugars- fructose and glucose. This makes this type of fructose more processed than white sugar and a very unhealthy choice. Fructose on ‘all natural’ products are healthy to consume as this type of fructose is derived naturally from fruit. Read more on fructose – the safe sweetener here.

Up next in “Sweet Week”:
Sugar Alcohols – To use or not to use
Marketplace Sweeteners – Common sweeteners commonly found on the market.
Our Favorites – Choose your sweetener wisely!
How to Pick a Sweetener for you, your family and your healthy lifestyle


  1. Carma Hedrick on January 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    What is your opinion of EZ-Sweetz- 1 drop in tea and 2 drops in coffee is perfect. It has no after taste and is delicious. It is the liquid sucralose It is my favorite but now I am wondering if we should be using it.-

    • Shawna Culp on March 12, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      I would avoid sucralose. Maybe look at monk fruit