Artificial sweetener: the good, the bad and the natural alternatives

Artificial sweetener: the good, the bad and the natural alternatives | Mr Vitamins
We all know from the media that the western world is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. As a consequence we are also witnessing a horrific increase in lifestyle related diseases. What you may not know is that many of these diseases are caused by eating too much sugar.

Artificial Sweetener - the quiet poison

Sugar is so damaging to your body that many healthcare professionals now view it in the same light as drugs and alcohol. It is the quiet poison that creeps up on you in much the same way as other addictive substances, and it damages almost every cell in your body. We are not talking about the sugar you add to your tea and coffee, rather the sugar that is in the processed foods you buy; the chips, crackers, cakes, biscuits. Low-fat foods too, like muesli bars and yoghurt can be full of added sugar (do check the labels if you’re buying these). Whilst in the USA, the main culprit for sugar damage is high fructose corn syrup; here in Australia most of the sugar used in processed food still comes from sugar cane. This is not quite so damaging but is still harmful due to the amount we are consuming. Artificial sweetener such as Saccharine and Aspartame, used in processed food (including sugar-free chewing gum and soft drinks) have been shown to have a neuro-toxic effect on your body. These artificial sweeteners are suspected carcinogens and are added to many foods, even yogurt! They actually leach essential minerals out of your body, especially calcium from your bones. Commercial bleached white sugar is so refined that it is causes addictive behaviour and is linked to behaviour altering diseases seen in children such as ADD. Almost all our packaged food contains high amounts of these sugars and this is leading to the obesity we currently face in Australia. Excess sugar is rapidly turned into fat in your body, so if you are currently trying to lose weight and can’t seem to be able to, this may be the reason. Luckily for us there are plenty of natural sweetener alternatives on the market. They are sweet tasting and also possess plenty of vitamins and nutrients needed to sustain you through the day.

Alternatives for Artificial Sweetener:

Agave Nectar

Is made from the nectar of the Mexican agave plant, and has a beautiful flavour. It is low on the glycemic index and therefore will not have an effect on your blood sugar levels the way sugars will. It has antibacterial properties that can be used both internally and externally. The Aztecs originally used it for healing wounds because of its antibacterial effect. It is perfect to add to cooking, tea, and muesli. It comes as a syrup in either dark or light and can be purchased almost anywhere these days.


Dates have the highest concentration of fruit sugars within the fruit world. The best dates to buy are Medjool dates which are only found in specialty stores. Dates help to relieve constipation and help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. These are a special treat that will sweeten up any dish. Dates can be added to smoothies, cakes, and any dessert recipe.


Stevia is a native South American herb that contains no sucrose.  It is approximately 300 times sweeter then conventional sugar, it can be quite bitter if you use too much so you only need to add a little to a dish. This herb has absolutely no effect on your blood sugar, making a perfect addition to any pantry. It actually aids in lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure. You can find Stevia in liquid, powder or pill form, try and use the liquid form as much as possible because it is less processed then the other two.


Xylitol is a white crystalline powder that looks and tastes like sugar. It can be used in tea and coffee, as well as in recipes where it can replace sugar gram for gram.  So what is this magic powder? To quote from Xylitol.org “Xylotil is a naturally occurring carbohydrate. It is found in fibrous vegetables and fruit. It also occurs naturally in our bodies – in fact, an average size adult manufactures up to 15 grams of xylitol daily during normal metabolism.” Your body does not require insulin to metabolize xylitol, which makes it a great sweetener for general health, blood sugar regulation and for weight loss too.

Maple Syrup

Maple is syrup is the sap that is gathered from the maple tree during springtime. It is a good source of magnesium, which is important for energy production. It also contains high amounts of zinc making it good for your immune system. Maple syrup is much sweeter then other alternatives so use sparingly, it can be added to breakfast dishes and is great for baking. You can find it in any supermarket.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is the perfect sweet addition to your pantry. It is filled with essential amino acids and nutrients, and enzymes like amylase that helps us break down sugar and B complex vitamins. It helps protect you against colds and flu as honey has great antibacterial and antiviral properties. It has also been linked to preventing cancer by scavenging free radicals. Raw honey can be found in health food stores and some supermarkets. Try to find locally produced honey, as the honey produced from local plant species can give relief to allergy sufferers who live in the same area. Only buy raw honey that has not been heated and processed.

Date Paste Recipe

A convenient sweetener to have on hand, and that can be used in smoothies, baking or on toast like jam.


100 grams Dates + Water to cover


Soak pitted dates in water for 1 – 2 hours. Drain and reserve the water. Process the dates in a food processor adding in the soak water 1 teaspoon at a time until it is a consistency of a thick jam. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. The paste will keep for about a week and can be added to your baking or desserts.