Sugar: The Bad vs. The Good

Apr 06, 2016

Written by Marina Dimitrova, RHN

Not all sugar sweeteners are made Equal (pun intended). Sugar consumed in excess, like anything else, can lead to imbalances in the body. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up all sweetness! There are some minimally processed sugars and sweeteners that contain minerals and antioxidants beneficial to the body. Here are some examples of four sweeteners that really should be avoided, along with three recommendations for healthful substitutes.

The Bad:


Aspartame is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. Aspartame is known to cause headaches, spike blood sugar levels, are highly addictive, lead to weight gain and more. Beware of the hidden places in food and beverages this pesky artificial sweetener hides. For example, gum, diet pop, cereals, multivitamins, yogurt and more. Remember this is a chemical and not food and as such should be replaced with natural sugars.


Toted as a no-calorie sweetener, sucralose garnered much popularity. It is made from regular sugar, but chemically altered to the point where they might as well be distant cousins…twice removed. Sucralose becomes a chlorinated artificial sweetener. Like aspartame, sucralose comes along with a list of reports saying it causes gastrointestinal problems, seizures, dizziness, migraines, blurred vision, allergic reactions, blood sugar imbalances and weight gain among other things. Ease away from chemically-altered sugars and ease into natural sugars with health benefits.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This ingredient sneaks its way into almost all processed foods and beverages, even ones that aren’t sweet! The chemical process used to make high fructose corn syrup separates the glucose and fructose that are bound together allowing the fructose to enter the bloodstream, directly spiking blood sugar. It is highly addictive, usually made from genetically modified corn (GMO) and devoid of any nutritional benefits, vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Always remember to read the ingredients label to avoid this highly processed sweetener.

Agave Nectar

You may be surprised to learn that agave nectar is on the bad list considering its popularity in recent years. It’s on the bad list because it actually contains more fructose than any other sweetener, including high fructose corn syrup. This excess amount of fructose can lead to fat storage in the body, drive blood sugar levels up the wall and damage the liver triggering inflammation and damaging cells.

The Good:

Yes! Natural sweeteners can be a part of a healthy diet. The key is to choose ones that are nutritionally beneficial.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is pure, unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. It is a great alternative to these artificial sweeteners. Raw honey is high in antioxidants, antibacterial, anti-fungal, heals wounds, filled with phytonutrients, known as a prebiotic and contains enzymes to help you digest your food, great for soothing a sore throat, high in minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Also contains vitamins like vitamin B6 and does not cause the same sugar spike as artificial sweeteners do.

Dark Maple Syrup

Dark maple syrup is a sweetener from tree sap. This natural sweetener is also very high in antioxidants, contains high levels of zinc, iron and manganese great for the immune system and heart. It is also low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index ranks carbs on how they affect blood sugar (glucose). This means less of a sugar spike when consumed.

Coconut sugar

Table sugar is highly processed, so if you’re looking for an alternative, coconut sugar is a great replacement. It is a sugar produced from the sap of cut flower buds from coconut palms. It is more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar because it contains some fibre and minerals.

Remember, sugar is sugar, no matter what form it’s in. Always remember with any type of sugar, moderation is key.


Marina Dimitrova is a Holistic Nutritionist at our 99 Roncesvalles location. She began her journey in nutritional health during a time when she was dealing with digestive issues. When she decided to remove meat and dairy from her diet, her health issues began to clear up. After graduating from The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, her focus is teaching nutritional knowledge to children at an early age so they can grow to live a long and healthy life.