Seeing foods with "diet" or "sugar-free" on the label can be confusing. Especially since you may have heard that artificial sweeteners are bad for you, or even that they can cause cancer. Let's break down the truth about artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. You may also see the term natural sweeteners, which includes things like honey, molasses, fruit juices, and maple syrup - but even those still undergo some processing.
Did you know that there are about 16 calories (4g of carbs) in 1 teaspoon of sugar? Artificial sweeteners have virtually no calories, which is beneficial if you are in a calorie deficit but don't want to give up sweets. Also, artificial sweeteners aren't carbohydrates so they don't impact your blood sugar levels like regular sugar does. So people who need to watch their blood sugar can enjoy things with artificial sweeteners.
You may have heard that artificial sweeteners can cause cancers, or that they are just bad for you. In fact, there is no research to support that claim. There is no scientific evidence that they cause harm to your health.
If you are someone with an autoimmune disorder, consuming too much added sugar is linked to an increase in inflammation. That does not include the naturally occurring sugar in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. One more time for the people in the back, natural sugars DO NOT cause inflammation, and many foods with natural sugars like fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory - not all sugar is bad. Added sugars are ones that are removed from their original source and added to processed foods as a sweetener. On labels, they're listed at things like high fructose corn syrup. Labels are required to list the added sugars in grams below the carbohydrates.
As with everything, moderation is key. So go ahead and add that artificial sweetener to your coffee, just don't go crazy. The 80 (percent of whole, nutrient dense foods)/20 (less nutrient dense, but very tasty foods) still applies!