Think of this like tequila without the buzz. Agave has the highest levels of fructose of any sweetener, even more than high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is highly lipogenic (converts to body fat), doesn’t satiate your hunger, and is very easy to overeat. Don’t be fooled by the organic or all-natural packaging. This stuff should be avoided completely.
#2 Sugar Alcohols.
These include xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, and other “-tol” sounding additives. They are as sweet as sugar but have way fewer calories. Sounds great, right? The problem is they often cause terrible digestive problems (think: disaster pants) and kill off beneficial bacteria in the gut. In toothpaste, xylitol is great. In foods, avoid it altogether.
#3 Stevia + __________.
Stevia is a very interesting plant that enhances the sweetness of foods. Stevia by itself can be a really great sugar alternative, but the problem is food manufacturers often bundle stevia with other sweeteners, particularly sugar alcohols (see #2). The labels will often read “no added sugar” which is technically true but biochemically false. Stevia is awesome, but flip the food package in question over to make sure you know the other sweeteners included.
Question: Isn’t white sugar the worst?
White sugar is a disaccharide, meaning a two-part sugar made up of roughly 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. Some natural sugars are less caloric than white sugar, some are actually more caloric. Many natural sugars have more vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, but that doesn’t offset the impact they have on your blood glucose levels.
Does this mean all sweeteners are bad? No, it means they are all sweet and must be moderated, particularly the fructose. Your body and brain love and thrive off glucose but only in a very limited intake range. If you exceed that, sugar suddenly becomes a toxin, and it disrupts your metabolism, leads to weight gain and fat storage, and is a real problem for your health.