Sugar vs Artificial Sweeteners

Michael De Luca

Sugar has been around for a long time and used to sweeten many delicious food products. The production of sugar dates back to 300 A.D. when the product of sugar was first extracted from sugar cane in India. Due to the length of the extraction process sugar was considered to be an expensive spice. Along with sugar artificial sweeteners have exploded in the market.

Artificial sweeteners were created only 50 years ago, and have now become common place. Sweeteners are chemically manufactured from molecules. These sweeteners are used to replace the sweetness in common food products. Examples include baked goods, pop and processed foods. Artificial sweeteners have replaced two main types of sugar.

The two main types of sugar are refined and natural sugar. Refined sugar is made from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn. Sugar cane and sugar beets are processed to make table sugar. An example of a refined sugar would be white or brown sugar. Corn is processed to make high fructose corn syrup. This is a highly concentrated liquid sugar. High fructose corn syrup is used in foods like dipping sauces and beverages like soft drinks. Refined and natural sugars need to be consumed in moderation; they may even be hidden in foods that you would not even think. An example would be tomato sauce.
Natural sugars are found naturally in foods. Examples would be lactose in milk, honey, stevia, agave and maple syrup. Naturally occurring sugars can sometimes be considered healthier than processed sugars because they are often consumed with fibre.

The market is overwhelmed with artificial sweeteners. Three of the most popular ones are Acesulfame K, aspartame and saccharin. Acesulfame K is found in chewing gum, aspartame is found in soft drinks and saccharin is found in coffee sweeteners. There are no calories in these artificial sweeteners but they taste at least 200 times sweeter than refined or natural sugar. This may sound wonderful but artificial sweeteners have a drawback, they make you hungrier.

Which Sugars are the Most Sweet Compared to Calories per gram?

Type Sweetness Calories
Table Sugar 1 8
High Fructose Corn Syrup 1.5 3
Agave Syrup 1.5 3
Acesulfame k 200 0
Aspartame 200 0
Saccharin 200 0


Canada’s Food Guide doesn’t have a set recommendation for sugar or sweetener intake. Sugar of all types needs to be consumed in moderation. Health Canada is proposing to establish a percent daily value for sugar on our nutrition labels of no more than 100g per day for an average person. Sugar has been around for a long time and is here to stay. Therefore, we need to be mindful as a consumer to what we are eating, especially when it comes to sugar.


This article was written by Michael De Luca. Michael has always had a passion for food and nutrition. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Nutrition May 2015. He is currently working towards his professional designation and hopes to complete it before the end of this year.