Are Sugar-Free Desserts Actually Good For You? What The Experts Say

Sugar is sweet, but not for your health. Added sugar in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, and higher numbers on the scale. The American Heart Association says that added sugar shouldn't make up more than 6% of your daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that's 120 calories or 30 grams of added sugar. To put that into perspective, a Snickers bar has 22 grams of added sugar.

So, you might turn to a sugar-free dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. These days, you can find a sugar-free version of pretty much any dessert, from ice cream to cookies. Many of these products contain artificial sweeteners that might not be best for your health. Aspartame, for instance, has been linked to obesity, tinnitus, and even a potential association with cancer. Saccharin has been associated with weight gain, while stevia may have side effects and affect kidney function. Sucralose, another widely used sweetener, could potentially reduce glucose tolerance and even damage DNA, according to Consumer Lab.

Sugar-free desserts might not help you lose weight

According to the Food Network, sugar-free desserts aren't necessarily calorie-free. Some will have just as much fat as their sugary counterparts. Because sugar-free desserts have chemically processed non-nutritive sweeteners, they could signal to your brain to eat more sweet foods. Artificial sweeteners are also processed in your body differently than sugar, according to New York Presbyterian Health. Your body thinks it's getting sugar, even though it doesn't get sugar's energy. This could lower your blood sugar and cause you to eat more. More food means more calories and weight gain.

The World Health Organization cautions against using non-nutritive sweeteners because they don't do much for weight loss. In fact, using artificial sweeteners could increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. Rather than using sugar-free foods to reduce sugar in your diet, The WHO says it's best to reduce sweet-tasting foods from your diet to improve your health.

How to reduce your sweet tooth

Cleveland Clinic offers a few suggestions for how to reduce the sugar in your diet rather than relying on sugar-free desserts. It can start with your morning coffee or tea. If you already add two teaspoons of sugar to your morning beverage, gradually reduce the sugar each week. Rather than rely on sweetened drinks (or sugar-free drinks), swap more water throughout your day. If you drink juice, dilute them with water to reduce the sweetness in your taste buds.

New York Presbyterian Health suggests managing your sugar intake by adding your own fruit to unsweetened yogurt. Rather than rely on store-bought salad dressing, make your own using olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. You can replace sugar with no-sugar-added applesauce in your favorite baked goods. It's also a good idea to read the labels of the foods you're already eating to check for added sugar. You might not be able to cut it out completely, but being aware of how much sugar you already consume is a good way to make more healthful choices.