The Truth About What's Really In Sugar-Free Foods

Plenty of research has come out recently to show how dangerous too much sugar can be for our bodies. According to Healthline, eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, acne, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also increase your risk of developing depression, increase cellular aging, and increase your risk of fatigue. It's no surprise that foods labeled as sugar-free are enticing to people who are having trouble keeping their sugar intake in check.

However, a food product being sugar-free doesn't automatically make it healthier. According to Eat This, Not That!, this label can be misleading. It is often used to "describe foods that don't contain white sugar but are still filled with other sugars derived from fruits and milk," which still contain calories similar to table sugar. These foods can also legally contain up to 0.5 grams of sugar per serving and still be labeled as sugar-free. That's a small amount, but if you consume large portions of these foods, the sugar content can really add up.

Artificial sweeteners come with health risks

Foods that rely on added sugar for flavor, like candy and baked goods, need something for sweetness in place of real sugar if they're going to be labeled sugar-free. Many turn to artificial sweeteners, which add sweetness without any calories. However, there is quite a bit of controversy around artificial sweeteners. According to Harvard Health Publishing, both the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Diabetes Association (ADA) have warned against consuming too many artificial sweeteners.

Although the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners (saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose), relying on them may lead to poor dietary habits somewhere else. For example, someone who eats a lot of sugar-free baked goods may feel like they can eat extra calories elsewhere because they are not getting their calories from sugar in those treats. This can lead to overeating and offset any potential benefits from the sugar-free treats in the first place.

Experts agree that unless you have diabetes or another reason to choose sugar-free foods, it is best to enjoy regular foods in moderation.