Artificial sweeteners are demonised needlessly. In the low doses that most people consume non-nutritive sweeteners, they do not damage your gut microbiome. Any negligible cons of consuming desserts and beverages sweetened with erythritol, aspartame, sucralose, stevia or one of the many other sweeteners are far outweighed by the pros of all the calories you avoid by not drinking calorie laden juice, carbonated drinks and desserts sweetened with sucrose.
Everything you eat is chemical. It is made out of stuff you find on a periodic table: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen among other elements. Regular foods which are fine for you are demonised to sell organic foods at a premium. Corporates, micro-sized, small and large, want their pound of market share flesh and will say, do, price and/or pay what it takes to get it. But don’t fall for the hype and marketing BS and attractive claims on packaging.
If you are drinking a can a few times a week, switching to diet soda can save you between 100 and 800 calories a week. Diet coke contains aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Neither are harmful for you in the small doses contained in a can of soft drink.
Society draws an imaginary distinction between 'evil', 'synthetic' chemicals' that make your foods sweeter versus 'organic', 'natural' 'ingredients' that do the same. One of humanity's favourite chemical is C12H22011. This is sugar which is grown in a farm, extracted and processed in a factory and tested in a lab. Farms can have labs on them. Factories can labs in them too. Farms can have factories next door where the produce goes. Neither labs not factories are bad. **A lot of the time a combination of the two is necessary for food to be clean and plentiful.**
Every gram of sugar contains x amount of energy. Most artificial sweeteners contain no calories. Non-nutritive sweeteners including sugar alcohols contain somewhere between a 1/4 or 1/2 the calories a serving of sugar contains. Almost all the sugars or sweeteners derived from dates, coconut or honey contain just as many calories as regular white sugar. We have detailed this in the table below. The universe of sweeteners is vast. Some folks don’t like the after-taste of stevia. Some are fine with it. Some don’t like sucralose. Some folks feel a little bloated with certain sugar alcohols such as erythritol, xylitol. Most manufacturers of food rely on a blend of various sweeteners to avoid the after-taste and produce the right flavour while minimising bloating and irritation.
Embracing non-nutritive sweeteners and sugar alcohols gives you flexibility in how you approach your daily eating. It takes a great deal of restraint, resolve and motivation to not over-eat sugar and fat laden foods. Swapping out the chemicals that make your food sweet with chemicals that provide no energy is the smart thing to do. Needless to say, this is not a license to go crazy with the food group. Moderation and measured intake is the key.
Pick a variety that works for you. If you’re on a fat loss plan bias towards those with as few calories per serving as possible. If sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol) don’t work for you (gastric distress as it causes water retention in the lower intestine), there are non-nutritive ones (stevia, aspartame, sucralose). If those don’t work good old fashioned honey or jaggery. The options are many. Sustaining and moderating is the key. For most of humanity, it’s not hormones, GI or the sugar itself. It’s the AMOUNT of sugar we eat.