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Popular Zero-Calorie Sweetener Linked to Serious Health Risks—Here Are 4 That Are Safe

Aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame-K have been linked to cancer risk. Here's what to get instead.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard
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UPDATE: A recent study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic and published in Nature Medicine February 27, 2023,  found that there may be a link between the artificial sweetener erythritol and risk for cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, and even death. Researchers discovered that out of over 4,000 participants, those who consumed higher levels of erythritol were at greater risk for these events. The story below was originally published on February 7, 2023, and has since been updated to reflect the latest available information.

Nothing tastes better than a sweet treat that satisfies the sugar cravings you've been having all day. But what if you're trying to watch your sugar intake, or your doctor recently told you that you need to cut back on sugar for health reasons? Thankfully, this doesn't mean you have to avoid all of your favorite sweets. With the right zero-calorie sweeteners, you can still splurge on your favorite desserts, snacks, and coffee drinks.

Unfortunately, there are a few popular artificial sweeteners that are under fire at the moment, especially after recent research revealed that certain ones may be linked to cancer or heart attack. According to a 2022 study that was published in PLOS Medicine, aspartame (think Equal or Nutrasweet), sucralose (AKA Splenda), and acesulfame-K, are all artificial sweeteners that may heighten your cancer risk. Aspartame and acesulfame-K were specifically linked to a higher risk. New research from the Cleveland Clinic found that erythritol, another popular sweetener, may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, or even death. While these risks are of course not guaranteed, it can feel discouraging to have these dangers looming in the back of your mind when you're just trying to make healthier choices for yourself.

The good news is that there are plenty of zero-calorie sweeteners on the market that contain natural ingredients and are not linked to cancer or cardiovascular event risk like the ones mentioned above. Continue reading to find out which products you can buy with peace of mind, and for more healthy eating tips, check out 5 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings Before They Start, Says Dietitian.

Stevia In The Raw

Stevia in the raw
Courtesy of In The Raw

Stevia sweeteners come from a plant called stevia rebaudiana bertoni, also known as the "candy plant." Unlike some other brands of stevia extract, Stevia In The Raw uses only stevia, with no added flavors or sweeteners. You can buy a box of individual packets, in a baker's bag, or even in tablet form.

Stevia Clear Liquid Extract

Sweetleaf Stevia Drops
Courtesy of Amazon

While many brands offer zero-calorie sweeteners in the form of bags or packets, some brands come with liquid drops. These are great for mixing into drinks, such as coffee, tea, water, juice, etc. Sweetleaf Stevia Clear is made with stevia and "natural flavors," and they provide you with the conversion measurements you need if you're going from regular sugar to liquid drops.

NOW Foods Monk Fruit Liquid Sweetener

Monk Fruit liquid sweetener
Courtesy of iHerb

Another option if you're looking for a liquid sweetener is the NOW Foods Organic Monk Fruit sweetener. These liquid drops are certified organic and are made mostly with pure monk fruit extract, as well as 11% cane alcohol. You're paying under $9 and getting somewhere around 268 servings in each bottle, so it's hard to beat the value of this one.

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Thrive Market Organic Stevia

Thrive Market Stevia
Courtesy of Thrive Market

Thrive Market sells their own version of a stevia sweetener, and this one comes with 75 individual packets that you can sprinkle over fruit, coffee, or oatmeal. This zero-calorie sweetener also contains inulin, which is a form of prebiotic, and silica, which is a mineral compound that the FDA says is perfectly safe to consume.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha
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