10 Myths About Sugar

Sugar-free Diets Are the Healthiest
Sugar-free taffy is on display at Evelyn and Angel's candy shop in Cambridge, Mass. Often in sugar-free products, the sugar has been replaced with artificial sweeteners. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

OK, so we eat too much sugar. And artificial sweeteners or other forms of the sweet stuff, like raw sugar, aren't any better than plain old table sugar. So maybe the answer is simply to cut all sugar out of our diets. Perhaps. But that is a complicated plan. Technically, if you were able to eliminate all sugar from your diet -- meaning eating solely foods where no sugar was added during its creation or afterward -- that might be the healthiest option. But if your suggested "sugar-free" diet means eating foods labeled "sugar-free," then that won't fly [source: Larkin].

Foods that boast of being "sugar-free" typically really aren't. That's because while the sugar has been yanked, it's been replaced with an artificial sweetener. That sweetener could be the pleasant-sounding honey or agave nectar; chemical-sounding sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol; or noncaloric sweeteners like saccharin (brand-name "Sweet'N Low") and sucralose ("Splenda"). Unfortunately, many of these alternative sweeteners are still high in carbohydrates and/or calories. And sugar alcohols are famous for causing stomachaches and diarrhea if they're ingested in large quantities. Experts say the wisest strategy is to eat unprocessed foods, adding as little sugar as possible [sources: Joslin Diabetes Center, Larkin].