• We're all familiar with the iconic yellow packets of Splenda. Splenda, or sucralose, is a popular alternative to table sugar that has zero calories. While this is an enticing draw, the effect Splenda has on the body leaves me questioning its health benefits. Splenda has been linked to a number of issues—some research even suggests it can be toxic when used in baking. My advice: Skip the Splenda.

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  • An Israeli study found that artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet'N Low, and Equal have a serious impact on the bacteria that live in your digestive tract. The disruption that these sweeteners cause can change how your body absorbs glucose. The result may just be an increase in blood sugar and more cravings for sweet stuff. Do yourself a favor and ditch the diet sodas.

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  • Raise your hand if you reach for the raw sugar because it's "better" for you. The packaging looks healthier, and they've marketed the product to make you think that it's true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but raw sugar does the same thing in your body as regular refined white sugar. If you're looking to eliminate the sweet stuff, that will need to include raw sugar.

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  • Honey is another popular option to sweeten desserts and beverages. When compared to table sugar, honey is actually a better option. It contains trace minerals and has less glucose in it than regular sugar. If you're going to swap your sugar with honey, be sure to choose raw honey. Raw honey is unprocessed, so it still contains the minerals that make this sweetener the superior choice.

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  • Maple syrup, like honey, contains trace minerals. When you buy real maple syrup (NOT maple-flavored syrup), you can reap some of these benefits. While most of us think of maple syrup as a topping for pancakes or waffles, it can also be used in baking and adds a unique flavor to cakes and pies. If you're really in the mood to experiment, a bit of maple syrup in your coffee adds a festive spin.

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  • Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is often used in dental products like gum or mouthwash. It is metabolized differently than table sugar, and that is part of the reason why it's growing in popularity. A word of caution: Too much xylitol can lead to digestive system upset, so use with caution.

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  • In the last few years, agave has gotten really popular. You can find it in lots of beverages and foods, but it's not a good substitute for sugar. It's packed with fructose, and it affects your body in a very profound way when ingested. Fructose can prevent you from feeling full because it bypasses normal digestion and prevents the secretion of hormones that tell the body that you're full.

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  • If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of sweeteners and the effect they have on your blood sugar and metabolism, check out this post on my blog, Simple Medicine. I go through all the science to help you make the best choice for your lifestyle and your body.

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