In light of the World Health Organization’s recent categorization of aspartame as a possible carcinogen, we have more reason than ever to seek out natural zero calorie sweetener options.

Fortunately for us, the array of plant-based zero-calorie sweeteners continues to expand, making it easier than ever to dial back on added sugar – and artificial sweeteners.  More options means more confusion, though, so in this week’s FUELED Wellness + Nutrition, Molly gives us the rundown on low- and no-calorie plant-based sweeteners, from how they taste to the best ways to use them.

For more on plant-based sweeteners, check out Molly’s podcast, link here.  And the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a fantastic a rundown on sweeteners of all types, link here.

Why limit added sugar? The average American diet contains about 13% added sugar. This includes table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, as well as ‘natural’ sugars like raw coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey and agave.

A diet high in added sugars is pro-inflammatory, linked to an increased risk of conditions from cancer to heart disease to joint pain and more.

Added sugars also contribute to excess calories and weight gain, with minimal or no nutritional benefit.

A diet high in added sugars can set us up on the blood sugar + cravings rollercoaster, causing and perpetuating our desire for more carbs and more sugars.

Natural Plant-Based Sweeteners

High Intensity | up to 300 times sweeter than sugar

Stevia | approximately 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Derived from the stevia plant, some people may perceive stevia as bitter. Many stevia products on shelves are a blend of stevia + erythritol or monkfruit. Contributes essentially zero calories or carbs when used in products. 

Monkfruit | approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Also referred to as lo han guo, monkfruit is derived from a fruit that has been consumed in China for hundreds of years. Contributes essentially zero calories or carbs when used in products. 

Low Intensity | closer to 1:1 ratio with sugar

Erythritol | approximately 60 to 70% as sweet as sugar but with virtually zero calories. Small amounts occur naturally in fruits; most erythritol is produced by fermenting glucose with various yeasts.

Erythritol is bulky, providing a volume similar to that of sugar, so it’s often combined with high intensity plant-based sweeteners (Swerve, for example, is a blend of erythritol and allulose). Contributes essentially zero calories or carbs when used in products. 

Allulose | approximately 70% as sweet as sugar;  only contributes 0.4 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram of sugar). Compared to erythritol, allulose caramelizes and browns more like sugar; also brings a higher moisture content into baked goods.


FUELED Wellness + Nutrition is powered by Healthy Portions Meal Co. Learn more about the variety of Eat Fit options at Healthy Portions Meal Co, proud sponsor of FUELED Wellness + Nutrition with Molly on WGNO. 


Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.