Sugar-free, No added Sugar, or Unsweetened – What’s Better?

Medically Reviewed By DR. DAMANJIT DUGGAL, MBBS, MD November 8, 2023

Last updated on September 27th, 2022

Sugar Free

We all are aware of the fact that too much sugar is not good for your health. But, nowadays, you can easily find the availability of substitutes in the market to choose from. Although, the question arises which of the sugar substitute is better, i.e. whether to go for no added sugar, sugar free or unsweetened one.

In the market, you can find a product like Amul sugar free dark chocolate and if you do not have a clear idea, then it is difficult to understand what it means. Also, in this regard, you must explore various facts regarding all these above-mentioned options. This will help you to conclude.

Health concerns by overconsumption of sugar

Sugar Free Healthy

Sugar is extracted from different sources. Excessive consumption of sugar can cause health problems. There are several types of sugar available in the market, which one should a person choose.

Sugar is considered to be a sweet substance extracted from sugarcane as well as sugar beet. It consists of sucrose and is mainly employed as a sweeter in drinks as well as food.

But the average intake of free sugars in our body should never be more than 5% of the total energy intake. This means that taking more than six teaspoons of sugar on a per-day basis is proved to be very harmful to our bodies.

Although, our daily intake of sugar is much more than that. Do you know that excessive sugar can lead to tooth decay, obesity and eventually add to the threat of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease?
Due to this reason, you will find the availability of many sugar free options in the market. But, before knowing about the best sugar alternatives, you should first have a look at the differences in sugar that may confuse you.

Also Read: Lowering Blood Sugar Level Naturally

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The confusion that arises from different names of sugar

As there are many different terms for sugar, so it can be a difficult job to find it on the list of ingredients. The specific names to look for includes:

  • Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Glucose
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Disaccharide
  • Monosaccharide
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Syrups like corn, treacle, and maple syrups

Differences existing between sugar free, unsweetened, and no added sugar option

sugar free unsweetened


All three terms, “sugar free”, “no added sugar” and “unsweetened” are different. So, it is very important to understand the differences well to make an effective choice and prevent further issues.

Sugar Free

  • If a food has less than 0.5 grams of sugar/serving, then FDA considers that particular food to be sugar free.
  • In this case, you should check the number of servings specifically in the food as there may be the presence of a little quantity of sugar even if it claims to be sugar free. Also, the sugar free options contain naturally-occurring sugars.
  • But, it does not include sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. So, you should always check the ingredient list for sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners as these are used to enhance flavor when sugar is absent in the food.
  • Some of the general sources of sugar free food involve fruit preserves, candy, pancake syrup, etc. Examples include sugar free chocolate, sugar free sweets, sugar free chewing gum, sugar free candy, etc.

No Added Sugar

  • A food label is allowed by the FDA to write “no added sugar” if it has no added sugar at the time of packaging or processing. In one word, it can be said that if sugar is not manually added to a particular food, then it can claim itself to be “no added sugar”.
  • As seen in the above section, this is not the same as the sugar-free as there may be the presence of artificial sugars, naturally occurring sugars, and sugar alcohols. You will find this claim on food items like peanut butter, granola, fruit preserves, fruit juice, and a lot more.


  • If you observe that unsweetened is written on the label of a food, then it indicates that the specific product is containing no added sugars, sugar alcohols, and any forms of artificial sweeteners. But, this does not mean that the food is completely free from sugar.
  • It may contain sugars that are naturally occurring. Some of the common examples of unsweetened ones may specifically comprise coconut milk, almond milk, iced tea, apple sauce, etc.
  • So, you should focus on choosing unsweetened food products if you are looking forward to effectively reduce the amount of added sugar or avoid artificial sugars in your diet. Stevia sugar is known to be the best example of naturally occurring sugar.
  • Now, the question arises, which of these can be called the best and healthy choice? The answer to this is clear, none of the above-mentioned ones i.e. no added sugar, unsweetened, or sugar free is a healthy option to choose.
  • In this regard, you should always focus on checking the complete nutrition value of the food that is carrying these claims.
  • You also need to ask yourself that which one of these is the right choice for your specific dietary requirements. In this case, you can focus on choosing unsweetened foods as they can be a better option among the others.
  • If you want to minimize added sugars in your diet, then you need to concentrate on healthy low sugar recipes. You can depend on natural sugar sources for enhancing the flavor of the foods you are cooking.
  • One of the best examples of this naturally occurring sugar includes Stevia rebaudiana. You can easily find this stevia online specifically in the form of stevia powder, stevia leaves, stevia tablets, or stevia drops.

Also Read: Reverse Your Diabetes With these Easy Steps

What are the best sugar alternatives?

Stevia Rebaudiana

All of the below-mentioned sugar alternatives come with their own set of health benefits.


Stevia Plant

Currently, there has been a rising popularity of stevia. This is a naturally occurring sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of a shrub grown in South America. The scientific name of this shrub is Stevia rebaudiana.

This is a plant-based sweetener that can be extracted from one of two compounds namely rebaudioside A and stevioside.

Each of these compounds contains zero calories. Not only that, but stevia is about 350 times sweeter than sugar. Talking about the taste of stevia, it is slightly different from that of sugar.

The leaves of the plant are packed with phytochemicals as well as nutrients. Due to this reason, this particular option is linked with many important health benefits.

If you are thinking about whether stevia good for diabetics or not, then this section will clear your related doubts.

Stevioside is a sweet compound found in stevia which has been reported to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, as well as insulin levels.

So, you can easily buy stevia online as it is considered to be a safe option to choose from. But, more research is needed to be carried out regarding the important benefits of the stevia plant for human health.

Therefore, stevia is considered to be 100% natural, containing zero calories. Also, it does not have any adverse health effects. The best part is that it has been reported to significantly lower blood pressure as well as blood sugar levels.

Yacon Syrup

Yacon Syrup with Dried Slices

This is extracted from the yacon plant and that is a particular plant grown in South America. The scientific name of this plant is Smallanthus sonchifolius. Yacon syrup is dark in color and tastes sweet.

The consistency of this syrup can be compared to molasses. This mainly contains about 40 to 50% of the fructooligosaccharides that is an exceptional sugar molecule that cannot be digested in the human body.

As the sugar molecules remain in undigested form, and so, it has about one-third of the calories of table sugar. This sums up to 1.3 calories per gram.

Also, this yacon syrup is loaded with a lot of health benefits. It is evident from research studies that this can effectively reduce the risk of colon cancer, body weight, and glycemic index.

A particular study has also found that fructooligosaccharides can increase satiety feelings. This may help you to feel full faster and so, you end up eating less amount of food.

Not only that, but yacon syrup effectively feeds the good bacteria present in your gut that is very beneficial for your health.

The good bacteria helps to decrease the threat of obesity and diabetes. Other than that, it results in improved brain function and immunity. So, the yacon syrup can be called a safe option to choose.

But you should avoid consuming this in excessive amounts as it can lead to diarrhea, gas, or digestive discomfort.


After knowing the harmful effects of sugar on the human body, if you want to avoid sugar, then you should essentially know about the best sugar alternatives. Stevia is identified as a great option in this aspect.

Some other safe alternatives to choose

  • Xylitol
  • Erythritol
  • Monk fruit sweetener
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Sugar alternatives to avoid

Saying No To Sugar

Although artificial sweeteners are calorie-free or low in calories, many of the research studies suggest that this may contribute to weight gain. This is because, it increases our appetite signals and so, anyone is influenced to eat more.

Not only that, but it alters our taste buds and thereby increasing the preference for sweet foods. Artificial sweeteners may also disrupt the healthy gut bacteria which plays a very important role in improving our overall health.

Some of the most common artificial sweeteners which you should focus on avoiding includes sucralose, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium.


Artificial sugars are not good for health and it is linked with a lot of health issues like weight gain.


Is stevia safe for a diabetic patient?

According to the researchers, a stevia sweetener is a safe option for those people who are suffering from diabetes. They can use liquid stevia or other forms of stevia as a healthy substitute for sugar and other sweeteners available in the market.

Is sugar free even worse than sugar?

Natural sweeteners are considered to be a safe option to go for. But, you will not get any health benefits by consuming any specific type of added sugar.

Also, excessive consumption of added sugar even natural sweeteners can result in major health issues like weight gain, tooth decay, increased triglycerides, and poor nutrition.

Is no added sugar a good option to choose?

No, this is not a good option to choose. One should focus on limiting the foods that are labeled as “no added sugar”.

This is because consuming these foods in excessive quantities can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, weight gain, dental caries, and Type 2 diabetes.

What is considered to be the healthiest form of sugar?

Although there are many options to go for, some of the best and healthy options include:

  • Stevia
  • Yacon Syrup
  • Xylitol
  • Erythritol

Which foods do not contain sugar at all?

The whole foods do not contain sugar at all which includes:

  • Seeds and nuts
  • Legumes, unprocessed and whole grains
  • Tofu, poultry, or lean meats
  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Are sugar free products free from sugar?

If you buy sugar free candy or sugar free chocolate, then you must know what it means. The presence of this expression on a food label indicates that it contains no added sugars, sugar alcohols, or any forms of artificial sweeteners. But, again, it does not mean that the food is completely free from sugar as it may contain some natural sugars.

How sugar free differs from no added sugar?

Sugar-free are considered to be those containing less than 0.5 g of sugar per 100 ml or 100 g. On the other hand, “no added sugar” means that no sugar has been added to the product as an ingredient. So, it contains only naturally occurring sugar.



Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal 


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