The Skinny on Sugar Substitutes

Alejandra A. Francis, a registered dietitian at Core Health Partners, sheds light on the rise of sugar substitutes

Strawberry Cucumber Water

Walk through the aisles at a grocery store and you’ll find many foods and beverages labeled sugar-free. But are sugar substitutes like stevia or monk fruit better for your health than regular sugar? Alejandra A. Francis, a registered dietitian at Core Health Partners, which has locations in Naples, says that substitutes have some advantages over sugar. They often contain few or no calories, which can help promote weight loss. They also can help keep blood sugar in check if you have diabetes and help prevent cavities, a reason why Xylitol is used in sugar-free gum. Furthermore, a small amount can go a long way in adding sweetness, so these substances are often cheaper than using sugar. However, she notes, “many people actually hate the way artificial sweeteners taste.” Regardless of the type of sweetener you prefer, Francis emphasizes the importance of eating nutritious food—which can also help tame your sweet tooth. “The best way is to first try to stick with eating real food,” she says. “Instead of a granola bar, [eat] a piece of fruit.” For a healthy, naturally sweet beverage, try her recipe below. 

Strawberry Cucumber Water with Rosemary 

Serves 6

Serving Size: 8 oz.


1/2 cup fresh, sliced strawberries 

1/2 cup fresh, thinly sliced  English cucumber

2-4 oz. rosemary garnish 

48 oz. filtered or spring water


Wash produce thoroughly. Add all ingredients to a glass pitcher and mix with a wooden spoon. Let sit for two to three hours, then enjoy.  Extra may be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

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