“Regarding the recent Nutrition Diva episode about artificial sweeteners, how exactly do you define “artificial” when it comes to sweeteners?”
Cathy is absolutely right that the terminology used to talk about sweeteners is vague and I should be better about defining my terms!
Caloric vs. noncaloric
Sweeteners can be divided into two broad categories: caloric and non-caloric. Even there, it gets fuzzy because virtually all “non-caloric” sweeteners are not truly zero-calorie, just so low in calories that we consider them non-caloric.
I think it’s smart to limit your consumption of both caloric and non-caloric sweeteners to around 5% of calories (or the equivalent amount of noncaloric options).
How natural is it?
Although we often use words like natural, processed, refined, synthetic, and artificial to describe various caloric and non-caloric sweeteners, these are not precisely defined terms or categories.
Perhaps it’s more useful to think of sweeteners (whether caloric or non-caloric) as existing on a spectrum, from the least natural to the most natural. For caloric sweeteners, the spectrum might look something like this:
For non-caloric sweeteners, the spectrum might look something like this:
Does it matter whether your sweetener is natural?
If you keep your consumption of caloric sweeteners to 5-10% of calories, I don’t think it really matters where on the spectrum you choose. For the non-caloric sweeteners, I think it’s wise to limit consumption AND stick to the right end of the spectrum.