Even though artificial sweeteners are technically synthetic sugar substitutes, some of them are derived from natural sources, like herbs or actual sugar. But they aren't to be confused with another class of sugar substitutes, like honey and agave nectar, which are natural sugar substitutes that do contain calories. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than actual sugar, so you can use a lot less to get the job done. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently approved five artificial sweeteners for use in the United States.
Saccharin, the main ingredient in Sweet 'N Low and SugarTwin, is 400 times sweeter than sugar, yet a little pink packet only has four calories. It's a popular sweetener, but is known for a bitter aftertaste.
Aspartame, which is the main ingredient in those blue packets of Equal and NutraSweet, is 200 times sweeter than sugar and is typically found in diet sodas. It's a popular choice because it doesn't have an aftertaste.
Sucralose, which is the newest kid on the block, is 600 times sweeter than sugar and can be found in yellow packets of Splenda. It also has no aftertaste, but was in the news for a little while for its tendency to cause digestive issues, like gas and bloating.
Acesulfame-potassium, which is found in Sunette and Sweet One, and Neotame, similar to Aspartame. Both were approved as general purpose sweeteners in everything but meat and poultry, but they're not quite as well-known by consumers as the previous three.
So these are the main sweeteners that allow you to have your cake and eat it too. But you may have heard some controversial discussions about artificial sweeteners causing cancer and other health issues. To find out if this is true, keep reading.