Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Get the Scoop on Sugar Substitutes

By Corinne Kantor on Mar 14 2011 • Filed under Health

Get the lowdown on sweeteners and sugar substitutes.

Many of us love sweets, and they can often be difficult to resist! Unfortunately, sweet foods tend to be fattening and unhealthy, especially for those who need to monitor their blood sugar levels. Thanks to sugar substitutes, many sweets are now less “dangerous” to consume.

Some foods, such as fruit, are naturally sweet and therefore do not need to have additional sweeteners added to them to make them more tasty.

Many food items, specifically processed foods, are commonly sweetened with natural sugar sources, also called nutritive or caloric sweeteners, to make them taste more pleasant. Examples of natural sugars are table sugar (sucrose), fructose, honey, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, and agave nectar. These types of sugars not only add calories to your meals, but they can also affect blood glucose levels. Natural sugars contain four calories per gram of sugar (1 tsp. of sugar = 16 calories).

Sugar substitutes have grown in popularity over the years for several reasons – they can be useful for weight management, they add taste to food while adding few or no calories, and they help in managing blood glucose levels. Sugar substitutes can also help reduce the risk of dental cavities.

Sugar substitutes are divided into two categories – artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.

Artificial sweeteners (synthetic sugar substitutes)

Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the FDA and must be approved for use. Examples of artificial sweeteners that are currently approved by the FDA include aspartame (i.e., Equal, Nutrasweet), saccharin (i.e., SugarTwin, Sweet ‘N Low), acesulfame potassium (i.e., Sunett, Sweet One), sucralose (Splenda), and neotame. Artificial sweeteners contain zero calories and are considered to be very sweet-tasting.

Artificial Sweetener Acceptable Daily Intake:

  • Saccharin 5mg/kg body weight
  • Aspartame 50mg/kg body weight
  • Acesulfame potassium 15mg/kg body weight
  • Sucralose 5mg/kg body weight
  • Neotame 18mg/day

(To determine your weight in kg, multiply your weight in lbs. by .45.)

Sugar alcohols (natural sugar substitutes)

Examples of sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol. They contain approximately two calories per gram. Sugar alcohols come from plant products, such as fruits and berries – the carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process. Sugar alcohols do have a side effect – because they are not completely digested and absorbed, some individuals tend to suffer from gastrointestinal distress. They are used in many sugar-free products and energy bars.

Cooking with Sugar Substitutes

Following are some tips when cooking and baking with sugar substitutes:

• When using a sugar substitute in place of sugar, be sure to read the product packaging carefully for specific instructions on the best way for using them in your recipes.

• Baked products that contain artificial sweeteners do not keep as long as those that are baked with sugar, as sugar naturally holds in moisture and therefore increases the keeping quality.

• When baking with artificial sweeteners, your baked products might be lighter in color – real sugar has a caramelizing/browning effect, and artificial sweeteners do not have this effect.

• Because artificial sweeteners do not have the same bulking ability as sugar, the volume may be lower in cakes, muffins, and quick breads.

• The cooking time of baked goods may vary slightly when using artificial sweeteners.

• Aspartame may not be a good choice when cooking and baking because it is not a heat-stable sweetener – when exposed to heat for a long period of time, aspartame loses its sweet taste. Saccharin and sucralose are heat stable and are the easiest to use when baking and cooking.

• It is not suggested that you substitute all of the sugar in a recipe with an artificial sweetener. Otherwise, you may lose the desirable taste, volume, color, and/or texture of baked products. Some companies offer blends of sugar and artificial sweeteners, which are meant to be used for baking. These blends are half-sugar and half-artificial sweetener, so they have half the calories and carbohydrates as sugar – keep this in consideration when planning your meals.

Your Assignment:

Go through the food items and beverages in your kitchen cabinet and refrigerator and read the ingredient list. You might be surprised how many of them contain sugar substitutes! Don’t forget to determine your Acceptable Daily Intake to make sure you’re not consuming too many artificial sweeteners.

Remember to watch your portion sizes when consuming sweets – everything in moderation!

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