Eating too much sugar can create a variety of health problems, so many people turn to artificial sweeteners as a substitute. When it comes time to choose a sugar substitute, it’s important to first consider taste and your personal preferences. Some sweeteners also do better in liquids or for baking than others. You can even mix a few sweeteners together until you find the right combination for you.
EditComparing Popular Artificial Sweeteners
- Try aspartame if you want a widely available product. NutraSweet and Equal, which both come in small single-serve packets, are aspartame sweeteners. And, almost every grocery store carries many products with aspartame mixed in. This amino acid compound was approved by the FDA over 3 decades ago and continues to be very popular with consumers.
- It usually comes in tiny granules that are around 180 times sweeter than sugar. A small amount of aspartame goes a long way.
- Most people have no problems tolerating aspartame. But, if you have phenylketonuria (PKU) (a rare genetic condition), you’ll need to read product labels carefully and avoid consuming aspartame.
- Use saccharin if you want a long-established sweetener. Saccharin was first used in the 1870s and packaged almost a century later as Sweet’N Low and other forms. Saccharin is around 300 times sweeter than table sugar and mixes well with both foods and drinks. Saccharin is usually mild on the stomach, making it a favorite with some consumers.
- The FDA approved saccharin for consumer use in 2000. Prior to this decision, there were some fears that saccharin might be linked to the development of bladder cancer.
- Check out sucralose if you want a very sweet baking option. Splenda comes in small, single-serve packets and is the most common brand name of sucralose. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than white table sugar. This means that you can use a small amount of it to great effect. It also does well at high temperatures, making it a go-to sugar substitute for many bakers.
- The FDA has designated sucralose as safe for consumer use. However, there are concerns that sucralose can cause uncontrolled weight gain.
- If you are using Splenda to replace sugar, 24 packets is equal to 1 cup of sugar.
- Try stevia for a plant-based option. Truvia and Splenda Naturals are both granule, single-serve, brand-name versions of stevia. Stevia is extracted from plants similar to chrysanthemums and then packaged as crystals or liquid. Stevia is a low-calorie option with a strong sweet taste.
- Stevia may seem like a more ‘natural’ sugar substitute, but this can be misleading as it is very processed.
- People who suffer from low blood pressure should not consume Stevia, as it may drop your levels even more.
- Mix in acesulfame if you plan to combine sweeteners. Due to its bitter taste, most people mix together acesulfame with another sweetener, such as sucralose. Acesulfame is one of the best artificial sweeteners for baking, as it does not break down at high temperatures. However, you’ll want to use it sparingly, as it multiplies the sweetness of sugar by 200%.
- It’s best to mix acesulfame and sucralose at a 75/25 ratio.
- Although the FDA approved acesulfame years ago, some consumer groups are still concerned about its possible health effects, such as headaches and depression.
- Test out sugar alcohols for a low-calorie sugar replacement. Sugar alcohols are manufactured chemical compounds that taste about 60-70% as sweet as sugar. With their liquid nature, they are often used in candies or gums. If you want a subtle way to add sweetness to your foods or drinks without lots of extra calories, this might be a good option.
- Sugar alcohols go by a variety of names, including xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol.
- The FDA generally believes that sugar alcohols are safe for consumption. However, you should keep them away from pets, as they can cause serious illness or even death in pets.
- Add in neotame for an intense sugar alternative. Neotame is often used by manufacturers as an addition to juices or even beauty products. It is a chemically altered version of aspartame designed to be extra sweet. Neotame is around 7,000 times sweeter than white table sugar.
- Even with the additional chemical changes, some health experts argue that neotame is actually safer to use than its counterpart aspartame.
- The FDA has also approved neotame for consumer consumption. However, there are concerns that neotame could irritate your respiratory system.
- Use advantame if you want the newest option. At around 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar, advantame packs a sweetness punch. This means that most consumers avoid using it unless they are mass producing a product, such as jams, jellies, or syrups. It’s also derived from aspartame as part of a chemical process and available in powder form.
- The FDA approved advantame for general use in 2014, making it one of the newest artificial sweeteners to hit the market.
EditUsing Sweeteners with Your Health in Mind
- Talk with your doctor if you have a preexisting condition. In certain cases, artificial sweeteners can cause your body to react in unhealthy ways. If you have a health condition, such as diabetes, go ahead and make an appointment or call your doctor before using sugar substitutes. Your doctor may also be able to suggest the best artificial sweetener for you.
- For example, people with diabetes consuming sucralose might find that their insulin spikes right after eating or drinking it, although this is rare.
- Keep track of calories from artificial sweeteners. Most artificial sweeteners still contain calories, and will therefore add these empty calories to your diet. Keep track of how much artificial sweetener you consume, and try to limit yourself to under 25 grams a day. Look on the sweetener packet or product box for the nutrition information.
- For example, 1 teaspoon of Equal is 13 calories. A single packet of Splenda is 3 calories.
- Avoid eating too many unhealthy low/no “sugar” foods. Be careful not to overindulge in foods that are higher in calories or fat just because they are made with artificial sweeteners. Some foods, such as cookies, advertise “no sugar” on their packaging, but they're still loaded with fat and calories. Read the labels of any processed foods carefully prior to eating them.
- Replace sweets with healthy and filling snacks. If you find yourself using multiple packets of sweeteners each day, you might want to consider replacing those drinks or foods with healthy alternatives. Add a slice of lemon or orange to a glass of water, instead of an artificial sweetener. Avoid cookies packed with artificial sweeteners and go with a packet of nuts for a snack instead.
- As a general rule, you can safely drink or eat around 32 packets of artificial sweeteners with aspartame per day. That suggested daily limit drops to 8 packets for artificial sweeteners containing saccharin.
EditEvaluating Tastes, Textures, and Uses
- Choose between crystal or liquid sweeteners. Equal, Stevia, and other artificial sweeteners come in small packets or pour containers filled with crystals. These packets are often great for convenience and on-the-go use. However, they will add a slightly chunky texture to drinks or foods until the crystals fully dissolve. Liquid sweeteners are often used in mass production and consumers might find their taste overwhelming.
- Test out various sweeteners for baking. Natural sugar provides a certain consistency and volume when added to recipes. Artificial sweeteners can throw off the natural balance of a recipe, if not carefully tested beforehand. Read the directions on the sweetener package for “sugar substitutions” and follow any suggestions carefully.
- For example, sucralose (Splenda) can often replace white sugars in your recipe, but not brown sugars. Adding in sucralose for all sugars can make your baked goods taste heavier.
- Aspartame isn’t heat stable, so it’s generally not good for cooking or baking.
- Pay attention to a sweetener’s aftertaste. Eat a small amount of the sweetener on its own. Wait until it has fully dissolved in your mouth. Then, move your mouth and tongue around and see if you notice a particularly problematic aftertaste. Some sweeteners may taste overly sweet, while others may leave a sour taste in your mouth.
- Fully rinse out your mouth with water in between these taste tests.
- Stevia tends to have a bitter aftertaste, whereas saccharin can taste overly sweet.
- Artificial sweeteners are known to cause some people to get migraines.
- Excessive artificial sweetener use has been linked to weight gain.
- Regularly using artificial sweeteners may cause you to crave more sweets.
EditSources and Citations
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