happy being - march 31st 2023
The Ultimate Guide To Sugar Substitutes
Sugar is everywhere. American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, which is more than triple the recommended amount.
This means that each year, the average American consumes 60 lbs of sugar. To put that into perspective, 60 lbs is the size of a particularly large Siberian husky.
So it’s no surprise that more and more people are turning to sugar-free alternatives to satiate their sweet tooth, and hopefully preserve their health.
But with so many brands and complicated chemical names for alternative sweeteners, it can be hard to keep track of which ones are right for you.
There are three classes of sugar substitutes: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and botanical-derived sweeteners. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between each substitute.
Artificial sweeteners, also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, are synthetic compounds that are much sweeter than sugar, but have little to no caloric value.
Examples include aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.
These sweeteners are not metabolized by the body and pass through the digestive system unchanged, so they do not affect blood sugar levels.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It was accidentally discovered in 1965, while a chemist was synthesizing an anti-ulcer drug.
He noticed a white powder on his finger and, out of curiosity, licked it, and found it to be intensely sweet.
Aspartame is found in many soft drinks and sugar-free gum, and is sold in packets by Equal and NutraSweet. While some studies have suggested that aspartame may have certain health benefits or risks, many of these studies have been inconclusive or contradictory, and the overall evidence on the health effects of aspartame remains somewhat mixed.
The FDA approves aspartame for human consumption, but individuals with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine properly, and must completely avoid aspartame.
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. It is a non-caloric sweetener that is about 300 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) but provides no calories.
Saccharin is often used in products such as diet soft drinks, sugar-free chewing gum, and tabletop sweeteners - Sweet’N’Low is a popular sweetener that uses saccharin.. Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by a chemist named Constantin Fahlberg, who was working on coal tar derivatives in his laboratory. He noticed a sweet taste on his hands and realized that it was coming from a chemical he had been working with, which turned out to be saccharin.
Saccharin has been the subject of some controversy over the years, with some studies suggesting that it may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer in rats. However, most regulatory agencies around the world have deemed saccharin to be safe for human consumption at typical levels, and it is widely used as a sugar substitute in many countries.
Sucralose is a non-caloric sweetener that is approximately 600 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) but provides no calories. Sucralose is often used in products such as diet soft drinks, sugar-free chewing gum, and tabletop sweeteners. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda, and is one of the few artificial sweeteners that can be used in baking.
Sucralose is derived from sucrose through a process that selectively substitutes three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups on the sucrose molecule. This chemical modification makes sucralose much sweeter than sucrose and also prevents it from being metabolized by the body, which is why it provides no calories.
Sucralose has been extensively tested for safety and is approved for use in many countries, including the United States, the European Union, and Canada. The majority of studies on sucralose have found it to be safe for human consumption at typical levels of consumption. However, some people may experience side effects such as headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, or allergic reactions when consuming products that contain sucralose..
Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. Examples include erythritol, xylitol, and sorbitol.
These sweeteners are less sweet than sugar, but still provide a sweet taste.
Sugar alcohols are partially metabolized by the body and can provide some calories, but they have a lower glycemic index than sugar, which means they have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. It is a type of carbohydrate that is found naturally in certain fruits, mushrooms, and fermented foods, but it is typically produced commercially through a process of fermentation. Erythritol is about 70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) but provides only about 6% of the calories. It is often used in products such as sugar-free chewing gum, candies, and baked goods, and is also sold as a standalone sweetener.
Erythritol is different from other sugar alcohols such as sorbitol in that it is less likely to cause digestive side effects such as gas or bloating when consumed in moderate amounts. It is also considered safe for people with diabetes, as it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
While erythritol is generally considered safe for human consumption, consuming very large amounts of it may cause digestive discomfort, such as diarrhea. Recent research has raised troubling concerns about erythritol’s effects on cardiovascular health; but further research is needed for conclusive results.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables, and is also commercially produced from birch trees, corn cobs, and other plant materials.
Xylitol is about as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) but provides about 40% fewer calories. It is often used in products such as sugar-free chewing gum, candies, and baked goods, and is also sold as a standalone sweetener.
Xylitol has several benefits over sugar and other artificial sweeteners. It has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels, and it is also safe for people with diabetes. Xylitol has antibacterial and immune benefits. For instance research shows that xylitol helps prevent tooth decay by reducing the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Word of warning for pet-owners: xylitol is toxic to dogs and other pets, so it should be kept out of their reach.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. It is a type of carbohydrate that is found naturally in many fruits, such as apples, pears, and peaches, and is also produced commercially from corn syrup.
Sorbitol is about 60% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) but provides about 2.6 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for sugar. It is often used in products such as sugar-free chewing gum, candies, and baked goods, and is also used as a sweetener in some cough syrups and other medicines.
Sorbitol can have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts, as it is not fully absorbed by the body and can draw water into the colon. This can lead to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal discomfort. For this reason, sorbitol is often used in combination with other sugar alcohols such as xylitol or erythritol to minimize the risk of digestive side effects.
Other sugar substitutes include natural sweeteners, such as stevia and monk fruit extract, which are derived from plants and have little to no caloric value. These sweeteners are metabolized differently than sugar and can have a lower impact on blood sugar levels.
Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is a small, green fruit that grows on vines in Southeast Asia. It has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener and traditional medicine. Monk fruit extract is a popular sugar substitute that is derived from the sweet compounds found in the fruit. It is much sweeter than sugar, with a sweetness that is about 150-200 times that of sugar, and it has zero calories and zero carbohydrates, making it a popular choice for people looking to reduce their sugar intake or follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Monk fruit extract is often used in a blend with other sweeteners, such as erythritol or stevia, to balance out its intense sweetness and provide a more natural taste. It is used in a variety of products, including beverages, desserts, and baked goods, as well as in table-top sweeteners and other packaged foods.
Some people may be sensitive to the compounds found in monk fruit, and may experience digestive discomfort or other symptoms when consuming large amounts.
Stevia is a sweetener that is derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. The leaves of the stevia plant contain natural compounds called steviol glycosides, which provide a sweet taste that is about 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia has become a popular sugar substitute in recent years, as it is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that can be used in place of sugar in a variety of foods and beverages.
It is often used in a blend with other sweeteners, such as erythritol or monk fruit extract, to provide a more balanced flavor profile and minimize any potential aftertaste. Stevia is generally considered safe for human consumption, and it has been approved as a food additive by many regulatory agencies around the world.
However, some people may be sensitive to the taste of stevia or the compounds found in the plant, and may experience digestive discomfort or other symptoms when consuming large amounts.