There are a lot of options on the market for products that promise a sweet taste with few or no calories.  Today we’ll cover three major categories of faux sugar: artificial calorie-free sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and natural calorie-free sweeteners.

Artificial no calorie sweeteners:
  • Sucralose- Splenda
  • Aspartame- Nutrasweet
  • Saccharine- Equal
  • Neotame- this is a new one, no brand name yet

Just don’t eat them!  They’re gross, they’re made in a lab, food products that contain them usually have little to no nutritional value.  For more detailed information on the potential health consequences of these sweeteners check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s article Sweet Nothings (link takes you to a pdf).

Sugar Alcohols:
  • Malitol
  • Erythritol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

These are hydrolyzed and hydrogenated sugar molecules most often made from corn.  Essentially they are a reduced-calorie sugar, because they do have some calories and are about half as sweet as sugar.  In excess they cause major gas, bloating, and diarrhea- now doesn’t that sound like a party! 

Natural no calorie sweeteners:

There is one; it’s called stevia extract.  It’s made from a leaf, and it comes either in liquid or powdered form.  It has a bit of an aftertaste that some people don’t like, I find it okay in small amounts.  There’s a good guide for replacing sugar with stevia in baked goods here.  There have been some studies on the safety of stevia, they are also addressed in the CSPI article.

In my opinion, it’s best to avoid low calorie sweeteners altogether.  Our brain is drawn to sweet things when our body needs glucose, a low calorie sweetener can confuse that natural messaging system.  Replacing super sweet foods with subtly sweet fruit is best for our bodies.  This isn’t to say you can never have another cupcake in your life, but reserve those for special times!

Be wary of products like Zevia® soda and Truvia® sweetener.  Their marketing makes it appear as though they are sweetened entirely with stevia, but their main sweet ingredient is erythritol (a sugar alcohol, our recipe for stomach upset).

Truvia® is manufactured by Cargill, a huge company that manufactures corn-based sweeteners.  It’s curious that they have decided to get into the “natural” sweetener business now that high fructose corn syrup is getting a bad rap!

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