Sugar Substitutes: The Sweet Differences

Any sweetener you use to replace table sugar is a sugar substitute. One type of sugar substitute is artificial sweetener. Three other types are natural sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and novel sweeteners.

Choosing between sugar substitutes can be mind-boggling. It is difficult to distinguish what is labeled “natural” from those substances that are actually part of nature’s own commissary.

To become wise and healthy consumers and eaters, we need to know the categories and vocabulary of sugar substitutes that are listed on our food labels or bought for cooking and baking at home.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial or synthetic sweeteners are often suggested as a sugar alternative for diabetics because they are not a carbohydrate and generally do not increase blood sugar levels. The FDA, National Cancer Institute, and various other health agencies consider the use of artificial sweeteners to be safe.

There are still many health professionals who warn against using artificial sweeteners. Some are concerned that, though they contain no calories, they ultimately lead to weight gain. Each of us needs to weigh the benefits against the risks and make our own best sweetener choice.

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

  • Saccharin: Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin
  • Sucralose: Splenda
  • Aspartame: NutraSweet, Equal (breaks down during cooking or baking)
  • Acesulfame potassium: Sunett, Sweet One

Artificial sweeteners have no calories, so they provide no energy. They are found in many processed and canned foods, soft drinks, candy, dairy, and baked goods. Because they are sweeter than sugar and a little goes a long way, recipe adjustments need to be made if they are used for cooking or baking.

Natural Sweeteners

The FDA recognizes natural sweeteners as being GRAS, or generally recognized as safe for consumption. Natural sugars are sometimes listed as added sugars since they are frequently added to foods during processing. They can be used in cooking and baking although agave nectar, according to several websites, is tricky to use in baked goods.

Natural sweeteners do not have appreciably different nutritional value than sucrose (table sugar) although there is plenty of digital data available about why natural sweeteners are healthier. One thing to remember is that adding too much of any type of sugar to your diet can cause health problems such as weight gain and tooth decay.

Types of Natural Sweeteners

  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Date sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Agave nectar

The Sugar Alcohols

You will see sugar alcohols listed on food labels as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate. The FDA regulates their use as they do artificial sweeteners and considers them GRAS.

Sugar alcohols can be manufactured but are also naturally occurring in some veggies and fruits. They are less sweet than table sugar and are non-alcoholic as they contain no ethanol. No one gets a buzz from consuming sugar alcohols. They have a laxative effect on some individuals (bloating, gas, diarrhea).

Sugar alcohols are a carbohydrate with fewer calories than regular sugar. They can raise your glucose level but not as much as does table sugar.

These sweeteners are not generally used for home cooking but are found in a plethora of processed goods, candies, baked goods, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Besides adding sweetness, sugar alcohols help food remain moist, and provide a cooling sensation in some products such as chewing gum.

The Novel Sweeteners

Novel sweeteners are produced by mother nature but sold in refined or processed forms.

Types of Novel Sweeteners

  • Stevia (extracts): Truvia, Pure Via
  • Tagatose (similar to fructose): Naturlose

The sweet stevia plant is not approved for use as a sweetener by the FDA. However, the FDA has approved highly processed stevia for sweetening. Unrefined stevia powder and cruder extracts are available at some whole and health food stores. Another novel sweetener, tagatose, is naturally occurring but also produced from dairy lactose.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo: Pixabay

Get A Free 7 Day Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who, in addition to 3rd party partners, may contact you with updates, products and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy and terms and conditions.

More Articles

Eleven Clinical Studies

After eleven clinical studies and 300,000 participants, researcher Vasanti Malik and her team of researchers...

Diabetic women often have a harder time losing weight than non-diabetic women. A study funded by Jenny Craig proved that diabetic women have an...

Many recent studies have proved that magnesium levels are lower in patients with diabetes than in non-diabetics. This magnesium...

Fluid retention, also known as edema, is a problem that affects many diabetics, especially those with type 2 diabetes...

Some of us might be thrilled if we could manage our blood sugar by sitting in a hot tub or sauna, instead of working up a sweat biking, or using...

More Articles

Cooking and baking with the ancient cereal grain sorghum has health benefits for people with diabetes, and those with weight control issues....

When it comes to certain foods, there are always questions as to whether or not a diabetic can have them without...

With its slightly nutty flavor, chewy texture, and nutritional punch farro is an ancient whole grain worth a place in our pantry.

Farro...

Matcha tea is a rich, creamy, full-bodied beverage with amazing nutritional properties that address several diabetes health concerns.

The...

According to information available through the National Institutes of Health, there’s an estimated 462 million people in the world who are...

Salads are good example of foods that type 2 diabetics can enjoy with relatively low guilt. With the right greens and other elements added, salad...

Remaining gainfully employed is important to many people. Those who live with any form of diabetes may find that some lines of work are more...

Learning that you have diabetes does mean making some lifestyle changes. One of the areas that needs attention is your diet. Most people find that...

One of the more challenging aspects of life as a type 2 diabetic is managing your diet. There’s often the temptation to avoid certain foods...

The green, heavily ridged acorn squash is plentiful in the marketplace this time of year. Though, Acorn squash has a high glycemic index rank of...

A 1300-Calorie diet is a way of eating that limits your daily calorie intake to only 1300 calories a day. This is considered a low calorie diet,...

Maca Root is an editable root vegetable, and is known as Peruvian Ginsing. It is a relative of the radish and turnip family, and is remarkable...

One way to ensure our body gets a variety of nutrients is eating nutrient-dense foods, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on our planet is...

People who use insulin pumps purposefully break their skin, the body’s main defense against bacteria, to receive continuous doses of life-saving...

=It’s helpful to know the difference between a food’s total grams of carbohydrate, and net grams of carbohydrate since only net carbs affect blood...