There are many alternative sweeteners available to provide consumers with the sweet taste they crave, without the calories or carbohydrates that natural sugar adds to food and beverages. Sucralose, stevia and aspartame are a select few among the long list of substitute sweeteners available in the marketplace today. With so many offerings and multiple claims, it’s hard to understand all the facts on alternative sweeteners.
Alternative Sweeteners and the Body
To comprehend the function of alternative sweeteners, it’s important to grasp how the body absorbs sugar and converts it into energy. Once sugar enters the body, it is quickly digested by enzymes in the mouth and broken down into mono- and di-saccharides (single and double sugar molecules), which are then absorbed as a single sugar to energize the body. Sugar substitutes, on the other hand, include molecules which are metabolized by the body, but not all are absorbed and they do not serve as a source of energy. Alternative sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame are comprised of ingredients that provide a sweet flavor as well as bulking agents (chlorine hydroxyls, dextrose and maltodextrin) to make them measureable in cooking. Truvia™ (stevia extract) on the other hand, is made up of two all-natural herbal ingredients: steviol glycosides and rebaudioside A. Truvia™ provides an all-natural alternative for those looking to cut back on sugar.
Using Alternative Sweeteners in Recipes
The proper conversions are very important when choosing to substitute sugar in a recipe with an alternative sweetener. Some products have conversion suggestions on their labels; however, further research may be necessary for other recipes. It is often suggested that when substituting sugar with an alternative sweetener to only substitute a portion, which can lower the calorie content while maintaining the balance of solids in the recipe. Most artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sugar and have different solubility, texture, freezing temperature, aftertaste and volume. In the case of gelato, sorbetto, ice cream and frozen yogurt, PreGel recommends testing recipes with the sugar substitute prior to serving customers. The end result will change dramatically if the recipe is not balanced correctly, and you may end up with a product that is too soft, too firm or grainy. Substituting all or some of the sugar in recipes with alternative sweeteners will significantly reduce calories and provide a healthy solution to many consumer favorites.
Health Benefits for Alternative Sweeteners
Minimizing sugar consumption on a daily basis is a top concern of consumers today along with reducing fat, cholesterol and sodium in their diets. There are many different products available to provide the sweetness we crave, without the guilt of calories and carbohydrates. A healthy, balanced diet that is low in excess or processed sugar provides many benefits including weight maintenance, weight reduction, management of diabetes, reduction of dental cavities, as well as a variety of accompanying psychological benefits. Alternative sweeteners help consumers reduce their sugar intake to reap the aforementioned benefits. Low- and reduced-calorie ingredients offer consumers healthy alternatives and a greater variety of products from which to choose. Alternative and artificial sweeteners can be found in an array of products ranging from chewing gum to beverages and jams.
Alternative sweeteners serve as a complement to any healthy lifestyle, and nowadays all-natural alternative sweeteners, such as stevia, are readily available. The following chart provides a few examples of the most common sugar substitutes we see on the market today.
Further information is readily available through various Internet sources such as The Calorie Control Council (www.caloriecontrol.org) or individual product Web sites.
Chart 1: Comparison of Alternative Sweeteners
Compared to Sugar
|How It’s Made||FDA Approval|
|Sweet’N Low®||Saccharin, Dextrose and Aspartame||300–500x sweeter than sugar||Saccharin is combined with aspartame and another group composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and sulfur||FDA-approved Safe Sweetening Agent|
|Splenda®||Sucralose, Dextrose and/or Maltodextrin||600x sweeter than sugar||Chlorinated sucrose. Splenda® is made from sugar (sucrose), but it is not sugar after the chlorine atom is introduced to the hydroxyl group and turns it into a calorie-free sugar substitute.||FDA-approved Safe Sweetening Agent|
|Truvia™||Steviol Glycosides & Rebaudioside A||200–300x sweeter than sugar||The Stevia plant is “steeped” like tea leaves. The two main ingredients are isolated, purified, dried and crystallized into
powder or liquid form.
|G.R.A.S. (generally recognized as safe) pending FDA
1 Calorie Control Council. (2010). Calorie Control Council; Healthy Eating & Exercise for Life. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from http://www.caloriecontrol.org/sweeteners-and-lite/sugar-substitutes.
2 Splenda®(Sucralose) Frequently Asked Questions. (2010). Frequently Asked Questions about SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener. Retrieved January 21, 2010,from http://www.splenda.com/page.jhtml?id=splenda/faqs/faqmain.inc.
3 Sweet’N Low® (2010). FAQ’s. Retrieved January 21, 2010, from http://www.sweetnlow.com/.