1:30 pm - Saturday March 25, 2017

Low-Calorie Sweetener Facts

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What are low calorie sweeteners? Are they safe to use? Today’s nutrition tip concludes the diabetes awareness series with this confusing topic.

According to the American Diabetes Association, low-calorie sweeteners, formerly known as artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, have few or no calories and therefore will not raise blood glucose levels.

Many people tend to think that all low-calorie sweeteners are artificial. But in fact, many are natural and come from a plant or fruit. There is a difference in taste when it comes to sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are single molecules and have a simple, clean sweet taste.  Sweeteners from a natural source tend to have a complex taste because they are developed from more than one component of the plant. 

Common examples of low-calorie sweeteners include:

  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K)
  • Stevia
  • Monk Fruit

Some sweeteners can be used in cooking or baking. Despite the versatility and convenience in using sweeteners, many people are wondering if they are safe. As far as we know, low-calorie sweeteners used in the United States were thoroughly tested before they were approved for everyone to use. But, people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare medical condition, should avoid or limit some sweeteners due to medical reasons.

There are some pros and cons in using low-calorie sweeteners. Let’s begin with the advantages. Foods made with low-calorie sweeteners are lower in sugar than foods made with sugar. This may be helpful if your trying to cut calories. Low-calorie sweeteners can be useful to enhance the flavor in your food without the extra calories. Also, they may be more expensive than regular versions. On the flip side, sugar-free foods that contain low-calorie sweeteners may have more calories and fat compared to regular food items. For example, an old fashioned pound cake loaf may be 210 calories per serving, while a sugar free pound cake may contain 256 calories per serving. That is 46 calorie difference. Some individuals may choose the regular food version over the low-calorie sweetener version, and cut back on the portion size.

The bottom line is to read the food label and compare the fat and calorie content of the sugar-free versus the regular version. In doing this, you will get a snapshot of what the product contains and make a wise decision.

 

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Rebecca Faulkner, MS, RD

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