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Has your sweet tooth been calling to your taste buds? Have you ever wondered about sweetening up your foods and drinks in a healthy way? Most of us eat about twenty teaspoons of sugar daily within our regular diets. The main culprits are sugary cereals, snacks, sodas, and treats. We all need some sweetness in our life! Read about artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes to see if they are the right choice for you.
What are Sugar Substitutes?
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes made from chemicals and natural substances that sweeten food, and drinks like coffee and iced tea.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved five:
- 1. Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett)
- 2. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- 3. Sucralose (Splenda)
- 4. Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin)
- 5. D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
It’s important to remember that too much sugar can be problematic health-wise, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or if you have diabetes. Artificial sweeteners can save the day because they have low or no calories. The International Food Information Council states they are safe to use, while giving food the extra “sweet” without the extra pounds.
Another popular low-calorie sugar substitute is stevia, which comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. However, it is not yet FDA-approved, so it is only sold as a dietary supplement and has no guarantee of purity. Be sure to read the ingredients, and look for 100% natural stevia without additives or fillers. Honey and agave are also good natural sweeteners, but have about the same calories as sugar.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
The FDA regulates the use of artificial sweeteners. Like any food, some people can be sensitive or have allergies, and may experience side effects such as headaches and upset stomach. However, there is no substantial evidence that links sugar substitutes to illness or cancer. For instance, saccharin at one time was thought to increase bladder cancer in animals. After further research, the FDA has found no link between saccharin and cancer in humans. The FDA has stated that people who have phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid foods and drinks that contain aspartame.
Do Artificial Sweeteners Raise Blood Sugar?
Artificial sweeteners do not provide more energy, so they don’t affect blood sugar. However, it’s wise to read food labels carefully, especially if you have an illness or preexisting condition, and to consult your doctor to know what is safe for you. If you are diabetic, it’s also a good idea to test how your blood sugar does with different foods and artificial sweeteners, to see what works best for you.
Can Artificial Sugars Be Used For Cooking?
Yes, with the exception of aspartame, because it breaks down during cooking. Artificial sweeteners can cut calories while preserving flavor, but amounts may differ in a recipe, so check a conversion chart before you begin.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Right For You?
It’s best to weigh the pros and cons to decide for yourself. Pros: They have very few calories compared to sugar—some even have zero calories! Low calorie count contributes to weight loss, diabetes management, and preventing tooth decay. They also dissolve easily in cold beverages. Cons: They aren’t natural forms of sugar. Although they may be sugar-free, they may not be carbohydrate-free. Studies find different links and effects between health and artificial sugars, and the data keeps changing.
The best way to find out if artificial sweeteners are right for you is to try them. You never know until you try!