Sugar is a common ingredient because it makes popular foods sweet, but, unfortunately, too much sugar isn’t good for your health. Sugar contains a considerable amount of calories. Plus, it can contribute to tooth decay and can lead to other health complications like diabetes or obesity.
The good news is that there are several sugar substitutes that can be used in many situations as a replacement for sugar. The following are some of the healthiest alternatives to sugar that you can find, along with information about how they can be used. These sugar substitutes fall into three basic categories: artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
(For detailed information on artificial sweeteners, read Health Benefits Of Artificial Sweeteners.)
Artificial sweeteners are some of the most popular and widely used sugar substitutes. While they are actually synthetic food products, many of these sweeteners are partially derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or even sugar. Another characteristic that artificial sweeteners have in common is that they are also called an “intense sweetener” due to the fact that they are so much sweeter than sugar. This means that they can be used in much smaller amounts in foods and drinks to get the same level of sweetness that could be achieved with sugar.
There are three main health benefits associated with using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.
- First, artificial sweeteners can help people control their weight since they contain no calories, as opposed to sugar which contains 16 calories per teaspoon. In a typical can of soda, there may be over 120 calories from sugar in the drink.
- Another benefit of artificial sweeteners is that they provide a good alternative to sugar for those with diabetes since consuming these products generally does not affect blood sugar levels.
- Finally, artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay, so using these products instead of sugar can lower an individual’s risk of developing calories.
Artificial sweeteners are used in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, soft drinks, jams, dairy products and candy. Check the nutrition label of certain diet foods to find out if they contain artificial sweeteners. Many people use artificial sweeteners at home to add to coffee or include in some recipes. However, these products usually can’t completely replace sugar in many baking recipes since they don’t provide bulk or volume to foods.
The following are some of the most popular types of artificial sweeteners, along with some of the brand names they are associated with:
- Aspartame: Equal, NutraSweet
- Saccharin Sweet'N Low, SugarTwin
- Sucralose: Splenda
- Acesulfame potassium: Sunett, Sweet One
Natural sweeteners are natural foods that provide sweetness, much like sugar does. These are usually healthier than sugar, but there are some exceptions depending on how you use them. Unlike artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners do contain calories, so it’s important to check the food label carefully to find out if you are cutting back on calories by using these in place of sugar.
One natural sweetener that has gained popularity in recent years is agave nectar. This sweetener is most commonly known as a main ingredient of tequila, but it has started to become more widely known as a natural sweetener and sugar alternative. It generally contains slightly more calories than sugar, but it is also about one and a half times as sweet as sugar, meaning that you can use less to achieve your desired sweetness. Additionally, some people have found that you can cut back on the amount of oil used in cooking and baking when using agave nectar in place of sugar.
As with all natural sweeteners, it’s important to compare the nutrition facts of the product with that of sugar to see if you are cutting back on calories. If so, then these natural sweeteners offer a good way to control weight and cut back on sugar intake.
The following are the most common types of natural sweeteners that can often be used as alternatives for sugar:
- Agave nectar
- Maple sugar
- Maple syrup
Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring carbohydrates found in many fruits and vegetables. In addition, some sugar alcohols are manufactured for use in food products. Although sugar alcohols are less sweet than sugar, they contain fewer calories, so some foods are able to contain fewer calories through the use of sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohols provide the same health benefits as artificial sweeteners. Since they contain fewer calories than sugar, they can be useful for weight control. Their effect on blood sugar level is less than that of sugar, and they don’t contribute to tooth decay.
Typically, sugar alcohols are used in the manufacturing of food rather than used at home for cooking or baking. In addition to sweetness, sugar alcohols add texture, bulk and moisture to food. Sugar alcohols are commonly found in food products like chocolate, chewing gum, baked goods and frozen desserts. The following are some of the most common types of sugar alcohols:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Other Tips To Cut Back On Sugar
The following are some tips for cutting back on sugar consumption:
- Utilize sugar substitutes wisely. Don’t overdo it when adding natural sweeteners, in particular, since these may not contain fewer calories than sugar.
- Eat more fruit. Many fruits have a sweet taste that doesn’t have any added sugar beyond the fruit’s natural ingredients.
- Choose water over soda or other sugary drinks. For flavor, try adding slices of lemon, lime or cucumber to your water.
- With sodas, opt for the diet version if you must. These usually contain artificial sweeteners to cut back on calories.
There is nothing wrong with having a little bit of a sweet tooth. However, to minimize health risks associated with sugar, you should opt for a healthy substitute when you can.