Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Sweeteners and Diabetes


Low Calorie Sweeteners

Don't throw away your low-calorie sweeteners just because sugar is safer than you thought. Low-calorie sweeteners are "free foods." They make food taste sweet, and have no calories and do not raise blood glucose levels. They do not count as a carbohydrate, a fat, or any other exchange. They can be added to your meal plan instead of substituted.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of these low-calorie sweeteners. The American Diabetes Association accepts the FDA's conclusion that these sweeteners are safe and can be part of a healthy diet.

Saccharin (Sweet N Low, Sugar Twin)

Saccharin can be used in both hot and cold foods to make them sweeter. You may recall that some studies giving very large quantities of saccharine to rats raised concerns that saccharin could cause cancer, but many studies and years of use have shown saccharin to be safe in the quantities used by consumers.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)

Aspartame is another low-calorie sweetener. Because high temperatures can decrease its sweetness, check the manufacturer's Web site or call their toll-free number for guidelines when using aspartame in recipes.

Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, Sunett)

Another low-calorie sweetener on the market is acesulfame potassium, also called acesulfame-K. This sweetener is heat stable and can be used in baking and cooking.

Sucralose (SPLENDA)

Sucralose is the newest low-calorie sweetener on the market. Sucralose is not affected by heat and retains its sweetness in hot beverages, baked goods, and processed foods.

If you like to cook, you know that sugar does more in hot foods, especially baked goods like cookies and cakes, than just add sweetness. It also affects the way the foods cook and the final texture. Substituting a low-calorie sweetener may affect the texture and taste. Many people use a combination of sugar and a low-calorie sweetener to reduce overall calories and sugar while still producing acceptable results.

All of these low-calorie sweeteners may help people who are overweight or have diabetes to reduce calories and stick to a healthy meal plan. In addition, these sweeteners are useful for reducing calories and carbohydrates when used instead of sugar in coffee, tea, cereal, and on fruit.

Are low-calorie sweeteners safe?

The low-calorie sweeteners in the United States all underwent extensive testing before they were approved. Results showed that low-calorie sweeteners are safe for everyone, including children and pregnant women. However, people with a rare condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should limit their intake of aspartame, one type of low-calorie sweetener.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of reduced-calorie or low-calorie sweeteners?

Foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners can have fewer calories than foods made with sugar and other caloric sweeteners. That can help if you're trying to lose weight or even prevent weight gain. However, some sugar-free foods or products that use low-calorie sweeteners actually have more calories than, and may have more fat than, the sugar sweetened versions.

When you're considering foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners, always check the Nutrition Facts on the label. By comparing the calories in the sugar-free version to the regular version, you'll see whether you're really getting fewer calories. You'll also want to compare the fat content of the labels. Some people choose the regular version of a food and cut back on the serving size instead of buying the sugar-free version. Consider price as well. Sometimes sugar-free versions cost more.

Low-calorie sweeteners are useful for adding extra flavor or sweetness to your food, with few if any extra calories. You can experiment with your own recipes to include reduced- and low-calorie sweeteners.

Source: American Diabetes Association


More to Explore