Sugar substitutes

Photo of some granulated xylitol in a small glass bowlSweetness is an elemental part of sweet treats. But how do you add sweetness if you can’t eat sugar?

Fortunately, there are several substitutes to choose from. Here are some examples:

Artificial sweeteners
These are high-intensity sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharine and sucralose. They have a negligible number of calories but some sources say they may be linked to health problems.

Sugar alcohols (polyols)
These are low-calorie sweeteners, such as lactitol, maltitol, sorbitol and xylitol. They are naturally present in certain fruit and vegetables but they can also be manufactured. Please note that the sugar alcohol name is misleading: sugar alcohols are not alcoholic and they do not contain ethanol, the substance found in alcohol.

Natural sweeteners
These are, for example, honey, agave nectar, Sweet Freedom, no-added-sugar fruit spreads and natural sweetness from fresh and dried fruit.

Novel sweeteners
These are combinations of different types of sweeteners. An example would be highly refined stevia preparations.

How to decide which sweetener(s) to use?

There are a number of factors you need to consider when deciding which sweetener to use. Consider, for example:

Your condition/special diet
If you are on a special diet, you need to know which sugar substitutes you can use and which ones you shouldn’t. The choices differ for diabetics, vegans, people with candida or IBS, or those wishing to improve their oral health.

Each sweetener tastes different so you will need to try which one(s) you prefer.

Purpose for which the sweetener is used
Every sweetener behaves differently when used in cooking. Some are merely suited for sweetening your coffee, others work well when baking cakes. Make sure the sweetener you choose is suitable for the intended purpose.

Potential side effects
There can be downsides to using sweeteners, as there is for using ordinary sugar. For example, polyols have laxative effects if used in excess and natural sweeteners are not tooth-friendly. You need to weigh the pros and cons of the different sweeteners and decide which ones suit you best.

Whichever sweetener you decide to use, remember: moderation is still the key (just as it is with regular sugar).

Copyright © Tarja Moles 2012. All rights reserved. Photo © Tarja Moles 2012.

If you’d like to use this article in your ezine or on your website, you’re welcome to do so as long as you use the complete article, including the copyright line, and include the following paragraph in its entirety:

Tarja Moles is the author of No Naughties: Sweet Treats without Sugar, Wheat, Gluten and Yeast. Visit for free recipes and information on special diets and living with multiple dietary restrictions.


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