Which Sweetener Should You Be Using?
You have numerous choices when it comes to choosing your sweetener today. A while back, the only options you had to sweeten your food or drink was sugar. With people becoming health conscious and more inclined towards fitness, sugar substitutes became a rage. There has been a recent influx of natural, artificial, zero calorie, low calorie, low GI and many other types of sweeteners.
Majority of us choose foods that have a sweet taste but at the same time also want to ensure that the health of the family is not compromised. Zeroing on to which sweetener should you be using can be pretty overwhelming when you have so many options to choose from.
Types of Sweeteners
Nutritive and non-nutritive are the two types of sweeteners available.
Nutritive sweeteners are the ones that have calories in them and they are white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey and agave. They all have 4 calories in every gram just like how other carbs and sugar alcohols have.
Non-nutritive sweeteners – These sweeteners are free of calories and include sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and stevia. These are often sold under different brand names, so you need to read labels carefully.
Non-nutritive sweeteners are further divided into natural and artificial. As the name suggests, the artificial ones are created in the lab by scientists, whereas the natural ones are sourced from Mother Nature, such as from fruits and plants.
All of the sweeteners mentioned have been tested (to some extent) and deemed safe, except for saccharin that is linked to causing cancer in lab animals. With that, the choice of your sweetener natural vs. artificial is rather personal.
Choosing a sweetener
From the point of view of nutrition, the decision of which sweetener to use is a bit complicated as both nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners have their own pros and cons. In order to make it the best choice for you, here is some info from research studies and manufacturers regarding the yays and nays of different sweeteners.
Nays of nutritive sweeteners
- Consuming high amounts of foods and drinks with nutritive sweeteners can cause dental cavities.
- Something of even greater concern is that they lead to weight gain.
Yays of non-nutritive sweeteners
- You get the sweet taste without the calories
- No impact on blood sugar levels
Nays of non-nutritive sweeteners
However, it is not that simple when we talk about non-nutritive sweeteners. Research has different things to say even after these sugar-substitutes have been rendered safe. Certain studies show that they can increase the risk of various diseases including several kinds of cancers. Additionally, most of the sweeteners have not been there for very long, which means that more research is required to effectively demonstrate that there is no health risk in the long term.
Do calorie free sweeteners really lead to a reduced overall calorie intake? Will it be helpful in preventing weight gain and aiding weight loss?
Research has been done in this regard and the focus has been on beverages sweetened with sugar and the ones with zero calorie sweeteners. The results are mixed. It has been found that beverages may make us feel full, but that does not make us eat less food throughout the day just because we consumed more calories through fluids. So, regardless of the caloric content of the drinks consumed by us, we end up eating the same amount of food all day long. This might make you replace your sugar-sweetened drinks with calorie free sugar—substitutes to lower daily caloric intake.
The other side of the story is that even if you replace sugar-sweetened drinks with no calorie drinks, you will lose weight but that weight loss will not be similar to the one that involves going completely calorie free. The reason is that artificial sweeteners do give the sweet taste but since liquid calories don’t satiate like solids, you begin craving for more sweets and feel satisfied only when you get some real sweet foods.
You also need to see if sweeteners work in how you need them to when it comes to taste. Sugar when used in baking, promotes browning, turns baked goods tender and moist. This is something that all sugar-substitutes don’t do. Additionally most of the sweeteners are far sweeter than sugar and the amount to be used needs to be altered. One more thing to make note of is all sweeteners are not heat safe. They lose the sweetness at high temperatures.
Making the choice is difficult but you should make the right one.
Hope you liked reading this post on the choosing the right sweetener!
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