Gimme Some Sugar

Okay friends, I’m not doing so great with the carb-cutting. Less than a week in, I’m already jonesing for my next sugar fix. Until I get my cravings under control, I guess I can have my sweetness, with sugar substitutes.

How can sugar substitutes taste sweet, but not contain as many calories as sugar? Sugar substitutes boast a sweetness intensity hundreds of times greater than sugar. So, since only a tiny amount of the substitute is required to achieve the same sweetness, the calories don’t rack up.

There are a few sugar substitutes commercially available, including Aspartame, Ace K, Neotame (Nutrasweet), Saccharin, and Sucralose (Splenda). Additionally, natural sweeteners derived from the Stevia plant (like Truvia) have more recently hit the market. When experimenting with sugar substitutes remember to check the sweetness intensity – not all substitutes are a 1:1 substitution for sugar, and not all substitutes have the same flavor.

Sugar substitutes aren’t cheap, and they sometimes don’t function in recipes as well as sugar. For baking, Splenda is typically my go-to sugar sub, because comparable results can be gained with a 1:1 substitution for sugar. (Note: Play around with sugar subs with recipes that require particular functional benefits – like browning. Even Splenda doesn’t brown like sugar.) For sprinkling on fruit or stirring into coffee, take your pick – the flavor is a matter of preference.

A Food Science tid-bite: Sugar alcohols, “polyols,” can also be used commercially as a substitute for sugar. Maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol are examples of polyols. Sugar alcohols gain their low-cal status because they aren’t absorbed by the body like sugar. Food manufacturers can also blend sugar substitutes until the right flavor profile is achieved.


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