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The truth about artificial sweeteners

If you have explored the variety of sweeteners on the market, you will agree – there are many!  What are they? Why do people use them?  Are they safe? 

What are sweeteners?

  • Artificial sweeteners: These can add 0-5 extra calories when used. Some are plant based – much sweeter in smaller quantities than plain sugar (ie: Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar; Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar). Because of the sweetness of these low calorie sweeteners, less is added – which overall adds less calories to your dish or meal.
  • Natural sweeteners: Think honey, molasses, fruit based or milk based – these have naturally occurring sugars (ie: fructose, lactose) which will add sweetness to your dish.  Many of these, again, are much sweeter than plain white sugar, so, one can add less to the dish.  All of them contain more nutrients than plain white sugar.

Why do people use non-sugar sweeteners? We see that this is another way to cut calories in our diet.  Lowering energy in can result in weight loss – especially when coupled with exercising. What is interesting  – agave provides 60 calories per 1 Tbsp, honey provides 63 calories per 1 Tbsp compared to the 40 calories of white sugar.  One can use less of the natural sweetener over sugar, but, may still end up consuming about the same calories!

Are they safe? Please take a moment and read the following:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.

In other words, yes, they are safe – but use in moderation.

Can I use non-sugar sweeteners in cooking?  Since sugar assists in the cooking process, using non-nutritive sweeteners can change the quality of cooking. You may see less browning, less bulk in the final product, shorter shelf life and a different taste. Beware, some sugar-substitutes are not heat stable.

Tips:

  • Using white sugar: Just cut back the sugar by half in the recipe.  Usually, you will not taste the difference and your recipe will still result in a good quality product.
  • Using Non-Nutritive Sweetener: Substitute 1 cup Splenda for 1 cup sugar in the recipe (some people can taste the difference though) .
  • Using Natural Sweetener: Use ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon honey in place of 1 cup sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 tablespoons.

What is the bottom line?  Sugar sweeteners in moderation can be safe.  Be mindful to incorporate an eating plan consisting of whole foods, less processed foods and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle even when using sugar substitutes. Balance is key.

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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.

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