Different types of sweeteners

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Different types of sweetenerArtificial sweeteners: a great way to curb the damaging effects of sugar, or chemical poisons that can harm our health? The answer is: a little of both.

We all know sugar is pure evil in food form, but, damn it, it tastes sooooo good. Which is, of course, why there are a loads of sugar substitutes on the market, all aimed at giving you that sugar rush without the weight gain or blood glucose rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, they’re also mired in controversy. According to Megan Pentz-Kluyts, a dietician with the Cancer Association of South Africa, ‘a large number of studies have been carried out on these substances, with conclusions ranging from “safe under all conditions” to “unsafe at any dose”. Scientists are divided in their views on the issue of artificial sweetener safety.’

So where does that leave us? Luckily, the main sweeteners on sale in South Africa have been tested extensively, and are safe if consumption does not exceed the amount recommended on the packaging. In fact, sweeteners can be an effective way for diabetics to help manage their condition, and also an important aid for those trying to lose weight.

The caveat is, however, that we should not rely too heavily on sweeteners, but instead try to wean ourselves off our craving for sweet food. By all means, use them in your tea, coffee, or in baking, but never exceed the recommended amounts. They are, after all, man-made chemical products that are not produced by the body, meaning your body is not designed to deal with these substances, and they also have little nutritional value.

Nutritive sweeteners

These sugar substitutes have a kilojoule value, which may be as high as sugar.

Sorbitol and Xylitol: These sweeteners have 33% fewer kilojoules that sugar, but are half as sweet (so you’d need more to achieve the same sweetness level as sugar – not ideal).

Fructose: Naturally found in fruit, honey and veg, fructose has the same energy value as sugar, but is one and a half times sweeter (so you use less).

Non-nutritive sweeteners

These sweeteners are considered to have no kilojoule value.

Aspartame: It’s 200 times as sweet as sugar (technically it does have a kilojoule value, but you need so little that it’s hardly worth measuring). Aspartame has been found to be safe for children, pregnant women and diabetics by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Saccharine: This is a REALLY sweet sweetener that is over 300 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used in baking as it doesn’t lose sweetness when heated (like some other sweeteners). It has been linked to cancer development in the past, and although saccharine has since been cleared of any carcinogenic effects, it is still recommended that children and pregnant women do not consume saccharine.

Sugalite: This product that can be used in tea and coffee, as well as baked goods, and has the same sweetness level as sugar. It may have a mild laxative effect in large quantities as the ingredients behave like fibre in the body.

Written by

Rachel McGregor is a Cape Town journalist (and part-time narcissist) specialising in food, health and lifestyle-related features. In her spare time she loves to cook and poke fun at hipsters. Sometimes she dreams of giving it all up and becoming a millionaire.

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  1. Gross

    I completely avoid any kind of sweetner – they are detrimental to your health. Rather use nature’s bounties as sweetners

    5 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    i use honey in place of sugar and if i am feeling devilish, i’ll use brown sugar. i found with brown sugar i need half the amount of white refined sugar to achieve the same taste

    5 years ago •

  1. margsc

    I’m finding Xylitol to be a great alternative to sugar – I even use less of it than I do of sugar and it’s changed my taste buds – sugar is now too sweet for me.
    And it seems to be quite a bit healthier than the artificial sweeteners.

    5 years ago •

  1. TJK

    Guys! Don’t overlook Stivia! It’s a natural, and healthy, sweetener from the Stivia plant. And it doesn’t leave that yucky bitter after taste.

    5 years ago •

  1. Empress

    so difficult to keep out your diet.I have daily cravings.

    5 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    Thank you for a very informative article! However, I love sugar and will be loathe to ever give it up, no matter how healthy the artificial alternative. Moderation is the key, as with most things!

    5 years ago •

  1. Simimano

    Great article! I use fructose as my sweetener, occasionally I’ll use honey too!

    5 years ago •

  1. mashigoane

    OH… To have my sugar fix and not worry about gaining weight….Heaven.Thanks for the info.

    5 years ago •

  1. SG

    I use xylitol for my family. It made a huge difference to my son who has ADHD.

    5 years ago •

  1. sloanie

    this is really good info , i am a lover of sugar , now i know what to do , thanks alot

    5 years ago •

  1. Livvy

    thank you for the info, but i’ve been taught that if its not in its pure form of sugar then stay away.its sugar or no sugar.

    5 years ago •

  1. anisha

    Brown sugar & honey- the way nature intended but in Moderation of course.

    5 years ago •

  1. SpiceY

    I use brown sugar….and sometimes fructose

    5 years ago •

  1. Nettie

    i think the best advice would be to go without any sweetners . i think that is the healtiest

    5 years ago •

  1. Riekie

    I just don’t like the taste of sweeterers, love brown sugar, but everything within limits right :)

    5 years ago •

  1. Pannack

    If I have to use sugar I go for brown or rather a little bit of honey in my tea

    5 years ago •

  1. Leana

    Best is to rather go without. It took a while but I got used to the sugarless coffee. And now I prefer it.

    5 years ago •

  1. Nancy Katy

    Hi Rachel, I loved your Article on the Sweet Life..
    Ive been using Sweetners for years,once in a while i enjoy
    a cup of coffee with the real deal… Yes…SUGAR and it taste ever so good.. : )

    5 years ago •

  1. foreverGLAM

    I use normal sugar and haven’t tried sweeteners.

    5 years ago •

  1. Cupcake

    I’ve been using Stevia. Different taste from what I’m used to but its healthier.

    5 years ago •

  1. Lauren

    Great read – I have been using Canderel for the past 4 months and reckon I need to consider moving onto a more nutritive sweetner.

    5 years ago •

  1. me

    We have a diabetic in the house. Via many products one can’t avoid getting artificial sweeteners in, in the house we only use xylitol.

    5 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    Gosh, can hardly keep up with the different alternatives. I’ve learnt not to take any form of additional sugar to my drinks and that helps a lot.

    5 years ago •

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