There are some low carb sweeteners on the market, and then there are some other sugar substitutes that are not so low carb. In this guide we look at the most popular alternatives so that you can choose the one that will best suit you and your diet.
Marketed as Splenda in many countries, sucralose is an artificial sweetener produced by modifying sugar molecules. It has a sweetness of 600 times as much as sugar.
Sucralose is the low carb sweetener of choice for dieters because you can cook with it. Unlike many artificial sweeteners, it does not lose its sweetness at high temperatures. This means that combined with low carb flour substitutes, it can be used to bake low carb cookies, cakes and puddings.
If you buy the granulated version it contains bulking agents to contain the sweetness so that one teaspoon granulated Splenda has the same sweetness as one teaspoon granulated sugar. The bulking agents contain a small amount of carbohydrate and you will need to count these carbs in your daily total. It’s about 0.5g carbohydrate per teaspoon, which is around one-tenth of the carbs in sugar.
Tablets for adding to hot drinks also contain some other ingredients. See packages for details. Liquid Splenda is pure sucralose plus water so it is carb-free.
Stevia rebaudiana is a plant native to South America that has very sweet tasting leaves. It has been used as a sweetener in Japan for many years. It is marketed either as an extracted chemical called Rebaudioside-A (brand names include PureVia, Truvia) or simply as powdered plant leaf. In the USA the plant leaf is not approved as a food but only as a dietary supplement, so you will find it in health food stores.
It is zero calorie and zero carb, but some studies have suggested that it does produce an insulin response so may not be so suitable for diabetics. It also has a slightly different taste from regular sugar, with a little hint of licorice that can take some getting used to, although some people like it right away. Stevia is chosen by many low carb dieters who want a natural zero carb sweetener.
Aspartame is the artificial sweetener most often found in diet sodas. Marketed as Nutrasweet and Equal among other names, it is a powder produced by combining two amino acids or proteins. It breaks down at high temperatures and stops tasting sweet so it does not work for baking.
Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols, but are a form of carbohydrate that is believed not to be absorbed by the body in the same way as other carbohydrates. They have names ending in -ol, e.g. maltitol, erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol.
There is debate about exactly what their effect is. In the absence of conclusive research, most low carb diets advise counting them as having half the carbs of sugar, i.e. 50g carbohydrate per 100g product, or 2.2g carbohydrate per teaspoon. This is still rather high so most people on a low carbohydrate diet avoid sugar alcohol low carb sweeteners and choose other sweeteners that have zero carbs.