Real sugar or a chemical? When it comes to sweetening your one cup of coffee, a teaspoon of either sweetener may be of little consequence for a dieter.
But when you are on your 8th cup of coffee for the day, drinking sodas by the gallon or eating candy by the bagful, the sweetener impact on your weight can be significant.
Dieters need to know:
- Sugar has calories, but it tastes better than any sweetener.
- Artificial sweeteners have miniscule calories, but some of them can have side effects. And a small amount of artificial goes a long way (some are as much 8000 times sweeter then sugar!)
- Replacing sugar with an artificial sweetener does not guarantee weight loss. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Here are basic sugar/sweetener guideline for dieter:
- If you are concerned about calories, avoid foods with lots of sugar.
- If you care about taste, artificial sweeteners can taste … well .. funny.
- Artificial sweeteners can cause side effects (e.g., too much sorbitol can cause gas and diarrhea).
- Ultimately, sugar simply tastes better.
There are several types of artificial sweeteners, with new ones coming along regularly.
- Acesulfame-K (Sunette or Sweet One). This is mineral potassium and is 200 time sweeter than sugar.
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) On the market since the early 1980s, this is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid combined with methanol. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar.
- Neotame is one of the newest sweeteners and is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar.
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin) This sugar substitute has been around since 1879. It is an organic molecule made from petroleum. It is very sweet (200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar).
- Sorbitol, Mannitol This is considered a natural product found in fruits and berries.
- Stevioside (Truvia) This is an herb from the South American stevia plant. It’s been around for centuries and is considered a natural sugar substitute. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
- Sucralose (Splenda). Derived from sugar this product made it to stores in the late 1990s and is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used for baking.
Surprisingly, some research indicates that people who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to be overweight because artificial sweeteners increase an appetite. Plus, artificial sweeteners can cause faulty thinking: “I’m drinking a diet soda, so I can have French fries with my burger.”
Don’t know what to do? Whether seriously dieting or simply health conscious, the answer to the sweetener issue (or any diet challenge) is moderation. The calories in sugar and the ingredients in sweeteners are of no consequence if you limit your intake.