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A Buyer's Guide to Sugar Substitutes

What you need to know about Splenda, aspartame, stevia and other sugar substitutes.
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Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin)

Sold as a "tabletop sweetener" (packets used mostly to sweeten beverages)

Commonly added to packaged foods and beverages

What Is It? A compound containing sulfur and nitrogen that provides no calories because the body cannot break it down.

Sweetness Factor: 300 times as sweet as sugar

Take Note: Saccharin, first discovered in 1879, has a long, controversial history. The FDA re-approved saccharin for limited use as a food additive (in beverages and some processed foods) in 2000.

Our Taste Test: All but one taster rated it as "unpleasantly sweet." Most commented that, in tea—hot and cold—saccharin tasted "artificial" and had a bitter aftertaste.

Xylitol (XyloSweet)

Sold as a "tabletop sweetener" (packets used mostly to sweeten beverages)

Heat-stable; can be used for baking

What Is It? Chemically classified as a sugar alcohol, xylitol’s chemical structure resembles both sugar and alcohol but isn’t a true form of either. Since xylitol is a naturally occurring food compound, it is "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS) by the FDA and, therefore, exempt from the approval process mandatory for artificial substitutes regulated as food additives.

Sweetness Factor: Same as sugar

Take Note: The body absorbs xylitol, but not fully—that’s why the sweetener provides 2 calories per serving and also why it causes digestive problems for some people. People trying to control glucose levels shouldn’t eat foods containing xylitol with abandon. The American Diabetes Association advises people with diabetes to count half of sugar-alcohol grams as carbohydrates. Studies show that xylitol, which is often added to gums and mints, may also help reduce cavities by reducing acid in the mouth. Xylitol is very toxic to dogs.

Our Taste Test: Tasters rated the sweetness level as "very acceptable" with only a few detecting a mild, yet not unpleasant, aftertaste in hot and cold tea. The sweetness rated well in baked cookies, but most described the appearance and texture of the cookies as unappealing and too soft.

Erythritol (ZSweet, Sun Crystals)

Sold as a "tabletop sweetener" (packets used mostly to sweeten beverages)

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