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Sweet Solutions: The Best Sugar Substitutes

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WHEY LOW

What it is: Three naturally occurring sugars--fructose, the sugar in fruit; sucrose, or table sugar; and lactose, the sugar in milk--are blended to create this sweetener. While individually the sugars are fully caloric, when blended in Whey Low they interact in such a way that they aren't completely absorbed into the body. As a result, at four calories per teaspoon, Whey Low has one quarter of the calories and less than one third of the glycemic index of sugar, so you're less likely to crash after consuming it. It's available in varieties similar to granular sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, and confectioners' sugar.

Where to find it: At grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market, online at wheylow.com, and in some baked goods at bakeries around the country.

How to use it: "Whey Low's flavor and texture are very similar to sugar's and it's easy to use," says Yasmine Sandhu, the pastry chef at Rock Creek, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., which uses Whey Low to keep calorie counts down. "I've substituted it into all my recipes as if it were sugar. The only product I've had trouble with is meringue--it browns a little quicker and doesn't set quite as well."

Health Rx: "Whey Low's creator argues that the way the sugars interfere with each other means that you get all of the sweet but many fewer calories than sugar," says Thomas Castonguay, Ph.D., a professor of food science at the University of Maryland in College Park. "We're testing that process here in the lab, and the preliminary results look promising."

XYLITOL

What it is: This naturally occurring sugar alcohol is found in foods such as beets, berries, and corn. Xylitol tastes almost as sweet as sugar but is only partially absorbed by the body, so it has only about nine calories per teaspoon and a lower glycemic index.

Where to find it: Natural-food stores and online at vitaminshoppe.com.

How to use it: Substitute it for sugar in small amounts in tea or coffee. If you use it for baking, it's recommended that you substitute it for only half of the sugar called for in a recipe.

Health Rx: Xylitol prevents bacteria from causing plaque to stick to teeth, which is why it's often used in sugar-free gum and can help prevent tooth decay. It can also cause stomachaches, gas, and diarrhea if you have too much of it. "Sugar alcohols aren't digested well by the body," says Bowden. "That's what keeps xylitol from raising blood sugar, but it's also what can give you gas."

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