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Sweet Solutions: The Best Sugar Substitutes

WHEY LOW continued...

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."

AGAVE NECTAR

What it is: Several types of agave, the plant that's used to make tequila, are blended to create this liquid sweetener.

Where to find it: At natural-food stores, in some grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market, and in various baked goods.

How to use it: "It's great for teas and coffee, but it's a little difficult to bake with," says Sandhu. "I use it at about a third of the capacity of sugar--agave nectar is far sweeter than sugar or honey, so you have to reduce the amount a recipe calls for. I look for recipes that use another liquid sweetener, like honey, as the base. I also tend to lower my oven temperature when I use it because agave nectar browns a bit more. It's probably not the best option out there for beginner bakers."

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