Sweet Solutions: The Best Sugar Substitutes
AGAVE NECTAR continued...
Health Rx: Agave nectar's benefits are still under debate. "It
doesn't raise the blood sugar as rapidly as sugar," says Sandon. "And
although it has more calories than sugar--about 20 calories per teaspoon--agave
nectar is sweeter, so you can use less of it." There is some concern about
agave's high fructose content, however; some experts wonder if it will have the
same metabolic effect as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been blamed
for increasing rates of obesity. But experts still don't know whether the large
quantities of HFCS we're consuming are partly responsible for America's obesity
problem, or whether HFCS just happened to enter the American diet at the same
time as negative lifestyle changes that led to weight gain.
The bottom line, say experts: We all could afford a little less sweet in our
lives. "If you're eating a lot of foods that have these alternative
sweeteners in them, that means you're still probably eating a lot of cookies,
cakes, and other processed foods that aren't good for you," says Sandon.
"We need to get back to eating more whole foods. Sugar substitutes are not
a substitute for a healthy diet."
The Scoop On the Most Popular Sweeteners
Rumors persist about the health hazards of artificial sweeteners such as
Sweet'N Low, Splenda, and Equal, but several food-safety groups and regulatory
bodies, including the FDA, have consistently deemed them safe for
Sweet'N Low (saccharin) has fewer than four calories in each
1⁄4-teaspoon packet, which is as sweet as two teaspoons of sugar. It's best
used in tea, coffee, or other drinks as it reacts differently to baking than
sugar does, leading to differences in the volume and texture of foods.
Splenda (sucralose) is 600 times as sweet as table sugar; one packet
is as sweet as two teaspoons of sugar. Though sucralose is made from a sugar
molecule, it's chemically altered in a lab so it passes through the body
unmetabolized. Splenda has no calories and is heat stable, so it's ideal for
use in baking.
Equal (aspartame) has the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar in each
1⁄4-teaspoon packet. Use it only in recipes designed specifically for
Originally published on November 1, 2008
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