Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Food & Recipes

Font Size

Taste Test: Sugar-Free Chocolate

Can sugar-free chocolate compare to the real thing?
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

"Sugar-free chocolate" sounds like an oxymoron, but it's a booming product category -- in part because diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases in America. But do these products really taste like chocolate? And just how healthful are they?

To get some answers, WebMD asked a panel of testers to sample several brands of sugar-free chocolate. And we asked a couple of experts for details on how sugar-free chocolates are made, and their potential benefits.

To sweeten "sugar-free" chocolate, most companies use maltitol, a sugar alcohol that is 90% as sweet as sugar ("sugar alcohol" is a somewhat misleading term, as these are neither sugar nor alcohol). This type of sugar replacer (a group that also includes sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and isomalt) is particularly helpful to people with diabetes, because only a portion of it is digested and absorbed. And the part that is absorbed through the intestinal tract is absorbed slowly, so there's a relatively little rise in blood sugar.

Kristen McNutt, PhD, JD, nutrition communications consultant to isomalt maker Palatinit, says sugar alcohols give the taste of sugar with only half the calories. Further, she says, they don’t cause cavities, and don’t cause your blood glucose to go up as high as it would if you ate sugar.

"The technology has improved with these sugar replacers and now they taste better, too," says McNutt.

'Sugar-Free' Doesn't Mean 'Fat-Free'

Its sweetness, however, is only one reason the taste of chocolate appeals to so many of us. The other is cocoa butter. And because cocoa butter is rich in saturated fat, so are many of these sugar-free products.

For example, if you enjoy half a sugar-free Yamate Chocolatier milk chocolate bar, you’ll be getting 200 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 10 grams of saturated fat. On the upside, though, you’ll get 4 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugars (15 grams of maltitol). Five pieces of Russell Stover Sugar Free Chocolate Candy Miniatures add up to 190 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 0 grams sugar (20 grams sugar alcohol).

The lesson here: It's essential to watch your portions of these treats.

As for calories, the good news about sugar-free chocolate is that there are calorie savings. The bad news is that it isn’t an impressive amount.

For example, a 40-gram serving of Dove sugar-free chocolate has 190 calories, while the same amount of regular milk chocolate totals around 210. The difference – 20 calories -- doesn't sound like much. But if you replace the regular candy with the sugar-free version every day, you could save 140 calories a week, and 560 per month.

Side Effects

Here's another reason to make sure you enjoy these sweets in moderation: In fine print on most packages of sugar-free chocolate is a warning: "Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect."

Today on WebMD

Four spoons with mustards
What condiments are made of and how much to use.
salmon and spinach
How to get what you need.
 
grilled veggies
Easy ideas for dinner tonight.
Greek Salad
Health benefits, what you can eat and more.
 

WebMD Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.



bread
Recipes
soup
Recipes
 
roasted chicken
Recipes
grilled steak
Video
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

vegetarian sandwich
Recipes
fresh vegetables
Recipes
 
smoothie
fitArticle
Foods To Boost Mens Heath Slideshow
Slideshow