A Buyer's Guide to Sugar Substitutes

The good, the bad and the unacceptable.

Here’s a rundown of some FDA-cleared sweeteners—which have also earned the go-ahead from major health organizations, like the American Heart Association. To get FDA approval, manufacturers must submit dozens of tests to prove safety, and establish maximum intake levels (called Acceptable Daily Intake, or ADI). However, some groups, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), quibble with the quality of these studies, which are usually conducted by the manufacturers themselves, or companies they hire. A handful of sweeteners, such as stevia leaf extract, are classified by the FDA as GRAS—Generally Recognized as Safe. Even though “natural” sugar substitutes like these are often perceived as healthier options, GRAS sugar substitutes usually don’t have as much safety data as approved additives. And with the science changing all the time, it’s worth using any of them sparingly. See the guide below for information about each sweetener.

Monk Fruit Extract (Luo Han Guo)

• Monk Fruit in the Raw
• Purefruit

Regulatory status = FDA GRAS status

ADI for adults (number of packets) = Not specified

Where you’ll find it
Monk Fruit in the Raw is available as a packaged sweetener; monk fruit extract can be found in a few foods and beverages, like no-sugar-added fruit cups, sparkling fruit beverages and some cereals.

The scoop
Extracted from the juice of an Asian subtropical melon, it has a slightly fruity taste, so it’s often blended with other sweeteners to mute the flavor. Though the extract has not been extensively tested, the fruit has a long history of consumption in China, where it’s used medicinally to help soothe colds and sore throats.

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