A Buyer's Guide to Sugar Substitutes
The good, the bad and the unacceptable.
According to a recent survey, seven out of 10 adults say they want to reduce or avoid added sugars. To do so, they’re turning to sweeteners that deliver zero or minimal calories. Data from Mintel, a market research group in Chicago, shows that while sales of caloric sweeteners like sugar have been declining in recent years, sales of “diet”-friendly substitutes have skyrocketed, increasing by about 50 percent from 2000 to 2006. And since 66 percent of Americans are overweight and 20.8 million have diabetes, even many health experts are advocating the use of these sugar substitutes.
- Sold as a “tabletop sweetener” (packets used mostly to sweeten beverages)
- Commonly added to packaged foods and beverages
- Heat-stable; can be used for baking
What is it? A compound made by combining sucrose (table sugar) with three chlorine molecules. The body doesn’t digest or derive calories from sucralose.
Sweetness factor: 600 x sugar
Take note: There has been legal controversy over the Splenda slogan, “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” Critics claim it falsely implies that the substitute—which was approved as an additive by the FDA in 1998—is natural, which it is not.
Our taste test: Tasters found Splenda pleasantly sweet in hot and cold teas, but some noted an objectionable metallic aftertaste. Cookies made with Splenda rated well for sweetness but poorly for texture, appearance and aftertaste. However, Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking, which is a 50/50 blend of sugar and sucralose, rated better on all counts.