Food with Artificial sweeteners are designed to help people get rid of their addiction to sugar; it makes our lives easier by making us able to eat food without worrying about gaining weight. Food is becoming a very important part of our lives, but no one would like to consume artificial sweeteners. The human body has always been attracted to sugar, but since sugar is considered unhealthy, we have to find some substitute that could provide the same taste and feel.
Food With Artificial Sweeteners
Annoyingly, labels aren’t always clear—did you know Reb A or rebiana is another name for stevia extract? Or that “naturally sweetened” foods can still contain man-made sweeteners? Probably not—which means you could be eating the stuff without even realizing it. We asked nutrition pros to identify a few common culprits.
We already know that ketchup can be a sneaky source of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars. But it also can sneak in the artificial stuff. “Some brands try to cut calories and sugar by subbing in sucralose,” says Jessica Jones, R.D., co-creator of Food Heaven Made Easy and author of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot.
Even if you’re on-board with carbs, it can be super tricky to find a healthy bread. “Some loaves—along with English muffins and other baked goods—add sucralose,” says Jones. So read over the whole label carefully.
Check out that label, especially when it comes to low-fat bottled dressings. “Ingredients to look out for include Aspartame (Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) Acesulfame, and sugar alcohols like Xylitol, Sorbitol,” says Jones. Try making your own salad dressing from scratch instead to avoid those suspicious add-ins.
Wait, but Greek yogurt is so healthy! Not always. “There’s a new trend where products combine regular sugars (cane, fructose) with sugar subs,” says Maureen Callahan, R.D. “Since the regular sugars tend to be higher on the ingredient list, you might not even notice the artificial sweetener near the end of the list.”
Surprising Food Sources of “Natural” & Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar substitutes are becoming commonplace in food products-even nondiet foods. Here’s how to spot them.
Even if you think you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners, you may be eating them. No-calorie sugar substitutes, both natural and artificial ones, are sneaking their way into foods and beverages beyond those labeled “diet” or “lite.” Here’s a list of 10 surprising places we found them lurking.
1. Granola (monk fruit extract): Lower-sugar versions of a product may signal hidden sweeteners, like in some granolas.
2. English muffins (sucralose): Some English muffins-even the whole-wheat ones-contain sucralose.
3. High-fiber breakfast cereal (sucralose & acesulfame K): Ironically, even within the same brand you’ll find some cereals that contain sugar substitutes like these and some that don’t.
4. Regular bottled iced tea (acesulfame K & sucralose): Yes, we’re talking nondiet iced tea here-often the fruit-flavored ones. The actual diet versions of these teas just have more of these fake sugars. Choose the plain, unsweetened type instead, and toss in a few slices of real fruit to punch up the flavor.
5. Nondiet ginger ale (sucralose): One brand we encountered contained both high-fructose corn syrup and sucralose. A 12-oz. can would deliver artificial sweetener and 4½ teaspoons of actual sugar.
6. Microwave kettle corn (sucralose): It’s low-fat and contains zero sugars-but keep looking if you want zero sucralose, too.
7. Light and fat-free Italian dressings (stevia): Here’s a case where you might want to go full-fat. Regular dressings tend to use fewer sweeteners of any kind than light or lower-fat types.
8. Frozen honey BBQ chicken breast pieces (sucralose): The honey part sounded wholesome enough, but read farther down the ingredients list and-hello, faux!
9. Toasted coconut almonds (rebiana): The brand we spied contained sugar, brown sugar and stevia. We’re all for almonds, but this is sweetness overkill.
10. Fizzy vitamin drink mix packets (stevia leaf extract): Along with a boatload of vitamins, you’re also getting this plant-based sugar substitute in many of the flavors of one popular manufacturer’s fizzy packets. It’s just more proof that you have to read those labels-even on “good-for-you” items!
Is Stevia Safe?
It sounds sweet: a natural, no-calorie sweetener that doesn’t raise blood sugar. Just how safe is stevia, and can it help you lose weight? What about side effects? Experts don’t have all the answers yet, but here’s what they know so far.
CREDIT: BIMA RAMADHANI/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES
News flash: Most of us eat w-a-a-a-y too much added sugar-around 17 teaspoons a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s nearly three times more than the limit the American Heart Association recommends of 6 teaspoons a day for women (and around 9 teaspoons for men). All that sweet stuff not only packs on pounds but also can hike up your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Many people see a sweet solution in stevia, a no-calorie sweetener often used in sodas, candy, baked goods, jams, jellies and umpteen other foods labeled “sugar-free” or “diet.” Just how safe is it? Does it have side effects? Here’s what experts know so far.
What is stevia?
Stevia is a liquid or powdered sweetener sold in the U.S. under several brand names, including Truvia, Stevia in the Raw and others. It’s made from a South American plant called stevia, the leaves of which are 200 to 400 times sweeter than regular table sugar. People in South America have used the stevia plant for hundreds of years, both as a sweetener and as a remedy for burns, stomach troubles and other problems.
While the stevia you buy at the grocery store is technically plant-based, in reality it’s a highly processed extract that’s often combined with other ingredients. Some brands, like Truvia, contain sugar alcohols, a type of low-calorie carbohydrate.
Is stevia FDA-approved?
Stevia has an FDA rating known as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Sweeteners and other food ingredients with GRAS status don’t require FDA approval and can be legally added to foods sold in the U.S. The GRAS rating does not apply to whole-leaf stevia and less-processed stevia extracts, which cannot legally be added to food products in the U.S.
What are the health benefits?
You get a natural sweetener with zero calories that doesn’t affect blood sugar-a plus for people with diabetes. Along with other sugar substitutes, stevia is also linked to fewer cavities. And it gets a good report card from some public advocacy groups: a 2014 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest listed stevia as one the safest sugar substitutes.
Are there any downsides?
For starters, there’s the taste. Stevia has a slightly bitter flavor that some people don’t like. Stevia products made with sugar alcohols can also cause bloating, diarrhea and other stomach troubles for some people.
And there are other possible problems. Some research suggests stevia could make you gain weight. A 2017 review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looked at nearly 40 observational studies that followed people for periods ranging from six months to 10 years. The review found that people who regularly used stevia and other non-nutritive sweeteners had some weight gain, along with a higher average BMI and a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Other research suggests stevia may interfere with the growth of certain probiotic bacteria, which are important for a healthy gut.
Finally, keep in mind that some studies promoting stevia are funded by food companies, so it’s wise to take the results with a grain of salt.
Can I eat too much of it?
It would be pretty difficult. The World Health Organization defines the acceptable daily intake (ADI) as 4 mg of stevia per kilogram of body weight. According to an FDA estimate, that means a 150-pound person could safely eat up to 10 packets of stevia a day-way more than you actually need, considering its intense sweetness.
That said, you should stop using stevia if you have any nausea, bloating or other side effects.
Can I use stevia in recipes?
It depends. Estimating equivalent amounts to replace sugar can be tricky-not only because stevia formulas vary among brands, but because the sweetness is so highly concentrated. According to stevia.com, 1 tablespoon of sugar can be generally be replaced by 1 to 1½ teaspoons of a stevia baking blend. Your best bet: check the label of the stevia brand you choose and follow its directions for replacing sugar in cooking and baking. Stevia can also affect the texture of a recipe, so you may need to experiment.
What’s the bottom line?
Most experts agree that more studies are needed on stevia’s long-term effects, particularly when it comes to weight gain and diabetes. Still, commercial stevia sweeteners sold in the U.S. appear to be a safe sugar substitute.
Just don’t think of stevia as a sure ticket for weight loss. Instead, some experts suggest incorporating stevia into your diet-maybe a pinch in your morning coffee or mixed into a smoothie-as a way to cut back on added sugars overall. That’s the real goal.
What role does sugar play in our diet?
Sweeteners are not essential nutrients in our diet, so they exist to nurture our sweet tooth, not our bodies.
How many people do know who say that they have a “sweet tooth”? Ever hear someone say that they are “addicted” to sugar? Sugar and its role in our diet have, indeed, become a controversial topic. Many have blamed the rise in overweight and obesity in our country on sugar. Our intake of sugar has increased, but so has our intake of artificial sweeteners. Are either or both to blame?
There are few people who can resist the taste of sweet foods. We are born with a preference for sweets, and it remains with us throughout our lives. However, too much of a good thing can lead to problems such as dental cavities, tooth decay, obesity, and the health complications related to being overweight and obese (for example, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and heart disease). Problems such as osteoporosis and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also occur when high-sugar foods replace more nutritionally balanced foods.
The dietary guidelines state that we are to choose beverages and foods to moderate our intake of sugars. In the United States, the number-one source of added sugars is non-diet soft drinks (soda or pop). Other major sources are sweets and candies, cakes and cookies, and fruit drinks and fruitage. Limiting your intake of these foods and avoiding foods with high amounts of added sugars is the best way to control your intake. When reading the ingredients on a food label, you must read carefully. Ingredients are listed in order of the amount used in the product. When a product contains a large amount of sugar, it can be hidden in the ingredients by using lots of different kinds of sugar. For example, if the product has 1 cup of sugar and that was the highest ingredient, sugar would be listed as the first ingredient. This can be avoided by using smaller amounts of different sources of sugar and listing them lower in the ingredient list. Here are the most common sources of sugar found on food labels:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit-juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
Negative Effects of Artificial Sweeteners
Negative effects of artificial sweeteners may include the following:
- People who use artificial sweeteners may have a false sense of security about their daily sugar intake and indulge in fattening foods such as pastries and chocolate.
- Artificial sweeteners are more intense in taste than sugar, meaning frequent consumption could overstimulate your sugar receptors and decrease your desire for healthier foods like vegetables.
- Research suggests that people who use artificial sweeteners habitually tend to gain more weight, due to the fact that they develop more cravings for sweets and end up choosing unhealthy foods as a result.
- Animal studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. So when you start, you may not be able to give up artificial sweeteners as easily as you think.
What is the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners?
The safety of our food and what goes in it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When you read the ingredients on your food labels you, will notice things that are not from your basic food groups. Foods from the food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, and oils) are considered nutritive because they provide nourishment. Products that are added and do not provide any nourishment can be considered non-nutritive.
We like to believe that nothing would be allowed in our food that wasn’t considered 100% safe. Unfortunately, this kind of guarantee is not usually possible. In the United States, sweeteners fall under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list or as food additives under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the FDA, “Regardless of whether the use of a substance is a food additive use or is GRAS, there must be evidence that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use. FDA has defined “safe” as a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under its intended conditions of use. The specific data and information that demonstrate safety depend on the characteristics of the substance, the estimated dietary intake, and the population that will consume the substance.”
The guidelines about what constitutes a sweetener to be on the GRAS list versus being listed as a food additive are as follows:
- For a GRAS substance, generally available data and information about the use of the substance are known and accepted widely by qualified experts, and there is a basis to conclude that there is consensus among qualified experts that those data and information establish that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use.
- For a food additive, privately held data and information about the use of the substance are sent by the sponsor to FDA and FDA evaluates those data and information to determine whether they establish that the substance is safe under the conditions of its.
Throughout the remainder of this article, you will learn about the positive and negative sides of the story behind each of the FDA-approved nutritive and non-nutritive sugar substitutes.
What are sugar alcohols?
Sugar and sugar alcohols are each considered nutritive sugar substitutes because they provide calories when consumed. Sugar alcohols, or polyols, contain fewer calories than sugar. Sugar provides 4 kcal/gram, and sugar alcohols provide an average of 2 kcal/gram (range from 1.5 kcal/gram to 3 kcal/gram). Contrary to their name, sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with structures that only resemble sugar and alcohol.
Foods that contain sugar alcohols can be labeled sugar-free because they replace full-calorie sugar sweeteners. Sugar alcohols have been found to be a beneficial substitute for sugar for reducing glycemic response, decreasing dental cavities, and lowering caloric intake.
Sugar alcohols naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables but are most widely consumed in sugar-free and reduced-sugar foods. The sweetness of sugar alcohols varies from 25% to 100% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose). The amount and kind being used will be dependent on the food. The following table lists the details on each of the sugar alcohols.
|Sugar Alcohol||Calories/Gram||Sweetness Compared to Sucrose||Sources|
|Sorbitol||2.6||50% to 70%||Sugar-free hard and soft candies, chewing gum, flavored jam and jelly spreads, frozen foods, and baked goods|
|Mannitol||1.6||50% to 70%||Chewing gum, hard and soft candies, flavored jam and jelly spreads, confections, and frostings|
|Xylitol||2.4||100%||Chewing gum, hard candies, and pharmaceutical products|
|Erythritol||0.2||60% to 80%||Confectionery and baked products, chewing gum, and some beverages|
|Isomalt||2.0||45% to 65%||Hard and soft candies, ice cream, toffee, fudge, lollipops, wafers, and chewing gum|
|Lactitol||2.0||30% to 40%||Chocolate, cookies and cakes, hard and soft candies, and frozen dairy desserts|
|Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH)||3.0||25% to 50%||Sugar-free foods and candies, and low-calorie foods|
|Maltitol||2.1||90%||Sugar-free chocolate, hard candies, chewing gum, baked goods, and ice cream|