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Sugar and Fat Substitutes

Commonly used sweeteners are table sugar, honey, fructose, carob, dextrose and corn syrup and may be called “natural sweeteners.” However, it does not mean they are healthier for you. A few do have the benefit of tasting sweeter than regular sugar, so less is used to sweeten a food product, but they still contain calories and carbohydrates that can affect your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. 

Sugar Alcohols

Some of the most common nutritive sweeteners are “sugar alcohols.” The most common are sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol and xylitol. They are used in many “sugar free” candies and desserts. They have one-half the carbs than table sugar. “Sugar alcohols” still turn into sugar and can raise blood sugar levels, if you have diabetes. Eating too much of these can cause gas, cramps, bloating and/or diarrhea.

Other nutritive sweeteners are honey, fructose (fruit sugar), carob, dextrose and corn syrup. They are also called “natural sweeteners.” You might think they are healthier. A few are sweeter than table sugar. Less is used in a food product. They still have calories and carbs.

Non-nutritive sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners (“artificial sweeteners”). The most common are aspartame, saccharin, stevia, neotame and acesulfame-K. These products have little or no calories or carbs. They do not affect blood sugar levels. Replacing regular sugar with these products in foods actually does lower the calorie and carb levels in foods. Aspartame can only be used in recipes that are baked for 20 minutes or less. This sweetener breaks down under long periods of heat. Neotame is similar to aspartame. It is used in small amounts because it is so sweet. Saccharin and acesulfame-K are more stable. They can be used in recipes that have a longer baking time. Since these sweeteners are sweeter than table sugar, you do not need as much. Sucralose is found in many foods. It is very sweet (600 times sweeter than sugar) and is easy to use in baking. The newest non-nutritive sweetener is Truvia. It is made from the stevia plant. This plant has been sold as an herbal supplement for many years in health food stores.

What are fat substitutes?

There are many products made with “fat substitutes” (“fat replacers”). Products made with these may help:

  1. cut fat and calories to lose weight or 
  2. lower cholesterol. 
Fat substitutes still contain carbohydrates which can raise blood sugar levels, if you have diabetes. Olestra is a common fat substitute. It is made from fat. But, the body is unable to absorb it. So, it adds no calories. The carb content of these foods must still be counted. Olestra does cause stomach problems in some people. They may need to limit fat replacers.

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Health and Wellness Tip

Laugh every day.  It can release endorphins, the healing hormones, and act as the body’s natural pain killer.  Rent a funny movie or call a friend that makes you laugh.  This can lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system.