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Sugar substitutes, benefits and side effects

Sugar substitutes, benefits and side effects

Do you have a sweet tooth but are worried about the potential dangers of incorporating too much sugar in your diet? You’re lucky. You don’t have to consume sugar in order to enjoy a sweet sugary flavour. There are numerous artificial and natural sweeteners that you can safely use as sugar substitutes.

These sweeteners are used in various foods and beverages including juices, sweets, yoghurt, ice-cream and baked foods among many others. What exactly are these sweeteners and what are their benefits and side effects? How much of them should you use in your diet? Are you entirely safe from the harmful effects of sugar when you use these artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes? Let’s delve into some of the most commonly used sugar substitutes that you could consider if you are planning to turbo-charge your healthy lifestyle.

Saccharin

Saccharin is probably the most popular sugar substitute. This artificial sweetener offers 300 to 400 times that sweetness that you would get in table sugar and has no food energy. It is non-nutritive and is used in sweetening products such as candies, jam, chewing gums, dessert toppings and some drinks. It is also used in sweetening certain medicines such as vitamins.

Benefits of Using Saccharin

The main advantages of using this artificial sweetener include the following:

  • It has no energy value so it is best suited for those who would want to limit their caloric and carbohydrate intake.
  • Use of saccharin can help you maintain an overall good health, maintain an excellent physical appearance and control your weight.
  • It can help you reduce dental cavities.
  • It has a wide applicability. The artificial sweetener can be used in a vast array of foods, snacks, beverages and even vitamins.

Disadvantages and Possible Side Effects of Saccharin

  • When used in high concentration, it can leave a “metallic” aftertaste in the mouth.
  • It can cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to sulfa-derived drugs.

Aspartame

This low-calorie artificial sweetener was discovered more than five decades ago and also has a sugar-like taste. Aspartame has approximately 200 times the sweetness of sucrose, found in the ordinary table sugar.

Unlike other artificial sweeteners, aspartame is completely metabolized (broken down) by the body when consumed. It is approved for use in various kinds of foods including yoghurt and carbonated soft drinks among others.

Benefits of Aspartame

  • The artificial sweetener is broken down entirely by the body into commonly occurring nutrient components such as amino acids, ethanol, phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
  • Releases negligible amounts of calories into the body.
  • It is a safe and non-nutritive sweetener at reasonable levels of consumption.

Disadvantages or Side Effects

  • Due to the presence of phenylalanine in aspartame, it is not suited for someone suffering from phenylketonuria which is an inability of the body to break down phenylalanine compounds.

Polyols

Polyols refer to a series of sugar alcohols that occur naturally in certain kinds of foods such as berries and apples. They have almost the same sweetness as the table sugar. Also, unlike artificial sweeteners, they give out calories when eaten. They are however a healthy source of sugar because they are not completely metabolized and absorbed so the amount of calories that they contribute is fairly small.

Benefits of Polyols

  • Naturally occurring sweeteners.
  • Add very little calories to your diet as they are not entirely metabolized.

Side Effects

  • When used in large amounts, polyols can act as laxatives so you should watch out not to use too much of these.

There are many reasons why you should consider using the sugar substitutes. Apart from their beneficial contribution to your oral and dental health, the artificial and natural sweeteners can also help you beat back diabetes and obesity.

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