Besides festive family gatherings, there is another big reason to be excited for the holiday season: sweet seasonal treats!
It can be easy to lose sight of the most important nutrition mantra (everything in moderation!) when we’re passing around the pumpkin pie or digging into our Christmas stockings. Luckily, we have ways to help us enjoy our sweet treats while moderating our sugar and calorie intake. That’s why I’m grateful for the option to use low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar and for the availability of foods that utilize low-calorie sweeteners. And as a certified diabetes educator, I’m especially thankful for the options available to help people with diabetes manage their total carbohydrate intake.
You’re probably familiar with the most common low-calorie sweeteners: the pink, the blue and the yellow – saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose – and you’ve probably heard of stevia, too….but there are other low-calorie sweeteners on the market you might not have heard of before.
Hopefully, you’ve heard the good news that low-calorie sweeteners are safe and effective for weight control and diabetes management. But do you know why we have so many different types of sweeteners on the market?
In addition to reducing or eliminating the calories and carbohydrates in a food, different types of low-calorie sweeteners have different properties that provide functions in foods. For example, some low-calorie sweeteners are more heat-stable and are therefore better in baked goods, while others provide better results when frozen. Though they are all sweet, low-calorie sweeteners can also have different flavor profiles.
Let’s take a look at three low calorie sweeteners you may not be familiar with:
1. MONK FRUIT, or lo han guo is a small round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. It is a natural, no-calorie sweetener that is becoming more widely available. It can be used as a tabletop sweetener, a food ingredient, or a component of other sweetener blends, and may be found in beverages (flavored waters, juices, teas, sodas), baked goods (pastries, cereal bars, cookies), yogurts, sauces (salad dressings, jams/jellies), desserts and candies (ice cream, chocolate, hard candy).
2. ACESULFAME K is a combination of an organic acid (asulfame) and potassium. It is used as a tabletop sweetener and in drinks and foods. It’s also used in combination with other low-calorie sweeteners, because it enhances the sweet taste of foods and beverages. Acesulfame K does not break down in heat, so can be used for cooking and baking.
3. NEOTAME This new (ish) low-calorie sweetener was approved by the FDA in 2002 as a general use sweetener. Neotame is 7,000-8,000 times sweeter than sugar, so only a very tiny amount is used to sweeten products.
So, the next time you see a low-calorie sweetener you don’t recognize, check out these links for more information. Rest assured that all of the sweeteners on the market have been FDA-approved for specific uses. They are not only safe and effective, but provide additional benefits to help you better enjoy your food with health in mind!