Too sweet to be true: The truth about sweeteners

We use sugar for everything, it seems. We dump it in our coffee, toss it in our cereal and use it in our recipes. We love sugar. In fact, Americans are known to consume 165 pounds of added sugar per year.

Sugar, though, has about 16 calories per teaspoon and can cause your blood sugar to spike. Sugar, or sucrose, can help boost your energy, but it has little nutritional value. The American Heart Association suggests that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, averaging out to about 100 calories per day. Men should cap their sugar intake at 9 teaspoons per day, about 150 calories per day.

You’ve considered choosing a healthier option to pour into your morning coffee, but you stare at the container wondering what color to choose – pink, blue, yellow or white?

Not all artificial sweeteners are created equal, and some are not that healthy for you. Here’s the breakdown of some of the most common types of sweeteners:

Saccharin. Commonly known as Sweet ‘N’ Low – or the pink packet, saccharin is low in calories. There’s about 1/8 of a calorie in a teaspoon of Sweet ‘N’ Low. Because Sweet ‘N’ Low is about 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, a little goes a long way. The downfall with the pink packet is that it is often associated with a bitter, chemical-flavor aftertaste.

Sucralose. The yellow packet, also known as Splenda, is made with sucralose. Splenda is one of the few artificial sweeteners that is safe to use in baking and cooking. It is a good substitute for those with diabetes. Additionally, Splenda holds zero calories per teaspoon, and it is 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Aspartame. Unlike the other artificial sweetener, the blue packet, also known as Equal, clocks in at 24 calories per teaspoon. Additionally, Equal is made of aspartame, which is 180 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame, though, may trigger headaches and migraines in some users.

Stevia. Derived from the stevia plant, this is one of the few natural forms of sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and has about 3.75 calories per serving. Stevia is thought to help control blood pressure in those who suffer from diabetes, but studies are still inconclusive.

Rebiana. Although not typically found in a packet at a restaurant, rebiana, or Truvia, is a commonly used sugar substitute. Rebiana is derived from the stevia plant and is fairly new to the market. Rebiana is mixed with Erythritol to form the sweetener known as Truvia. Some studies have shown that rebiana may cause DNA damage and mutations, but it is still too early to tell. You may want to be careful how much you consume.

Agave nectar. Similar to honey, agave nectar comes from the agave cactus. It is sweeter than sugar and has about 20 calories per teaspoon. Agave nectar contains more fructose, making it less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar.

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