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The Skinny on Sweeteners

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What are artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic or man-made sweeteners. Some are actually derived from natural sources. Artificial sweeteners include Acesulfame potassium, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose. Sound like a chemistry book? That is often the case with synthetic or man-made food additives and can make a nutrition label sound more like a textbook than food you would want to put into your body. To help you make sense of these names, remember that Acesulfame potassium makes up Sweet One and Sunnet, Aspartame makes up Equal and Nutrasweet, Splenda is made from sucralose, and Saccharin makes up Sugar Twin and Sweet’N Low. Aside from being found in small little packets, artificial sweeteners are also found in many processed foods such as diet soda, candies, jams and jellies, canned foods, and tabletop sweeteners among other foods.

Can I Cook with Artificial Sweeteners?

If you were to try to substitute an artificial sweetener for sugar cup for cup in recipes, you would likely not have the best results. And cooking with artificial sweeteners can be tricky as the result in cooked foods vary from sweetener to sweetener. For one thing, most sweeteners are far sweeter than actual sugar. Also, not all artificial sweeteners are heat stable, so if they are heated during the cooking process, they may loose some or all of their sweetness. Additionally, sugar adds other properties to cooked goods such as structure, moistness, and browning ability.

When using an artificial sweetener in place of sugar, these properties may be altered. For example, Aspartame cannot be used in products exposed to heat for a long time, but for adding a little sweetness at the end of the cooking process it may be ok. As with many artificial sweeteners, aspartame is far sweeter teaspoon for teaspoon for sugar, so should not be used in equal amounts as you would use sugar. Sucralose, however, is heat stable and can be substituted teaspoon for teaspoon for sugar for sweetness, but may not provide structure as sugar would in baked goods. About.com’s guide to Homecooking has created a helpful guide for determining how to use artificial sweeteners in cooking and baking. Another great place to check is the manufacturer’s websites for these sweeteners as many have provided helpful tips and recipes for using their product. Keep in mind that artificial sweeteners oftentimes leave an aftertaste which may bother some.

Why Use Artificial Sweeteners?

The greatest benefit of using artificial sweeteners is that they do not add any calories to recipes and processed goods. This can be useful if you are trying to cut calories in order to lose weight. Diabetics can also benefit as artificial sweeteners contain no carbohydrates, so they are easy to manage on a diabetic diet plan.

Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?

Artificial sweeteners carry a bit of a stigma when it comes to safety which can be partially contributed research studies years ago which showed that saccharin caused bladder cancer in lab rats. Since then scientific research has not shown that use of FDA-approved artificial sweeteners in limited quantities pose any healthy risks. The FDA does regulate these sweeteners, and thus puts them through testing to assure safety before they are able to be sold. They also have ADI’s (or acceptable daily intake) which are set to be far less than any amount that is thought to cause harm.

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