Xylitol vs. Sorbitol vs. Stevia vs. Aspartame vs. Sugar: Low-Glycemic Sugar Substitutes
Trying to Reduce Your Sugar Intake?
We can all benefit from reducing our sugar intake. Whether you're trying to lose weight, protect your teeth, or because you are diabetic (or pre-diabetic), low-sugar diets are a good choice. Health experts say that reducing sugar can help address cholesterol levels, mood and memory, and cancer risks.
But for people who love a little sweetener in their diet, replacing sugar can be tricky. There are lots of sugar alternatives, but most of them are still high on the glycemic index, they don't taste good, or they present other health risks.
Here's a run-down on the pros and cons of the most common sweeteners. I will cover the pros and cons of:
- Stevia and Rebaudioside A
- Saccharin, Aspartame, and Sucralose (Splenda)
- And which one tastes best (in my opinion).
What Is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a way of measuring the carbohydrates in a food so you can tell how much sugar that food will add to your blood levels. For example, on a scale of 1 to 100, fructose (sugar from fruit) has a glycemic index of about 15 while sucrose (table sugar) has an index of 65.
Pros of Xylitol
- Glycemic index of 7.
- Low in calories: 2.4/gram (about half of sugar).
- The same sweetening power as sugar.
- Xylitol is great for fighting Candida in two ways, by reducing the sugar that feeds Candida, and by reducing the levels of acetaldehyde, a substance produced by Candida.
Cons of Xylitol
- Xylitol is approved as a food additive by the FDA but not as a sweetener.
- Consumed in high quantities, it can cause bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
2. Stevia (Rebaudioside A)
Pros of Stevia
- Glycemic index of 0 (no effect on blood sugar at all).
- Zero calories.
- Stevia might seem expensive, but a little goes a long way. Stevia is a few dozen times sweeter than sugar. Rebaudioside-A, a compound extracted from stevia, is about 350 times sweeter than sugar.
Cons of Stevia
- Stevia and Rebaudioside-A are not approved as food additives by FDA. Stevia is, however, approved as a dietary supplement.
- Stevia is very sweet but the taste is quite different from sugar. Some may not care for it.
- Commercial stevia an contain fillers, the most common being maltodextrin.
Pros of Erythritol
- The glycemic index of erythritol is 0.
- Its taste is very similar to that of sugar.
- It is very low in calories with around 0.25 calories per gram.
Cons of Erythritol
- It is more expensive than many sugar replacements.
- With only 70% of the sugar’s sweetening power, it becomes even more expensive.
- In rare cases, erythritol can cause hives or nausea.
Polyols Video Review
4. Saccharin, Aspartame & Sucralose (Splenda)
Pros of Saccharin
- Saccharin has a glycemic index of 0 and has 0 calories.
- It's inexpensive.
Cons of Saccharin
- The taste is not great.
- Saccharin is controversial, having been shown to be carcinogenic for rats and mice.
Pros of Aspartame
- Very inexpensive.
- Low glycemic index
- No calories
Cons of Aspartame
- Specific taste, not great
- Has been studied for possible links to brain cancer.
Pros of Sucralose (Splenda)
- Sucralose doesn’t have any calories but the fillers in Splenda do. It is still three times lower in calories than sugar. (Note that these calories are not mentioned on the American Splenda packages.)
- Low glycemic index.
- Decent taste—probably the best among artificial sweeteners.
- There are no notable health problems associated with sucralose.
- Very stable to high temperatures so it can be used in many recipes to replace sugar.
- Relatively inexpensive.
Cons of Sucralose (Splenda)
- Contains bulking agents including dextrose and maltodextrin to provide volume.
- It is not an absolute replacement for sugar, especially when baking.
- Although it looks like the safest artificial sweetener on the market, Splenda is not completely harmless. It depends on the quantity ingested, but in some cases, sucralose will not pass through your body for days.
Sorbitol is widely used in the food industry and in the kitchen as a moisture-stabilizing agent. It is also used as a thickening agent and to retain moisture in the cosmetic industry. It is also a sugar replacement in many commercially sold foods.
Compared to xylitol and erythritol, sorbitol has the most laxative effect. This sweetener has been associated with causing stomach problems for some people.
Pros of Sorbitol
- Glycemic index of 4.
- Very cheap.
Con of Sorbitol
- Bad for teeth.
- May cause stomach problems and anal irritation.
- 2.4 calories per gram vs sugar's 4 calories per gram.
Pros of Sugar
- The best taste alone and in combination with virtually any food.
- Very safe when consumed in moderation (except for diabetics).
- The best for baking.
Cons of Sugar
- High glycemic index of 60 to 65, with some types of sugars as high as 80.
- High calorie at 4 calories/gram.
- It is linked to Candida.
- The principal cause of most dental cavities.
There has been research into how the brain responds to sugar and sugar substitutes. This might help you take your healthy decision about sugar.
Best-Tasting Sugar Substitutes
Of course, this is a matter of taste. Personally, I mix sugar with stevia, erythritol, and xylitol, but then again I don't have high blood sugar levels. I just want to cut back on my sugar intake. Often I add a little honey to the mix. I tested a few sweeteners and found these products tasted best to me.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2014 Dorian Bodnariuc