Xylitol vs Sorbitol vs Stevia vs Aspartame vs Sugar- Low Glycemic Sugar Substitutes

Lowering Sugar Consumption

The need for low glycemic substitutes for sugar is not necessary a diabetics' problem, it is also a good choice for many other health concerns such as weight control, cholesterol levels, mood and memory, raised cancer risk, and risk to develop diabetes in otherwise healthy persons.

For people with diabetes, replacing sugar is a great problem, because there are many alternatives to sugar, but most of them are either with a high glycemic level, or they don't taste good, or they can even be unhealthy.

Xylitol - One of the Best Sugar Replacements

Pros of Xylitol

  • Low glycemic index of 7
  • Low calories – 2.4/gram (about half of sugar)
  • Efficient in fighting cavities and various The same sweetening power as sugar
  • Some studies showed xylitol to be helpful in fighting ear infection, and even help with asthma, (as a nasal spray).
  • 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. Xylitol and Candida.
  • According to European studies, Xylitol is safe to consume over prolonged periods of time.

Cons of Xylitol

  • Xylitol is not approved as a sweetener by FDA, (it is approved as a food additive, and not as a sweetener)
  • Consumed in high quantities can cause you bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea
  • Very toxic for dogs, (and ferrets), it kills dogs by drastically lowering their blood sugar levels.

Various Sweeteners (Photo credit bnpositive)
Various Sweeteners (Photo credit bnpositive)

The Benefits of the Low Glycemic Index Diet

There is probably no need to explain why diabetics need a low glycemic diet, but in short, the body of a person suffering of diabetes cannot process sugars properly, and the blood sugar levels will spike up to unsafe levels, and cause complications such as kidney disease, or failure, strokes, heart attacks, visual loss, etc... However, a relatively high intake of sugar can cause issues even for healthy people. For instance, a high glycemic index diet could be the cause for diabetes, and it can take years for the condition to develop.

Weight problems are often caused by consuming too many calories from sugar. Many of the modern's life ailments and illnesses come from an unhealthy balance of sugar in your diet. The abundance of sugar, and its availability make it too easy to chose when hungry.

There is more and more evidence that sugar is addictive. It looks like any sweet food is addictive, so at this point you have two options, fight the addiction as any other dependence, or replace some of the sugar with substitutes, to balance the total intake of sugar, and to appease the craving.

Stevia and Rebaudioside A - Great Low Glycemic Index Sugar Substitutes

Pros of Stevia

  • Glycemic index – 0 (no blood sugar at all)
  • Zero calories
  • Stevia might seem expensive, but in reality it is not. A little goes a long way, because of its sweetness. Stevia is a few dozen times sweeter than sugar, and 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. (however, stevia is approved as a dietary supplement.)
  • Stevia is very sweet but the taste is quite different from sugar
  • Can contain fillers, the most common is maltodextrin

Sugar Cubes
Sugar Cubes

Sugar Pros and Cons

Pros of Sugar

  • The best taste alone and in combination with virtually any food.
  • Very safe with moderate consumption, (excepting diabetics).
  • The best for any baking recipe.

Cons of Sugar

  • High glycemic index – 60 to 65, absolutely inadequate for diabetics, with some types of sugars up to 80
  • High calorie – 4 calories/gram
  • Sugar is responsible for many cases of metabolic problems in the modern days, (mostly due to overconsumption, though).
  • It is linked to Candida outbreaks
  • The principal cause in many cases of dental cavities.

Here is an article about how the brain responses to sugar intake vs substitutes: Sugar vs Artificial Sweteners - Tricking the Brain. This might help you take your healthy decision about sugar.

Erythritol - Best Tasting Sugar Replacement

Pros of Erythritol

  • Erythritol is probably the best among the sugar alcohol sweeteners, and one of the best low calorie/low glycemic index sugar replacements.
  • It doesn't cause diarrhea if consumed in large quantities, like xylitol and maltitol, and this is because unlike other sugar alcohols, it gets absorbed in the small intestine, rather than going further
  • Its taste is very close to sugar
  • Very low calories, erythritol with around 0.25 calories per gram vs sugar 4 calories per gram, vs xylitol 2.4 calories per gram.
  • The glycemic index of erythritol is 0, compared to sorbitol with 9, xylitol 13, and sugar 65

Cons of Erythritol

  • More expensive than many sugar replacements
  • With 70% of the sugar’s sweetening power, becomes even more expensive
  • In rare cases erythritol can cause hives, or a little nausea, this happens with a 50 grams consumption in a single serving, which is, of course, a lot.

Polyols Video Review

Artificial Sweetener
Artificial Sweetener

The Dangers of a Low Glycemic Sugar Replacement

We hear or read very often about the low carbs diet, and how beneficial it is. And it is indeed a great tool for use to cut down weight, but this should be done for a well determined, limited time, and only to cut down a few pounds, but not to control weight on a permanent basis. A prolonged low carbs diet will slow down the metabolism, and will trigger permanent changes in our bodies. Because of the way they are digested, (incomplete, or not digested at all), and because of the low glycemic index, some of the sugar replacements can trigger very low levels of blood sugar. The body thinks is given a lot of energy, when in fact it is given none or close to nothing. This confuses our metabolism and it throws it out of balance. The trick is to use a combination of both real sugar, (or any other healthy high calorie sweetener, such as honey, or maple syrup), and a low glycemic index sugar replacement.

Saccharin vs Aspartame vs Sucralose, (Splenda)

Pros of Saccharin

  • Saccharin is an artificial sweetener great for diabetics
  • Glycemic index is 0It has 0 calories
  • Great sweetener for diabetics
  • Cheap

Cons of Saccharin

  • The taste is not great, as most of artificial sweeteners
  • It is carcinogenic for rats and mice, and possibly for humans Saccharin and Cancer in Rats.

Pros of Aspartame

  • Very cheap
  • Low glycemic index
  • No calories

Cons of Aspartame

  • Specific taste, not great
  • Linked to brain cancer

Pros of Sucralose (Splenda)

  • Low caloric, Sucralose doesn’t have any calories, but the fillers in Splenda have. It is three times lower in calories than sugar. Attention, these calories are not mentioned on the American package.
  • Low glycemic index, appropriate for diabetics
  • A decent taste, probably the best among artificial sweeteners
  • There are no notable health problems associated with sucralose
  • Very stable to high temperatures, can be used in many recipes to replace sugar
  • Relatively cheap

Cons of Sucralose (Splenda)

  • Contains bulking agents, dextrose, and maltodextrin, to give it volume
  • It is not an absolute replacement for sugar, especially when baking with it
  • 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 get eliminated from your body for days.

Sweetened Cup of Coffee
Sweetened Cup of Coffee

The Best Tasting Sugar Substitutes

Healthy Sugar Substitutes that Taste Good

The best low glycemic sugar substitutes are stevia, erythritol, and xylitol. They taste well, they are safe to consume in moderate quantities, they are low calorie, and they provide great health benefits. As a fourth option, I would include sucralose, (Slenda, Sukrana, Candys, SucraPlus). The first three are natural products, whereas Splenda is artificial.

Which one is the best tasting?

Well this depends vastly on the application, and your taste. People have found that the best taste is by combining two or more of the above. I personally mix sugar with stevia, erythritol, and xylitol for my needs, but I have no blood sugar problems at all. I just want to cut on the sugar intake. Many times I add in the mix honey. I tested a few sweeteners, and found these products to be the best. A bad product can make you hate a sweetener.

The best medium glycemic sweeteners, and these are not appropriate for diabetics, are coconut palm sugar, with glycemic index 35, lucuma powder, GI - 25, brown rice syrup GI 25, and agave syrup with glycemic index of 30.

Sorbitol - Not the Best Sugar Substitute

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 moisture retaining in the cosmetic industry. It is also a sugar replacement in many commercially sold foods.

As sugar substitute it is one of the poor choices for many reasons, even though it is like xylitol, and erythritol, a sugar alcohol, and it bears many common attributes with them. Out of the three, sorbitol is the sweetener with the most laxative effect. So you can't consume too much of it. It bears some of the stomach problems as xylitol, but at much lower doses. Bloating, diarrhea, gas are common at low doses of sorbitol. Some people complain about severe abdominal pain after ingesting sorbitol. There is no health benefit of consuming sorbitol. In fact, sorbitol provides a great medium for bad bacteria growth. The bad bacteria growth in turn, can lead to dental problems, acid reflux, and ear and sinus infections. On the other hand, a regimen based on xylitol will reduce the infections, reduce dental plaque formation, and will heal acid reflux.

Sorbitol Cons

  • Bad for teeth because cariogenic bacteria can digest it
  • Stomach problems and anal irritation
  • 2.4 calories per gram vs sugar 4 calories per gram

Sorbitol Pros

  • Glycemic index 4
  • Very cheap
  • Good for certain bakings, (but it doesn't replace sugar entirely)

More by this Author

What's Your Favorite Sugar Replacement? - Any Comments Are Welcome 3 comments

shellys-space profile image

shellys-space 2 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

I really want to try Stevia, thanks for the great information!

Babu Mohan profile image

Babu Mohan 2 years ago from Chennai, India

I can suggest palm sugar though I must confess that I have not yet made any conscious effort to reduce sugar in my diet.I hope everyone reads the pros and cons section on sugar. You have rightly said taste is the only pro for sugar and everything else is a con.

Johanna Eisler profile image

Johanna Eisler 2 years ago

I've been using stevia and Splenda recently. Xylitol caused some digestive problems; I look forward to trying erythritol. Wish sugar was an option for me! :)

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