Cooking & Baking with Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes are embraced to cut down on calories for an increasingly obese America. They're also an option for people with diabetes who need to reduce their sugar intake.
Most people are familiar with what's provided on restaurant tables: Blue, pink and yellow packets to sweeten tea and coffee. To sell more products, those companies have created versions suitable for cooking at home. But before you start using them, there are four essential things to consider.
First, sugar is an essential ingredient in many recipes. It caramelizes, it activates yeast in bread, and it thickens puddings and jams. Replace all the sugar with artificial sweeteners, and many dishes will fail.
The solution is to reduce but not eliminate sugar. Most recipes will still turn out fine if the sugar is cut by half—50% real sugar, 50% artificial sweetener.
Second, you need to consider taste. Unless sugar is already a fairly minor ingredient in the recipe, swapping it out with artificial sweeteners can leave food tasting bitter, metallic or just “off.”
You can fix that by combining different types of sugar substitutes in one recipe. For example, use a little Splenda or Stevia with sugar-free honey or syrup mixed in.
Third, just because you reduced the sugar doesn't mean you can eat all you want. If you're trying to lose weight, calories matter. 800 calories of a sugar-filled food and 800 calories of an artificially sweetened food are still 800 calories. A low sugar treat is not an excuse to binge.
Fourth, sometimes sugar substitutes don't work. You might be better off eating and enjoying a smaller portion of the full-sugar version; Instead of eating the reduced sugar option that leaves you unsatisfied and craving more.
Here's how to use the different sugar substitutes while cooking.
Sweet One - Image courtesy Cumberland Packing Corp.
Acesulfame Potassium or Ace K (Sunett, Sweet One) has a slightly bitter aftertaste, so it's often mixed with other sugar substitutes to provide a better flavor. According to the Sunett website, “In recipes for sweetened sauces and beverages, all the sugar can be replaced with Sweet One® sugar substitute. However, recipes for most baked goods require sugar for proper volume and texture. For best results, experiment by substituting half the amount of sugar in a recipe with the sweetening equivalence of Sweet One® sugar substitute.”
Equal - Image courtesy Merisant Company
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) is not heat stable. If you try and use it in foods that you bake, the sweetness rapidly decreases. Only use aspartame in dishes that stay cold or are not heated. According to the Equal website, “Equal O calorie sweetener products work best in recipes where the primary role of sugar is to sweeten, such as in beverages, sauces and salad dressings.”
Luo Han Guo (Monkose) can be used along with sugar in most recipes, just in lower amounts. According to the Monkose website, “Monkose is 2x sweeter than table sugar, so we recommend using 1/3 or 1/2 less of what you would normally use. We also recommend baking your goodies 10 - 15 degrees less and also 10 - 15 minutes less since fructose burns a little faster than sugar.”
Sweet 'N Low - Image courtesy Cumberland Packing Corp.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) can be used along with sugar in most recipes. According to the Sweet’N Low website, “Sugar provides two important functions in baking in addition to sweetness -- volume and moisture.” Sweet’N Low doesn't give recipes volume or moisture. So the manufacturer suggests for best results, you shouldn't use Sweet’N Low to replace more than half the sugar in any recipe.
SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener - Image courtesy Wisdom Natural Brands®
Stevia (Pure Via, SweetLeaf, Truvia) can be used in almost all the same situations as regular sugar. However, it cannot brown or carmelize. It's best when mixed with half granulated sugar and half stevia for cooking and baking.
Splenda products for baking. Image courtesy of Heartland Consumer Products.
Sucralose (Splenda) can be used in almost all the same situations as regular sugar. According to the Splenda, website a few things turn out differently. Cakes and quick breads don't rise as high, cookies may turn out slightly thinner, or soft-set and baked recipes don't brown like they do with regular sugar. If you're looking for more browning of breads and pastries, you might need to “spray the batter or dough with cooking spray just before placing in the oven.”
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