Sugars and sweeteners are added to foods for a variety of reasons outside of just sweetness and flavour. These include being used as an energy source, providing bulk, structure and texture to products such as sweet baked goods, jams and confectionary. It’s used as a sugar source for yeast fermentation in yeast raised products and for colour development in products undergoing a heat treatment such as baking. It’s also used to add sweetness and bulk to beverages and confectionary and it also helps to preserve foods such as jam or marmalade.
When you eat a low carbohydrate diet, you want to avoid sugar and sugar derivatives as sugar contains 100% carbohydrate. For more information on sugar and it’s different forms in food, please see the Sugars page in the Everyday Food Science Facts section.
The are an increasing number of processed food products that can be used when in Ketosis or on a low carbohydrate diet. These foods are often low in carbohydrate and high in protein and are becoming more readily available in your local supermarket. Many of these foods use artificial, natural or high intensity sweeteners to enhance their flavour. Some of the sweeteners that you can find both in low carbohydrate processed foods or as sugar substitutes include –
Natural Sweeteners –
Stevia (960) –
Stevia is a natural high intensity sweetener extracted from the Stevia plant and available in powder and liquid forms. The sweet component of the plant is steviol glycoside (stevioside and rebaudioside) which can provide 100-300 times the sweetness of sugar. This ingredient is used in extremely low levels for sweetness and is usually blended with a bulking agent such as erythritol. Depending on the purity it may have a bitter or liquorice back note. Stevia has no impact on blood glucose levels and is safe for use in a number of food and beverage applications including soft drink, beverages, gummy confectionary, chocolate, baking premixes and table sugar replacers. For more information on Stevia please see –
Monk Fruit –
150-200 times the sweeteness of sugar Monk fruit is produced from a small gourd grown in South Asia. This sweetener is relatively new to this market and hasn’t been studied as long as others. Sweetener from Monk fruit may have a fruity aftertaste which some consumers find off putting.
Inulin Syrups and Powders –
Inulins are produced by plants as their energy source. Inulin is found naturally in vegetables and fruits such as onions, bananas, asparagus etc. Mainly sourced from chicory root by large scale processers, Inulin contains a high level of dietary fibre but also has an intrinsic level of sweetness which can vary around 10-60% the sweetness off sugar. Inulin provides a number of additional benefits including increasing the dietary fibre content of foods, increasing the absorption of calcium, and working as a prebiotic by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Inulin is available in liquid and powdered forms and added to a range of food products including bread, cereals, biscuits, cereal bars, yoghurts, beverages, breakfast beverages, high protein beverages and infant formula. The average adult intake of inulin should be around 25g per day. The body will increase its tolerance level over time when consuming Inulin, if you increase your intake slowly you will minimising the side effects on the body. For more information on Inulin please see –
Polyols or Sugar Alcohols
Polyols or sugar alcohols are naturally occurring in a wide range of plant based foods including vegetables, berries, and fruits. For use in food they are most often produced by hydrogenation of different sugars. Sugar alcohols are FODMAPS and just like any sugar alcohols excess consumption, depending on your personal tolerance level, may result in gas, bloating or diarrhoea. If you increase your intake slowly over time your body will become more tolerant and the side effects will settle.
Food and Beverage products containing the following ingredients usually have a statement on the pack that says “excess consumption my result in a laxative effect”. This is true, so if you suddenly consume large amounts of products containing these ingredients, be aware there may be some unpleasant results. If you would like more information on the level of sweetness each of these provide when compared to sugar please look up this link and the table it contains –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetness
These sweeteners include –
- Erythritol (968) – Is a zero calorie natural sweetener equivalent to 70% the sweetness of sugar. Erythritol is found naturally in fruits, mushrooms and other fermented foods. It has a clean sweet taste with no metallic aftertaste, it doesn’t contribute to dental caries or raise blood glucose or insulin levels. Erythritol is used to replace the bulk of sugar and is used in chewing gum, hard confectionary, beverages, frozen desserts, chocolate, powdered beverages, and baked goods. It’s also used as the bulking agent for sugar alternatives using Stevia.
- Isomalt (953) – Isomalt is a type of sugar alcohol made from sugar, providing around 50% the sweetness of sugar. It doesn’t contribute to dental caries or raise blood glucose or insulin levels. It has a very good synergistic effect with sweeteners such as Stevia and sucralose and as such is used in sugar free hard boiled candy, bakery, reduced sugar chocolate and low sugar pharmaceutical medicine. It’s also used by pastry chefs to create sugar sculptures as it doesn’t crystallise as much as other sugars when exposed to air.
- Malitol (965) – Providing 75 – 90% the sweetness of sucrose, Maltitol is a disaccharide commonly used in sugar free confectionary and ice cream, chocolate, protein bars, chewing gum, and syrups for pharmaceutical applications.
- Mannitol (421) – A common sweetener for diabetes as it has a low glycaemic index, Mannitol provides around 50% of the sweetness of sugar. Due to its cooling effect when consumed it’s commonly found in the outer layer of chewing gum and mint chewy candies.
- Sorbitol (420) – Used as a sugar substitute Sorbitol provides around 60% x the sweetness of sucrose. It provides kilojoules and is used in low calorie or diet foods. Too much Sorbitol may impact the consumer with a laxative effect. It has a slight cooling effect and is used in a range of food products including no sugar ice cream, protein bars, sugar free syrups, toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Xylitol (965) – Is a sugar alcohol with the same sweetness as sugar but it doesn’t raise your blood sugar or impact Insulin levels. Found in fruits and vegetables naturally and extracted from nature it works well with other high intensity sweeteners such as Stevia. Too much Xylitol may impact the consumer with a laxative effect. It does have a cooling effect in the mouths so it’s most commonly used in products such as chewing gum, gummy confectionary, mints, protein powder shakes, mouthwash and toothpaste.
Artificial High Intensity Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are not naturally found in nature, synthetically manufactured and are significantly sweeter than sucrose. In food and beverage products they are used in combination to provide a similar sweetness to sugar, without the kJ content of sugar and at a fraction of the usage level of sugar due to their intensity.
- Aspartame (951) – Aspartame is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners available. It provides 180 – 250x the sweetness of sugar and is commonly used in diet soft drink, no sugar ice cream and chewing gum.
- Acesulphame Potassium (950) – Provides 200x the sweetness of sugar. Found combined with other sweeteners in no sugar ice cream, no sugar cordial and chewing gum.
- Cyclamate (952) – Used in no sugar cordial.
- Saccharin (954) – Has a bitter or metallic aftertaste at high concentrations. Artificial compound with a very high sweetness level at around 500x the sweetness of sugar. Commonly used in diet or low joule cordials, bakery, confectionary, mouthwash and toothpaste.
- Sucralose (955) – Sucralose is a chlorinated sugar that is commonly marketed as Splenda in supermarkets. It provides around 600x the sweetness of sucrose and can be found in low carbohydrate bars, sugar free syrups, sugar free ice cream, no sugar cordial, toothpaste and mouthwash.
For more information on sweeteners please see –
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